Who are we?

Maureen Costello,
Executive Director
Val Brown,
Principal Academic Officer
Kate Shuster,
Research & Evaluation Manager

Maureen Costello

Maureen is a New York City native whose career led her to Montgomery, Alabama. The move tested one of her lifelong beliefs: That every American should live in New York, and that every New Yorker should live somewhere else, for at least a year. If that is not practical, she says, we all still need to learn about others’ lived experiences and diverse perspectives.

Drawn to social justice by her own teachers, Maureen’s career has reflected the belief that the purpose of education is to make the world better. She taught high school U.S. history for 18 years before leaving the classroom to lead education programs at Newsweek magazine, Scholastic, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Under Maureen’s leadership at SPLC, Teaching Tolerance crafted the Social Justice Standards, launched Teaching the Movement and Teaching Hard History, and issued reports describing the negative impact of political rhetoric on schools.

Maureen believes that education shapes who we are and can be a powerful means to advance racial justice. At CARE, her job is to support educators as they build an antiracist future for all our children.

Maureen earned her B.A. from The New School University and an M.A. in American History from the New York University Graduate School of Liberal Arts.

Val Brown

Val comes from a proud family of educators and is honored to carry on the tradition.

She most recently served as professional development manager for Teaching Tolerance where she designed, facilitated, and evaluated antibias and antiracist professional learning for educators around the country. Val has spent 14 years in public K-12 and higher education as a teacher, instructional coach, district administrator and professional learning specialist. She was named district teacher of the year (2013) and was honored by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans in Teacher’s Edition (2015). In December 2016, Val recognized a silence in the education community regarding issues of race, and a gap in learning opportunities for educators. In response she founded #ClearTheAir, a platform for educators to learn about the intersections of history, racism, and education. She believes community, learning, and dialogue are essential to personal and professional growth, and that education is a vehicle for social change.

Val received her B.A. in journalism from the University of Florida and holds an M.Ed. from Florida Atlantic University in Multicultural Education and an M.A. from the University of Central Florida in Education Leadership. She is currently writing her dissertation about educator activism.

Kate Shuster

Kate is originally from New Mexico. In high school, college, and graduate school she participated actively in intercollegiate policy debate as a competitor, coach and educator – in 1992, she was only the second woman to win the college national debate championship. 

For the next 20 years, she traveled the world building debate programs across the United States and in dozens of countries, training thousands of teachers, writing a dozen books and teaching at several universities. This spurred her lifelong interest to think critically about effective pedagogy, how it is measured, and who gets to decide what counts as evidence. 

She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from Claremont Graduate University with twin emphases in educational policy and research methods. She has worked as an independent research and evaluation consultant for most of her life, working with large and small data sets to investigate questions of equity with advanced research methodology.  

Most recently, she managed the Teaching Hard History initiative for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project and led an interdisciplinary team that created the world’s first K-12 framework for teaching the twin histories of slavery and settler colonialism in what is currently known as the United States.