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Our Team

Emerging America staff and network of teacher coaches have 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 Teaching American History program. He established the Accessing Inquiry program to support inclusive teaching of students with disabilities and of English Learners in History, Civics, and Social Science. Rich directed the 2018 Massachusetts Civics Education Institute for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. A graduate of Yale University, Rich earned a Master of Public Affairs from the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. He serves as adjunct faculty for Westfield State University. He is a recognized national leader in service-learning, civic engagement, performance assessment, environmental education, and history education–focused on access for ALL learners. He has authored numerous books and multimedia, and has designed and led hundreds of teacher workshops and courses. 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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Kelley Brown, Emerging America Library of Congress TPS Coach

Kelley Brown is a Social Studies educator and the Professional Development Coordinator at Easthampton High School where she has taught for the last 20 years. She focuses on bringing primary sources and disciplinary literacy skills into the Social Studies classroom for all students. Kelley’s classroom focuses on civic knowledge and engagement, bridging classroom and community learning through local history, volunteerism and civic action. Kelley’s goal is to have every student leave her classroom with confidence, skill and excitement for learning about their community and world. Her We the People class has won the Massachusetts Center for Civic Education’s We the People state competition 4 years in row and won the 2020 National We the People Competition. Since 2006, she has led K-12 teacher professional development across New England, including for the Department of Youth Services Juvenile Justice System, National Endowment for the Humanities, Teaching American History Programs, and the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources. Kelley co-designed and produced History’s Mysteries, a free K-5 inquiry-based “click and play” open source curriculum. Kelley has contributed to several books about teaching students with diverse needs and trauma. She was a 2006 Disney Teacher, 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 B.A. from Amherst College and an M.Ed. from UMass Amherst.

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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. Laurie co-designed and produced History’s Mysteries, a free K-5 inquiry-based “click and play” open source curriculum. 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 and in 2020-2021. She received the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies 2021 Barbara Capron Award for Excellence in Teaching Elementary Social Studies. 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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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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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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Rachel Panasci Lima, Online Exhibits Specialist

Rachel Panasci Lima has served Emerging America as a history researcher specializing in online exhibits. 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. She served as Director of Education at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut. 

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Graham Warder, Consulting Scholar

Graham Warder is Associate Professor of History at Keene State College. He earned his B.A. in History from Dartmouth College and his Ph.D. in American Social and Cultural History from UMass Amherst. Since 1999, he has worked with the Disability History Museum, an online humanities resource providing primary sources and curriculum about the history of disability. He teaches in the Masters of History & Archives program at Keene State and co-chairs the Educational Outreach Committee of the Disability History / Archives Consortium, an organization that connects archivists, librarians, museum curators, activists, and scholars of disability history. His major research interests involve disability history and 19th-century America, including the American Civil War.

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Karen Albano, author

Karen Albano Karen is the director of curriculum for the Northampton Public Schools, and the former principal of Phelps Elementary School in Agawam. She worked with the Emerging America program from 2015-2020. Starting as the Assistant Director, 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. 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.

Upcoming Workshops


Join us August 11 from 4:00 - 5:30 pm for an Introduction to Elementary Inquiry using History’s Mysteries. Register.  Description History’s Mysteries is a rea…
Course runs Nov-Dec 2021, and introduces exemplars of best practice pedagogy for English Learners in History and Social Studies classrooms. It demonstrates dual…