Joel Shatzky was born in Vancouver, Washington, in 1943 and grew up in the Bronx. He attended Music and Art High School (now LaGuardia), and Queens College, CUNY, later receiving an M.A. at the University of Chicago in 1965 and a Ph.D. in dramatic literature from NYU in 1970. He moved to upstate New York with his wife in 1968 and taught at SUNY, Cortland, for the next 37 years, retiring in 2005 as Professor Emeritus. He moved to NYC in 2006 and teaches as an adjunct professor at Kingsborough Community College, now completing his 50th year as a college teacher.
Shatzky lost his first wife, Dorothy, in 2004 and married Ilana Abramovitch in 2009. She is a college instructor in speech who teaches at Borough of Manhattan Community College. She is former manager of curriculum at the Museum for Jewish Heritage in NYC. Shatzky's son, Ben, is a lawyer and has a daughter, Sophia. Shatzky's daughter, Judy, has recently married and is a social worker in Brooklyn.
Shatzky has edited or written a dozen published books and has had a number of off-off-Broadway plays produced since his return to New York City. He plays jazz and classical piano.
In the recent past he contributed frequently to The Huffington Post under the title "Educating for Democracy" and is now resuming his column after a two-year hiatus.