Support Staff

The Innovation Hub and its communities of practice (CoPs) are supported by teams of American Institutes for Research (AIR) technical assistance consultants, researchers, and web developers.


Hub Portal Team

  • Melissa Rasberry, Portal Co-Lead, is a Principal Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR. Her primary responsibilities include serving as the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI for a portfolio of projects funded by the National Science Foundation. In her role as PI of CS for All Teachers, she provides guidance about best practices for the virtual CoP, collaborates with computer science advocates across the country, and creates online learning opportunities for computer science teachers. Dr. Rasberry has extensive experience in creating and supporting virtual CoPs for educators, including over a dozen for the State Support Network, sponsored by the US Department of Education.
  • Marshal Conley, Portal Co-Lead, is a Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR. His current work focuses on policy, practice, and knowledge utilization related to digital learning and integration of learning technologies with instructional practice for learners of all ages. Conley is also an expert in the design, implementation, and facilitation of networked improvement communities (NICs). He is the CoP task lead for the Office of State Support’s State Support Network, overseeing the design and development of CoPs to deliver technical assistance to states and districts related to ESSA implementation.
  • Magdalena Acuña is a Web Development Specialist at AIR. Acuña has 24 years of experience designing, developing, and coding responsive, accessible, section 508 compliant websites and over 28 years of experience in print and design. In her present position, Acuña serves as both client engagement and website designer and developer for multiple websites.
  • Crystal Darby is an Administrative Assistant at AIR. She has over 10 years of experience as a trainer, facilitator, and customer service provider. Darby works closely with AIR staff coordinating logistics, planning training sessions, assisting with data analysis, and managing documents. Prior to joining AIR, Darby developed and implemented training programs for the telecommunications industry and worked as an office manager.
  • Verna Lalbeharie serves as the Managing Director for Digital Age Personalized Learning at AIR. In this role, Lalbeharie is a key member of the team that is growing and shaping AIR’s applied work nationally in the field of K12 education primarily focused on innovative approaches to teaching and learning in the digital age, especially personalized learning.
  • Bridina Lemmer is a Technical Assistance Consultant in district and school improvement at AIR. She has more than 10 years of experience in science and STEM education, project-based learning, and balanced assessment systems. Her primary responsibilities include partnering with clients at the school, district, and state levels to provide support in aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessment; addressing systemic inequities in educational systems; creating resources, tools, and professional development materials related to the Next Generation Science Standards and the Framework for K-12 Science Education; and assisting districts with the development of ongoing monitoring and feedback systems.  
  • Brian Litke is a Senior Web Development Specialist at AIR. He has more than 23 years of experience as a web developer, with a particular focus on database-driven educational resources and content management systems used by nontechnical staff to update website content. In his current position, Litke leads a team of two web developers, creating both Drupal and custom programmed websites to support project and corporate communications, including the National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, the Center for Knowledge Translation and Employment Research, and a multilingual site for the Latin American and Caribbean Reads Capacity Program. 


