Why he's interesting ... This Detroit native came to Cleveland at the age of 31 to help launch E-Prep, the lauded Cleveland charter school that incorporated entrepreneurship into the middle school classroom. Now he's replicating his successful formula in a new family of K-8 charter schools known as I Can Schools, with locations in Tremont and Slavic Village and three more in development.
The tao of dodgeball ... Emerson took a teaching job after graduating from Xavier University but wasn't sure if teaching was for him. It was while subbing for a gym teacher as the students played dodgeball that he saw an opportunity. "I would pull them aside and talk to them about their lives. I didn't know the impact I could have on kids. I thought, I can play dodgeball and talk to kids the rest of my life."
Best of the best ... Before joining E-Prep, Emerson completed the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship in Boston, where he spent a year studying high-performing schools and what makes them tick. His take-away? "You have to have a charismatic leader focused on sweating the small details. That leader has to be relentless."
His rep ... Students would probably say he is tough, even mean sometimes. "But also that I genuinely care and love them."
They'd be surprised to know ... "I listen to the same music they listen to: Rihanna, Beyonce, Usher. I wear some of the same clothes they do. They see me on the weekend at Steelyard [Commons] in jeans and a sweatshirt; they don't know how to react, like •you're in jeans?' "
Off the clock ... Emerson's usually catching a movie at Valley View or Crocker Park or visiting his 9-year-old son Marshall IV, who lives in Michigan.
Favorite school lunch ... "Taco day. Hard shell tacos, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, salsa. And taco beef. Oh, yeah."