Professor Gabriela Christie Toletti, Ph.D. was profoundly affected by the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a student of English and American culture in her native Uruguay.
As a young adult she recalls memorizing King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and taking to heart his message of justice and equality for all people.
Her time of study at the bi-national center, Alianza Cultural, which is part of the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay, launched her lifelong pursuit of service to others.
This month, Toletti was selected as Tidewater Community College’s 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award recipient. She will be recognized during a virtual event to be held Feb. 26.
“I can’t think of anything that means more to me,” she said. “Dr. King’s ideals of freedom, diversity, justice and inclusion for all have always been ingrained in what I do.”
Toletti teaches Spanish and is the liberal arts chair at TCC’s Norfolk Campus. She considers teaching a calling and one of the best ways to provide service to the community.
“There’s no greater accomplishment than helping others learn and grow, and being able to inspire, educate and guide the next generation,” Toletti said. “Some of my early students have now become teachers, so they are paying it forward and serving in their communities.”
Toletti is active on campus serving on the Governance Global and Intercultural Learning Committee; the Transfer Virginia Project with Virginia’s Community Colleges; as a member of the My Thoughts, My Voice, My Arts Committee (MTMVMA); and on the college’s Compressed Sessions Committee.
She encourages students and community members by sharing remarks through MTMVMA events, International Education Week programs, the Women’s Center and business groups. She developed videos about the college’s liberal arts programs for TCC’s social media channels. She also delivered scholarly presentations for college convocation week and TCC learning institutes.
Additionally, Toletti is on the board of directors of the Uruguayan American foundation with headquarters in Washington, D.C. The group provides help to children in underprivileged regions in Uruguay in the areas of health, education and technology.
Toletti says her parents, Ludovico Toletti and Zulema Altieri, instilled in her a respect for diversity. “Growing up we travelled to Europe, North Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay,” she said. “Through that travel, I developed a fondness for other cultures and communities.”
An author, Toletti has written two research books including “On the Scene with Migration and Dictatorship: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Work of Uruguayan Playwright Dino Armas.”
She is currently writing a bilingual children’s book, “Chorro the Dune Dog,” that explores issues of immigration, diversity, health, education and growing up in a multicultural family.
Toletti resides in Norfolk with husband Charles “Chuck” Cody Christie, Jr. and their pets.
“As the first Latina woman recipient, I’m deeply humbled by this honor,” Toletti said. “It also comes with great responsibility as I pledge to continue to work for equality, justice, inclusion and diversity in every area of my life.”