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The ACE Blog

Community Retreats Offer ACE Teachers Time for Reflection and Rejuvenation

Friday, June 11, 2021 by Joe DiSipio

ACE 27 28 Retreats

The past two weeks, the ACE community has celebrated a joyous return to one of the traditions that marks the ACE experience: community retreat.

Since March 2020, the pieces of our community have been scattered across the country. Retreats that defined the major moments in an ACE teacher’s journey - whether in April, June or December - had been hosted virtually or in a hybrid setting. But starting with the arrival of ACE 28 on Memorial Day weekend the ACE community became whole again. Joy and gratitude permeates Dillon Hall, ACE teachers’ home for the summer.

Open Doors Program Unlocks College and More for Students with Disabilities

Tuesday, June 01, 2021 by Kyle McElvany (PIE 3) - Director of Inclusion, Saint Mary Catholic Central

The Program for Inclusive Education (PIE) is pleased to update our audience about St. Mary Catholic Central High School (SMCC) in Monroe, Michigan. SMCC began the St. Andre Bessette (SAB) Open Doors program for students with disabilities, and PIE was privileged to collaborate. Kyle McElvany, the school’s director of inclusion and a member of the PIE 3 cohort, provides an update after three short years. Many thanks to SMCC, Kyle, and the families who have entrusted their children to Catholic schools. It is a blessing to welcome, serve, and celebrate every student! 

~Christie Bonfiglio, Ph.D.; Program for Inclusive Education-Director

Jacob and Other Toledo Enrollees

The Fun of Teaching

Tuesday, June 01, 2021 by Chris Lembo - ACE 27, Atlanta

Chris Lembo - ACE Teaching Fellows

I love acting like a child. If one of the love languages was goofing around, playing pretend, and making funny faces, that would be mine. Not a day goes by when I don’t think back on how careless and fun my childhood was. Especially now, as a middle school teacher, I am constantly bringing back memories from my own eighth-grade experience to help me relate to my students better. However, I knew when I joined ACE that I wouldn’t be acting like a child in class. One of the pillars of ACE is professionalism, and besides that, I was now responsible for someone’s child for the majority of the week. There is a time for the child-like goofiness, and a time for professionalism and responsibility.

Blended Learning: A Diamond from COVID Pressure

Monday, May 24, 2021

Blended Learning: A Diamond from COVID Pressure

“Triage teaches us lessons about the import we place on things in ‘normal’ times,” said Betsy Rafferty, the assistant principal at St. Malachy Catholic School (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and a speaker at our recent blended learning conference. “There will be things that we learned out of this pandemic that set us up for how we're serving our kids in the future. What we're trying to do right now as a school is look for the diamonds coming out of this pressure.

The Sacred Spaces of ACE JAX

Thursday, May 20, 2021 by By: Fiona Williams - ACE 26, Jacksonville

The Sacred Spaces of ACE JAX - Fiona Williams

The people make the place and ACE Jacksonville has a lot of sacred spaces for me. When moving to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar folks, we create safe havens together that sustain joy. Take a peak at five places that harbor ACE JAX community life.

The Great Bridgebuilding of God

Thursday, May 13, 2021 by Joe Everett - ACE 26, Tucson

The Great Bridgebuilding of God - Alliance for Catholic Education

“Catch only what you’ve thrown yourself,
all is mere skill and little gain;
but when you’re suddenly the catcher of a ball
thrown by an eternal partner
with accurate and measured swing
towards you, to your center, in an arch
from the great bridgebuilding of God:
why catching then becomes a power—
not yours, a world’s.”

Besides providing a convenient title for this post, Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem extends a not-so-convenient invitation – the same invitation that Jesus extends to us – “step outside your comfort zone, and follow me.” To every person that says “YES” to teaching in Catholic schools around the country, ACE extends this very same invitation. In this way, ACE is fundamentally an invitation to participate in bridgebuilding. All too often, however, we believe that we are the only ones building the bridges.

Notre Dame Catholicism: A Protestant’s story

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 by Weston Dell, ACE 28 - Tampa

Notre Dame Grotto

Weston is a current Notre Dame senior who will be serving as a member of ACE 28 in Tampa, Florida. The following reflection was recently published in The Observer.

I came to Notre Dame as a nondenominational Protestant. My parents raised my brothers and me in a Christian home in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Throughout my childhood, we attended Sunday services semi-regularly at a nearby nondenominational church that drew heavily on evangelical teaching. During my high school years, I became very involved in the church’s youth group, participating in service and gaining a better understanding of the Gospel. My Christian faith played an important role in my life at that time, and I considered it a critical part of my identity.

