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In the Spotlight . . .

In the Spotlight: Yvonne Schwab holds keys to school success

on Thursday, 28 March 2013.

When Yvonne became the principal of St. James the Less Catholic School eight years ago, the school's population had been in serious decline. She rolled up her sleeves and, as a strategy to boost enrollment, worked closely with her parish administrator to encourage the Columbus Latino population to attend St. James. She also encouraged other minorities to visit St. James.

As a result of her efforts, the population of the school has doubled, test scores have risen, and the school has become a model of differentiation and inclusion. Students are involved in authentic service learning and are able to see that their own financial situation does not prevent them from helping others. Teachers have been trained to address the needs of bilingual students and children of poverty. The school has expanded its arts and music program, has instruction in English and Spanish, and all students learn American Sign Language.

Mrs. Schwab says, "I work with our staff to develop the potential and the promise that each student possesses. Our children come from Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Russia, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Mexico, El Salvador, Puerto Rico and all parts of the United States. We have children of all faiths, income levels, academic levels, and family structures. I believe that we are a window to the world and this gift of diversity allows us to relate to everyone as brothers and sisters in Christ."

Mrs. Schwab and her staff have worked with the University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and the Catholic School Advantage Campaign, which has provided the staff with necessary training for the school's diverse population. Yvonne Schwab received the 2011 National Catholic Education Association Distinguished Principal Award.  She was also named a Whitehouse Champion of Change under President Obama's Winning the Future initiative.

The Principals Academy will be offered again this summer June 24-28, 2013. Registration is now open.

Parental Choice Symposium Raises Awareness Outside of the Classroom

on Monday, 25 March 2013.

Kelsey Klupchak, a financial analyst at IndCor Properties in Chicago, may not spend her days in the classroom anymore, but she still deeply believes in the mission of Catholic schools and parents’ right to direct their children’s education. The ACE 15 graduate of the Service through Teaching program taught chemistry at Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix, Arizona, where she was first exposed to the issue of school choice; many of her students received tuition assistance through the state’s tax credit scholarship program. Although Kelsey has since left the classroom, she wanted to remain active in education, and ACE’s Parental Choice Symposium provided the perfect launch point.

The Parental Choice Symposium (PCS) is an intensive formation program designed to develop high quality leaders for the parental choice movement, with a particular focus on strengthening state-based institutions engaged in grassroots mobilization, advocacy, and improving school quality. Sponsored by the Program for K-12 Educational Access, it is the only event of its kind in the country. The PCS annually selects 25-30 talented and dedicated candidates for participation, including ACE graduates, staff and leadership of state and national choice ventures, and other aspiring policy leaders.

Kelsey, who admitted she did not have extensive background knowledge about school choice prior to the symposium, applied to participate in the PCS to learn more about a grassroots-turned-national movement from some of the preeminent thinkers in the field, and she was not disappointed. Kelsey praised the conference for giving her a foundation from which she could learn more about the issue on her own. “Going in, I had almost no understanding of what this could mean for our children and for Catholic schools,” she said. “The presentations, discussion, and knowledge of the other participants really helped set the stage for me to get involved.”

Since returning to Chicago, Kelsey has taken a leadership role within her local ACE Advocates community and has actively worked toward increasing awareness about parental choice initiatives through presentations after Masses and at social events. Kelsey explained, “We’re just trying to get the word out, attend school choice rallies and meetings, learn as much as we can, and hopefully position ourselves to help as the movement gains steam in Chicago and Illinois.”

Asked if she had any words for ACE graduates who are considering applying, Kelsey exclaimed, “Do it!  It’s an excellent introduction to parental school choice, and it was great exposure to its leaders and forefront thinkers.  It was a whirlwind of information, people and places, and it helped stir the passion within to then send me forth to learn more and support parental school choice in my own community.”

This year’s Parental Choice Symposium is scheduled for June 14-19, and there is no cost to participants. Those interested in applying or looking for more information about the PCS should contact Matt Gelchion at .

AmeriCorps Service Gets Things Done: Stories from the front lines

on Tuesday, 12 March 2013.

For the past two decades ACE has been privileged to share a partnership with AmeriCorps, a program of the federal Corporation for National and Community Service. In the last year ACE AmeriCorps members led 8,922 non-AmeriCorps member volunteers in AmeriCorps service activities, served 13,576 disadvantaged children and youth, and engaged 3,337 disadvantaged children and youth as volunteers. AmeriCorps works! Three ACE AmeriCorps members share their stories here.

Santos2013Cathleen Santos de la Rosa, who teaches at Saint Mary School in Los Angeles, writes of  students for whom English is a new language, and the strides they've taken toward fluency this year. "Through a lot of work on phonics and fluency practice, aggregately these students have improved by 17 words per minute in fluency, by 8% in accuracy, and a full level in reading comprehension." The process, Cathleen reports, has shown her students that the hours of in-class and after-school tutoring, "all of these little choices to better themselves," have paid off.

19-sacramento-dtoupsDerrick Toups, a third grade teacher at St. Robert Catholic in Sacramento, CA, reports the impact a video of the Yellow Boat Project in the Philippines had on his students. "After witnessing kids of their own age swim to school and trudge through mud to get home," Derrick writes, "my class instantly began dialogue about what they could do to help their fellow students...They began planning a car wash: setting prices, discussing potential locations, and slogans. I stepped aside and watched as they worked together to do what they could to bring a small bit of justice to those less fortunate than them...It is truly inspiring to watch the impact of 'students helping students' unfold."

