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Our Team

Emerging America staff and network of teacher coaches has long played a national leadership role in service-learning, civic engagement, and access to history and social science for diverse learners. The Emerging America team consults regularly with local schools and districts, the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services' education program, and Special Education in Institutional Settings program. 

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Rich Cairn, Director

Rich Cairn has directed the Emerging America program since 2006 with funding from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the former Teaching American History program. In addition to nationally funded work, Rich worked with colleagues as he directed the 2018 Massachusetts Civics Education Institute. A graduate of Yale University, Rich earned a Master of Public Affairs from the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. He is a recognized national leader in service-learning, civic engagement, performance assessment, environmental education, and history education. He has authored numerous books and multimedia, and has designed and led hundreds of teacher workshops. He is a lifelong social justice activist.

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Alison Noyes, Assistant Director

Alison Noyes is the Assistant Director of the Emerging America program at the Collaborative for Educational Services. She has worked in the field of education for over 30 years, entering as a teacher of English Language learners and high school history, and working for many years with international students and college study abroad as a program director and assistant dean before returning to focus on engaging K-12 students. Alison is a graduate of Haverford College and received graduate training in methods of teaching English as a Second Language at Harvard University while teaching in their intensive English summer program. She received a Master of Arts from Lesley University. She has worked on curriculum to engage students using theater arts techniques and developed projects incorporating local and site-based history resources into teachers’ classrooms.

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Karen Albano, eNews Editor

Karen Albano began working with the Emerging America program in 2015. She is currently the editor of the weekly History eNews, and has contributed to many facets of the Emerging America program, including developing curriculum, improving the accessibility of the website to educators, and overseeing social media outreach. She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Education and History from Westfield State University and is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Education from Northeastern University. Karen is an Elementary Lead Teacher in the Agawam Public Schools where she has worked as an 8th grade History Teacher since 2007. She has taught a variety of history courses including Ancient History, World History I and II, and US History I and II. She has taught the CES' Sheltered English Immersion Teacher Endorsement Course, adult education courses, co-taught inclusion classes, and taught within Connections, a self-contained behavioral program.

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Kelley Brown, Emerging America Library of Congress TPS Coach

Kelley Brown chairs the Social Studies Department at Easthampton High School. Since 2006, she has led high school teacher instruction in History for the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services Education Program at CES and for Emerging America. She was the 2010 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year and the 2016 recipient of the Don Salvucci Award for Excellence in Promoting Civics Education from the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies. She holds a BA in History from Amherst College and an M.Ed. from UMass Amherst. Kelley Brown is a veteran educator experienced with Massachusetts DYS-Special Education in Institutional Settings who has extensive experience in effective teaching with primary sources. 

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Laurie Risler, Emerging America Library of Congress TPS Coach

Laurie Risler is a former elementary school teacher. She now teaches education courses at Westfield State University. She has co-led professional development programs in history for the Collaborative for Educational Services since 2011. She co-designed the course, Accessing Inquiry for Students with Disabilities through Primary Sources. She served as Teacher in Residence at Westfield State University 2012-2013. She has been a history educator at local museums and archives. She earned her BA from Stonehill College and her MEd from Fitchburg State College.

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Rachel Panasci Lima, Web Development

Rachel Panasci Lima began working with Emerging America in 2019 as the project coordinator for the NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Program Forge of Innovation: The Springfield Armory and the Genesis of American Industry. Currently she continues her work as a history researcher specializing in online exhibits to facilitate website development. She is a MA student in the history department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying public history and cultural landscape management. 

Upcoming Workshops


COURSE FULL: see April 13 Accessing Civic Engagement! Massachusetts teachers are working to meet the new requirement that every student have the opportunity to…
Social Studies and Humanities pose distinct challenges for struggling learners. Extensive discipline-specific vocabulary, difficult informational texts –includi…
Course runs February 4 through March 16, 2020 and introduces exemplars of best practice pedagogy for English Learners in History and Social Studies classrooms.…