CRECE Associate Director​

Amy Claessens is an associate professor in Education Policy Studies, Gulbrandsen Chair in Early Childhood Education in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also serves as the associate director for the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education. With a doctorate in human development from Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, her research aims to understand how policies and programs affect young children’s development and opportunities to learn. She is a member of the Development and Research in Early Math Education (DREME) network in which she works on enhancing opportunities for young children to learn math both in schools and at home. She has received funding from the Administration for Children and Families, W.T. Grant Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Amy Claesssens Headshot

CRECE Faculty Affiliates

Zhe Gigi An (安喆) is an assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 2018. Her scholarship focuses on supporting young children’s social emotional development and meaningful inclusion. Her research interests include early childhood expulsion and suspension practices, social-emotional development of young children with disabilities, family-professional partnerships in the context of early childhood special education and early intervention, and inclusive education theories and practice in the global context.

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Hailey Love is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her PhD in Special Education, with a focus on early childhood, from the University of Kansas in 2018. Through her scholarship, Hailey aims to advance equitable inclusive education for young children with disabilities, particularly young children of Color with disabilities. Her research includes projects on inclusive practices, professional development for teachers and instructional coaches within inclusive early childhood programs, and family-professional partnerships with families of color. 

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Emily Machado is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research is focused on literacy teaching and learning in multilingual early childhood classrooms and has been published in journals such as Reading Research Quarterly, Research in the Teaching of English, and Journal of Literacy Research. A former teacher, she is deeply interested in the ways that early childhood educators can make their classrooms more equitable, inclusive, and humanizing for all young children. Emily holds a BS in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University, a Master of Arts in Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages from American University, and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Project Manager

Alex George is the Project Manager for CRECE affiliated projects. As Project Manager, Alex maintains CRECE’s project finances, supports center hiring and personnel management, and provides research support to projects.

Alex George

CRECE Researchers

Fujiuju (Daisy) Chang is a doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At CRECE, she works in Wisconsin Readiness Equity Network (WREN) that builds a collaborative network of UW researchers and early childhood administrators and educators from WI urban districts and is currently exploring the quality of play-based teaching in pre-K settings. She worked as a preschool assistant teacher and received a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at UW-Madison. Her research interests are in play-based teaching and learning, comparative and international education, and early childhood curriculum.

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Wallace Grace is a Ph.D. student in Education Policy Studies – Social Sciences and Education at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His research interests are in child development, early childhood education, public policy, and human-centered design, and how race, gender, socioeconomic status, and their related social mechanisms impact child development within and across social contexts. In particular, Wallace is interested in examining how developmental environments influence children’s cognitive, social, emotional/affective, and intellectual and experiences and outcomes, and how policies and programs can be designed to positively influence these outcomes. Advised by Dr. Amy Claessens, Wallace is currently working on a project that examines the role that kindergarten classroom factors play in Black boys’ math, reading and science learning growth throughout elementary school. Prior to his Ph.D. work, Wallace worked in a variety of school, district, and educational nonprofit settings around the country in teaching, research, policy analysis and program design and innovation roles. He holds a M.A. in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies from Loyola University Chicago, a M.B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University, and a B.S. in Economics from Miami University (Ohio).  

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Jiyeon Lee is a Ph.D. student in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a project assistant at CRECE. Before joining CRECE, she was an early childhood teacher and a supervisor for early childhood pre-service teachers. Along with her teaching experiences, she was involved in international early childhood care and education work at international organizations. At CRECE, she assists with the Study of Early Care and Education Choices (SECEC), which aims to understand parents’ early childhood program choices for their children along with families’ experiences during the 4K enrollment process. She also assists with a project that examines kindergarten readiness in a changing kindergarten policy context. Her current research interests include early childhood teachers’ sense-making or negotiation of racial/societal norms in curriculum and teaching.

Jiyeon Lee

Jonathan Marino is a doctoral student in the Educational Policy Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests are in comparative and international education, literacy, and early childhood education. At CRECE, Jonathan works with Amy Claessens on research investigating the changing nature of childcare markets in the United States and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on early education delivery. Prior to his doctoral work, Jonathan worked in a variety of educational settings, including the Chicago Public Schools, Council of Chief State School Officers and Northwestern University Center for Global Engagement, which he co-founded. Jonathan holds undergraduate degrees in education and political science from Northwestern University, a master’s degree in philosophy from the National University of Ireland-Galway, and was a Fulbright Scholar.

Jonathan Marino

Hyunwoo Yang is a PhD student in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and works with DREME Network member and CRECE Associate Director Amy Claessens. Hyunwoo’s research interests include achievement gaps in early-childhood and K-12 settings and the effectiveness of compensatory education, such as Title 1 and Head Start, on addressing educational inequality. He earned an MA in Educational Theory and Policy at Pennsylvania State University. Prior to entering graduate school, he worked as a classroom teacher and a special education teacher in South Korea.

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Xiaopei Yang is a doctoral student in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to attending graduate school, she volunteered at several child care centers. Influenced by working with young children and her own parenting experiences, she found a passion for working with and researching young children. She is currently working as a research project assistant in DREME, which includes family math, pre-K math activities and pre-K math curriculum. Her research interests include pre-k curriculum, children playing, and the cultural influences on children’s learning and playing.

Xiaopei Yang

Former CRECE Graduate Students

Kathryn Boonstra

Abigail Buta is a double-degree master’s student with the La Follette School of Public Affairs and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, working with CRECE associate director Amy Claessens. She is interested in research that informs smart public policy, especially policy that seeks to equalize opportunities for children. Prior to attending UW Madison, she studied economics and psychology at California State University, Chico, and has worked as a teaching assistant and tutor.

Abby Buta

Ju Lim is a doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at UW Madison. She works with Beth Graue and Amy Claessens on WREN and COVID 4K projects at CRECE. She received an MA in International Educational Development from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a BS in Early and Middle Childhood Studies from Ohio State University. Her research interests include technology integration and early childhood education. She has supervised and taught preservice teachers in the teacher education program.


Hyelin Park is a doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She previously worked as an early childhood educator in public and private school settings in South Korea and as a researcher at the Child Education Research Institute, Seoul National University of Education. She recently gave a conference presentation of a case study that explored forest education and its implications in the pandemic. Her passion lies in teaching and playing with young children, so she wants to do research on how to provide an educational program that fosters collaboration between school and family through play.


Moonjoo Woo is a doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has previously worked as an early childhood educator in various school settings and taught in the teacher education program at the UW-Madison. Collaborating with Madison Education Partnership (MEP), she is currently working on a project exploring how schools approach the transition into kindergarten, and how home visits impact the transition process. She also contributes to a study exploring how families make decisions about their children’s pre-K settings. Acknowledging that high-quality early childhood education programs can drive equity for children with diverse backgrounds, her research interests involve the transition from public pre-K to kindergarten, family engagement, and policy enactment.

Moonjoo Woo