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Introducing Online Courses for Teachers in Alternative Settings

Published on Tue, 02/05/2013

Colorful YMCA poster Women of the world
Emerging America emphasizes use of primary sources, including from the Library of Congress.

By Rich Cairn, Director Emerging America 

Beginning February 25, 2013, Emerging America will offer an outstanding course for Teachers in Alternative Settings (including detention centers and high security facilities as well as in-school alternative programs). We would like to take this opportunity to explain why we think this course carries great import.

Over 35 years, the Collaborative for Educational Services has gained tremendous expertise in helping the most vulnerable students in society. Like many such front line service organizations, we typically stay so busy with our own students and teachers that we fail to share our hard-won insights and experience. This course marks a new effort to spread our understanding to a larger world of history educators, especially those who also work with students in diverse and often challenging settings. See more for details and registration form.

Why and How? - A Word on Our Approach

Culturally Responsive Teaching is at the heart of the Collaborative's work in institutional settings. So what is it?

"Culturally responsive teaching involves learning about specific elements of our students' lives, and using what we learn to guide curriculum and instruction."

Cultural responsiveness depends upon examining...

  • The prior experiences, backgrounds and cultural norms of our students.
  • Ways to understand and use students' experiences as important and highly valuable resources.
  • How students from diverse backgrounds learn best. How our own experiences, backgrounds and cultural norms (in and out of the classroom) influence or impact our work with youth.


– U.S. History II Instructional Guide: Teaching Social Studies in Massachusetts Department of Youth Services Schools Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Collaborative for Educational Services, Commonwealth Corporation.

Immigration in America begins with a high interest topic for students and integrates many strategies to successfully engage the diverse communities of students in institutional settings.

Why This Course? - A Word from Kelley Brown, Course Facilitator

Immigration in America combines content and pedagogical support to integrate content into the institutional and alternative school classroom. Fully taking into account the specific needs of such classrooms, this course offers a useful and engaging way to gain content knowledge and content PDPs.

Last year the course provided a great experience for me as instructor as well as for the participating teachers. It offers a unique opportunity to gain content knowledge from an outstanding scholar–Jennifer Fronc, Associate Professor of History, UMass Amherst–on a core topic in high school history. The course includes Professor Fronc’s pre-recorded lectures on current scholarship in immigration history and three synchronous Q & A sessions with her–all tailored to the teachers in our particular audience. Erin O’Connor-Silverman and I will facilitate the course. Erin teaches in the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS). I teach at Easthampton High School.

Over the years (since 2006), I’ve worked with many DYS teachers in professional development, and they know that I put my all into making the work applicable to the DYS classroom. The same will be true of this course through work with Erin, fellow DYS teachers, and me.

I look forward to working with some of you this spring!

- Kelley Brown, History Teacher Easthampton High School, Collaborative for Educational Services DYS Professional Development Specialist, and Emerging America Teaching American History High School Leader

Why This Speaker? - A Word on Prof. Jennifer Fronc, Course Lecturer

"BEST PROF EVER !!! I'm taking another class with her she is soo hilarious and informative."

Clear, interesting–and funny, is the consensus of students* on Prof. Jennifer Fronc, UMass Amherst, speaker for Immigration in America. Prof. Fronc brings to bear her own keen interest and scholarship in social activism in the Progressive Era as she weaves together the legal, social, economic, cultural threads of America's immigration story. Prof. Fronc teams with two outstanding classroom teachers, to lead a course that will be intellectually stimulating, useful, and relevant to teachers' daily work.

*(Comments from Having heard Prof. Fronc give three different talks, I can personally vouch for the ratings. - Rich Cairn)


Rich Cairn

Civics and Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, Collaborative for Educational Services
Rich Cairn founded Emerging America in 2006, which features the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program at the Collaborative for Educational Services, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History program, "Forge of Innovation: The Springfield Armory and the Genesis of American Industry." The Accessing Inquiry clearinghouse, supported by the Library of Congress TPS program promotes full inclusion of students with disabilities and English Learners in civics and social studies education.