Innovative Practices Community of Practice

  • Monique M. Chism, CoP Lead, is a Vice President for Policy, Practice, and Systems Change (PP&SC) at AIR. In this role, she leads the two federally funded Comprehensive Centers. These regional assistance centers provide technical assistance to State Educational Agencies (SEAs) to help increase and build SEA capacity to support their districts and schools, facilitate policy change, enhance workforce competencies, foster behavior change, and transform overall systems to improve teaching and learning for all students.  With more than 22 years of experience in education, Chism is a renowned expert in educational equity, statewide systems of support, supporting effective teachers and leaders, creating safe and healthy schools, and turning around low-performing schools and districts.
  • James Colyott, CoP Co-Lead, is an AIR Technical Assistant Consultant and the lead for the Iowa project on equity gaps in access to effective and diverse educators and leaders for the Region 9 Comprehensive Center. Previously, he led the Iowa Equity Review project collaborating with Iowa Department of Education (IDE) on its efforts to eliminate achievement and opportunity gaps among students. This equity work included a comprehensive document review, creation of interview protocols, and on-site interviews of IDE staff and Iowa stakeholders that resulted in a summative report and presentation of findings on existing equity gaps. 
  • Alicia N. Garcia, CoP Co-Lead, is a Principal Policy Analyst at AIR. She has more than 11 years of experience in education law and policy. Garcia was formerly the director of the Midwest Comprehensive Center, where she managed a core staff of 26 to build the capacity of state education agencies in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to design, sustain, and implement reforms that support student success. Projects carried out by the center focused on several federal priority areas including supporting teacher and leader effectiveness, implementing college- and career-ready standards and assessments, and turning around low-performing schools. Garcia currently serves as co-director of the State Support Network, which is focused on supporting implementation of the ESSA in all states by providing a variety of technical assistance opportunities to state education agencies and school districts.
  • Garry A. Davis is a Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR with 10 years of program administration and technical assistance experience in the education field. He has worked on projects at the state and local level, serving in capacities ranging from project director, task lead, QA reviewer, team member, to consultant. His notable technical skills include but are not limited to project leadership, identifying and providing tailored technical assistance to address identified client needs, in-person and virtual small and large group facilitation, professional development, and presentation design and engagement. His content areas of focus include college and career readiness, workforce development, adult learning, change facilitation, and policy, research, and practice alignment.
  • Katelyn N. Lee is a Research Associate at AIR. Her primary responsibilities include managing project teams through operations enhancement and clear communication. Lee currently serves as the task lead for performance management and evaluation on the State Support Network, a US Department of Education technical assistance initiative designed to support state and district school improvement efforts.
  • Tara Zuber is a Researcher at AIR. She has broad experience in the fundamental processes that compose strong studies. For example, with the Great Lakes Comprehensive Center (GLCC), Zuber not only developed focus group, interview, and discussion protocols, but co-designed with state staff a series of meetings that led to the development of proposed policy or a shared report. She is also a certified CLASS observer and oversees data collection via CLASS observations. 


Innovation Policies Community of Practice

  • Veronica Tate, CoP Lead, is a Managing Director at AIR and serves as a senior leader on the management team that shapes the technical assistance delivery and supports effective collaboration across the comprehensive centers operated by AIR. She provides leadership, project management, and quality assurance supervision to ensure the effectiveness of services, and promotes collaboration among the centers and external partners.
  • Laura Shankland, CoP Co-Lead, is a Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR. She has more than 10 years of project management and education experience, overseeing the development of a range of resources for Grades K–12 educators. Shankland provides technical assistance, professional development, and communication support for AIR’s work with the Illinois 21st CCLC afterschool programs, overseeing the development of a quarterly newsletter and a resource bulletin that are distributed to grantees. She also assists with the planning and implementation of technical assistance workshops and the annual conference.
  • John Spence, CoP Co-Lead, is a Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR. He has over 17 years of experience directing large-scale initiatives in public education with a solid track record of expanding operations, initiating and maintaining strategic partnerships, managing technical assistance and professional development for educators, developing and sustaining meaningful relationships with key decision makers, supervising teams, writing and delivering reports, and presenting at regional, state, national, and international conferences.
  • Nicol Christie manages technical assistance and research projects at AIR as a Technical Assistance Consultant. Based in Baltimore, Maryland, Christie has more than 20 years of experience serving children and families in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. She has extensive knowledge of applied research, improvement science, and adult learning methodology.  
  • Marjorie D. Cohen is a Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR. She has nearly 20 years of experience as a policy analyst and technical assistance provider to states and localities, with a particular emphasis on the connections between and among secondary and postsecondary education and the workforce. In her present position as the senior college and career readiness specialist, Cohen provides policy research and analysis on career and technical education issues for the Education Policy Center, and formerly supported districts, states, and regional comprehensive centers through the College and Career Readiness and Success Center and the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders.
  • Debra Rodriguez is a Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR. She currently serves as a senior recruiter for three national multi-million dollar research and evaluation projects focused on literacy, computer science, and early warning intervention and monitoring systems. For five years, she managed the technical assistance projects of the Texas Comprehensive Center (TXCC) and served as the co-deputy, project manager, as well as internal evaluator for TXCC and the Southeast Comprehensive Center. With two decades of work in Texas and nationally, Rodriguez has deep regional expertise after leading site based teams at 34 sites in seven states including Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Her work involved establishing, nurturing, and maintaining successful stakeholder partnerships at all levels from state education agency to campus staff to advance research in reading, math, and college and career readiness standards.