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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 20 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 (on leave in 2020-2021)

Karen Albano began working with the Emerging America program in 2015. She maintained her contribution as editor of the weekly History eNews as she took on new leadership roles in the Agawam public schools.  She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Education and History from Westfield State University and her Doctorate of Education from Northeastern University. Karen is the principal of Phelps Elementary School in Agawam. She previously worked as an elementary curriculum lead and as an 8th grade History Teacher in Agawam. She has taught a variety of history courses including Ancient History, World History I and II, and US History I and II. She 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. She 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.

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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 coach of the 2020 winning 'We the People' high-school team in nationwide competition, 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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Peter Vamosy, Emerging America Library of Congress TPS Coach

Peter Vamosy teaches World History II and AP United States History I at Ludlow High School, where he has taught since 2004. Peter has a degree in Secondary Social Studies education from the State University of New York at Albany, a Master's degree in Special Education from National-Louis University in Illinois, and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in School Administration from UMASS Amherst. He has also taught English in East Africa, early literacy in Central America, and special education in Illinois. Peter was selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities to participate in three local history workshops, focused on colonial Native American history in Deerfield, the development of industry in Springfield, and the role of African Americans in early New England. He is a member of the Western Mass Writing Project and completed the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Level III training of Emerging America. Peter lives with his family in Amherst, MA.

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Wendy Harris, Emerging America Library of Congress TPS Coach

Wendy Harris is passionate about teaching, social studies, and giving back to the community. She teaches at Metro Deaf School in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has been a classroom teacher for Deaf students of all ages since 2003 and currently splits her teaching duties between high school social studies and teaching braille and other skills to the school’s DeafBlind students ages 2-21. She grew up in Connecticut, earned a BA in American Studies with minors in African American Studies and Latin American Studies from Carleton College in Minnesota and her elementary credential and MA in Bilingual Deaf Education from the University of California, San Diego. Later, she added licenses in secondary social studies and as a teacher of the blind. She has participated in a number of programs including the Teacher for Global Classrooms program (Colombia), Fund for Teachers Fellowship (DeafBlind education in Tanzania and Kenya), National History Day Master Teacher Program, Minnesota Teacher Leadership Institute, and the National Center for the Humanities Teacher Advisory Council.

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Erin Degen, Emerging America Library of Congress TPS Coach

Erin Degen has been teaching a variety of history classes since 2001. She started her teaching career in Springfield, MA and is now teaching at Greenfield High school in MA. She teaches history both in the school’s behavior program and in the mainstream setting. Her classes currently include US History and Psychology. She is originally from Maine and ventured to Massachusetts to attend Springfield College where she earned her BS in History and Education and her Master’s of Education in Education and general counseling. She has certifications in history and as a school adjustment counselor. She has been taking workshops with the Five College Center for East Asian Studies, the Collaborative for Educational Services and Emerging America to add more knowledge to her area of expertise to reach all students no matter the challenges they may offer.  

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Rachel Panasci Lima, Web Development 

Rachel Panasci Lima served as a history researcher specializing in online exhibits to facilitate website development. She 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. She graduated from the History Department at UMass Amherst in 2020, studying public history and cultural landscape management, and now works as Director of Education at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut. 

Upcoming Workshops

Course runs April-May 2021, and introduces exemplars of best practice pedagogy for English Learners in History and Social Studies classrooms. It demonstrates du…
ONLINE: (PDPs available) Are you looking for K-5 History curriculum that meets content and skill standards, engages students in inquiry remote or in-person, and…
This 3-credit graduate course, taught by master teacher Kelley Brown with constitutional scholar David Hudson, will look at privacy through the exploration of t…