BrianArgusAnother teacher in Sacramento, Brian Argus of Saint Patrick Academy, relays this hilarious example of the difference a 15 minute lesson can make in the lives of students. "It was the day before Thanksgiving break," he begins, the last period of the day before an all-school pep rally and a week long holiday. Brian had 15 minutes to teach a Life Science lesson on diffusion to 37 antsy seventh graders.

"The demonstration," Brian explains, "was in two parts: 1) Drop food coloring into beakers at each table and have students time how long it takes to hit the bottom as well as equally spread, and 2) Burn a bag of popcorn in the microwave unbeknownst to the students until those in the front of the room smell it and those in the back say 'What burning popcorn?'"

Initially, all went as planned. As Brian completed part 1, a student exclaimed, "Mr. Argus something is burning!" and, as if on cue, a student in the back said, "I don't smell anything..." Brian continued, "This was exactly what I wanted them to see.  But suddenly their cries of something burning got worse, until a student finally threw in the word smoke. I glanced towards the microwave behind me to discover smoke billowing out through crevices I didn't know existed. Fortunately, we were able to open the windows and doors to prevent a fire alarm...Unfortunately, my classroom smelled like popcorn for at least 3 weeks afterwards. 

"But there is a silver lining to this story: it set the groundwork for what became probably my best week of life science lessons after the students returned. They will never forget the day Mr. Argus made what we call 'The Story of the Burnt Popcorn,' nor will they ever forget the concept of diffusion."

In the Spotlight: Sarah Greene on Service, Faith, and Hope

on Tuesday, 05 March 2013.

SarahGreenLovelyOf Sarah Greene, Fr. Lou DelFra, CSC writes, "Sarah has given no less than most of her recent life to the ACE mission...She has served...with incredible pedagogical and pastoral insight and a ceaselessly encouraging personality...She has brought a vibrant faith in Christ as the center of her life and the ACE mission, an untiring (and contagious!) hope in the future of Catholic schools, and an ultra-generous love for all her fellow disciples with whom she shares this ministry and mission."

Sarah is a beloved member of the ACE family. Below she shares some of her history with ACE and her gratitude for the new position she has taken with ACE Advocates.

Seven years ago, I applied to teach with ACE after meeting incredible people who had dedicated two years of their lives to the mission of Catholic schools, which have shaped me profoundly. Through my time as an ACE teacher, I constantly met amazing disciples: administrators, teachers, families, fellow ACE teachers and ACE graduates, all of whom advocated for Catholic schools in their daily lives of service and prayer.

Through my five years on the ACE Service through Teaching pastoral staff, I have been blessed to work with an amazing array of ACE communities, which has opened my eyes and heart to the common mission of diverse Catholic schools across the country – and even beyond. And I have been privileged to witness through all of these schools and teachers the person who makes our diverse efforts and hopes one – Christ the Teacher, working through all of us.

As a member and chair of the South Bend Advocates community, I've seen our regional community welcome many new faces and send forth many friends to continued and ever-deepening service in Catholic education. I feel truly blessed that my role in the South Bend region has offered opportunities to collaborate with new leaders in ACE Advocates nationally, and an ever-broadening circle of colleagues from the Remick Leadership Program, the ENL and TEC Programs, Notre Dame ACE Academies, and so many other friends and co-disciples in this mission.

I was – and remain! – amazed by the ACE community's passion for Catholic schools, for growth in faith, for increasingly effective service, for supportive and encouraging community. I am humbled and honored to serve Catholic schools and the ACE community in this new role as director of ACE Advocates.

Lindsay Will: The Value of Teaching Exceptional Children

on Monday, 25 February 2013.

LindsayWillSpotlight022013"You can't tell how far a frog can jump just by looking at him." Lindsay Will reads this quote every morning as she walks into her office. It reminds her that no matter what challenges her students may face, they have the potential to grow and jump a little farther.

Lindsay (Johns) Will, ACE 14, always knew there was more she could be  doing for her struggling students. She began her career almost six years ago  as a third grade teacher in Jackson,   MS. Today she serves as the director    of Learning Services and Student Support at St. Clement School in Chicago. Before taking on her current role, Lindsay taught Kindergarten at St. Clement for three years. She believes that Kindergarten is an important year for students, especially for those with learning/social-emotional differences. "Partnering with families early in their children's career," Lindsay says, "provides the greatest benefit for their children in the long run."

To better meet the needs of her students, Lindsay enrolled in the first ACE Teaching Exceptional Children (TEC) cohort. She reflects upon her year-long venture in the program fondly, most importantly for the way it has impacted her school in Chicago. "As a member of TEC," she describes, "I was called to implement a Strategic Intervention Team. I decided to name it the Child First Team, because of its mission to put children first in all of their decisions." Now in its third year, her Child First Team has served over 60 families by developing intervention plans for students.

Lindsay has observed the way her team has changed the culture of her school. "Before the Child First Team's inception," she says, "parents were scared to come to the school if they were worried about their child. They were so afraid of being 'kicked out.' Today parents welcome the opportunity to meet with the team and feel supported knowing there is a dedicated group that shares the desire to help their child succeed."

Not only has the team impacted families, but it has made a huge difference for teachers. Lindsay remembers her ACE STT experience and feeling so alone in trying to help her students. Teachers at St. Clement feel more confident knowing they have the support of the entire Child First Team.

Today Lindsay also serves as the Strategic Intervention Team Coach for the current cohort of ACE TEC students. After living through the demands of the program herself, Lindsay says, "I enjoy the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge. Implementing a team is not an easy task, but it is by far the most rewarding and valuable contribution I have made to my school."

Lindsay and her husband, Tim Will (ACE 15), are expecting their first child this May. Lindsay is excited to be a mom and believes that being a parent will make her an even stronger teacher.