Mercer Carlin is a founding parent from the original Agile Learning Center in East Harlem, NYC. Mercer's passion for and commitment to self directed learning were much of the reason the Manhattan Free School was transformed into the first Agile Learning Center rather than simply folding in 2012. Her son graduated from the school in June of 2020.
Mercer spent 21 years in corporate America as an Executive at a company named TRANZACT. She has also done coaching, consulting, and facilitation work both as a freelancer and with an organization named ThinkHuman. Her passion has long been to create human focused, empowering cultures in the workplace.
In 2016, Mercer joined our board, left her job, and began focusing on community building in and among ALCs. She currently co-hosts a number of calls connecting change-makers from within the network with folks from partner initiatives, offers mediation and coaching, attends and supports facilitator trainings, and is a vocal self-directed education advocate, both online and in the world.
Tomis Parker has been working directly with self-directed education models since 2008. After 4 years with the Manhattan Free School and some freelancing in the EdTech world, Tomis worked as part of the ALC-NYC founding team to transform the Manhattan Free School into the first Agile Learning Center.
In 2013, Tomis began running the ALC in NYC, where he remained the Director through the 2015-16 school year. During that time, he oversaw the launch of the Agile Learning Centers brand, trained new leadership, consulted with start-ups, co-organized the first Agile Learning Facilitator training program, and co-founded the ALC Network. After relocating to North Carolina to marry Nancy Tilton, he began working out of ALC Mosaic, where he was instrumental in the school purchasing their current property and constructing a community co-working space on the campus. He project-managed the launch of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education with other thought-leaders in the self-directed education field, and he remains active with that organization. When he's not working on self-directed education projects, he's working with a tech start-up called Junto or enjoying his home and family. Tomis has been on the board since 2014.
Rubén Alvarado participated in the 2012 Emerging Leader Labs incubator of projects for social transformation, where ALC was one of the projects workshopped. There he became familiar with self-directed learning and the intentional creation of culture. He returned the following year with the task of co-facilitating the incubator and serving as a personal coach for some members of the community. In the following years he has continued to facilitate the creation of self-directed learning spaces, mostly but not exclusively in Mexico and the United States. He has brought ALC practices and SDE principles to organizations of different natures: sports teams, recreation groups, companies, and artistic projects, among others.
In 2014 he participated as a facilitator in the Ágil ExAlt Learning Center, in San Juan, Puerto Rico and during 2015 and 2016 as a Self-Directed Learning Coach with Coaches Across Continents, a Sports NGO for Social Impact, in North and South America, Asia and Africa. He co-coordinated the first and second international ALC conferences, AÁgil 2018 and 2019, both in Mexico. Currently he works as a coach, support facilitator, community builder, experience creator, and facilitator trainer across ALCs while also serving as a coordinator for Spanish-speaking regions. He has been on the board since 2018.
Abby Oulton started volunteering with the first ALC in the fall of 2013, and joined the staff a year later. She had just finished 6 years of exploring how different formal and informal education projects change societies -- and spending lots of time with kids. She’d found her way to ALC-NYC through facilitator friends she’d worked with at a nearby Free School and free play summer camp.
While energized by and grounded in day-to-day facilitation, Abby additionally took on administration and community building for the school. After becoming one of the school’s directors, she started planning and co-hosting trainings, working to provide support for facilitators across the network, coaching new directors and emerging community leaders, and sharing stories from the NYC flagship as the network grew. She's a big believer in the power of stories to seed social change.
In summer of 2017 she joined the ALC Network board with the intention of adjusting operations to better reflect the scale and diversity of the expanded community. As in NYC, she primarily took on administration and community building work. Additionally, she had found at ALC-NYC that her experiences and background in history, sociology, and early childhood education positioned her unusually to challenge others in the movement to connect their work against the domination of children with work against other systems of domination and control. Much of her work for the Network was and remains complicating overculture assumptions about who matters, whose labor matters, what listening really entails, and what accompaniment means. In mid-2020, she accepted a similar role tending organizational transformation with the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. That work has her currently diving into research on play while creating reading lists that support self-directed education while deliberately decentering the small handful of Western white men who have dominated such lists to date. She continues to write, mentor, organize, have too many spreadsheets, and protect time for regular outdoor adventures with kids from the ALC-NYC community.