4.0 Takeaways from BLiCSS 4.0

Monday, May 10, 2021

Blended Learning in Catholic Schools Symposium 4.0

For the fourth year in a row, our HPL team convened and planned a national gathering of leaders and practitioners in blended and personalized learning. We love learning from the wonderful speakers at this conference (online this year) that we call the Blended Learning in Catholic Schools Symposium (BLiCSS). BLiCSS gave leaders and practitioners in Catholic education the opportunity to gather, share best practices and experiences, and tackle some problems of practice in blended learning. There were too many wonderful nuggets of wisdom to share from all of our incredible speakers, but we thought we’d give you our four major takeaways (in honor of our 4th annual gathering!) from BLiCSS 4.0, Post-Pandemic Pathways: From Surviving to Thriving!

The People We Are and the Work We Do

Sunday, May 09, 2021 by John Schoenig

“I watch what I do to see what I believe.”
- Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ

There’s a fine line between being “hungry” and being an obsessive sourpuss. Until very recently, I had no real appreciation of the contours of that line. In fact, it was just two years ago – at the tail end of a visit that Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ made to the ACE community. 

For those who may be unfamiliar with Sr. Helen, she is perhaps best known as the author of Dead Man Walking, an acclaimed account of her work with two death row prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, which ignited a national conversation about the death penalty. She has spent more than 40 years fighting for the abolition of capital punishment, working tirelessly with policy makers, law enforcement officials, and Church leaders – and accompanying death row inmates in their final hours.

Of all of the delightful moments during her time with the ACE community, the one that resonated most deeply with me occurred at the end of her trip. After dropping her off at the airport - just as I got back to campus - I got a call from Sr. Helen. “John-boy!”, she said, “It’s Sr. Helen. I left my computer at the hotel!”

I raced to the hotel, retrieved the computer, and tried to observe as many traffic laws as possible on the return trip. As I pulled up, Sr. Helen was standing at the curb with a huge smile. We chatted for a bit and got ready to part. Just as she was about to head to her flight, she put her hand on my shoulder and said 

“Don’t you forget – God made you to do great things. Don’t waste time trying to figure it out. Give God permission to move you.”

Each of you was made for greatness. So, too, was each of your students. The hunger you are called to embody is about much more than ambition. It is a function of what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “divine dissatisfaction.” You set high expectations for your students – not because it is what your school demands – but rather because it is what your students deserve. You persist in the more frustrating dimensions of teaching – not because that is what successful people do – but because you love your students so much that you put their success ahead of your own. You know that the clearest indication of what you believe isn’t what you say or how you feel. It is what you actually do. I came so that they might have life,” says Jesus, “and have it more abundantly.” You have an incredible opportunity to help your students live life more abundantly. I pray that you’ll give God permission to move you to do so. It took a curbside conversation with a firecracker Cajun nun for me to figure that out. For that, I will be eternally grateful.Give God permission to move you.

Loving God, I recognize you are always with me and your movements are in everything I do. Help me see you reflected in the person I am becoming and in my daily work. Amen.

To the Moms that Raise Us Up

Sunday, May 09, 2021 by Lauren Sinnock, ACE 27 - Tampa Bay

lauren sinnock 2

It is five minutes past the first bell, and a timid freshman peeks with her usual hesitancy into my classroom. Her tears show that she’s upset, although I do not need so see them to know it. Lilah usually does not conceal her feelings. She is also readily trusting, without protective barriers that make her wary about telling me the cause of her crying. I stand by; I am beside her. I am not immediately convinced that I’m doing enough, but I am committed to remaining present to her.

Digital Solutions for Today and Tomorrow

Sunday, May 02, 2021 by Sean J. Smith, Ph.D.

Program for Inclusive Education at the University of Notre Dame

The Program for Inclusive Education (PIE) is blessed to collaborate with some of the country’s best educator, including Dr. Sean Smith, a national expert from the University of Kansas specializing in technology and innovation to serve the needs of all students.

He is a teacher, presenter, author, and champion for meeting the needs of students with diverse needs. Sean graciously gives his time and expertise as an adjunct professor and national consultant to PIE.

He provides his insights on technology in a new format for this month’s PIE blog: a short video that shows what you can learn in the May webinar, A Little Slice of PIE. Many thanks, Sean, for all you do to welcome, serve, and celebrate our students!

~Christie Bonfiglio, Ph.D.; Program for Inclusive Education-Director

Both Sides of the Journey: Reflecting on April Retreat 2021

Tuesday, April 27, 2021 by Jess Zlaket (ACE 26 - Forth Worth) and Peter Spalitto (ACE 26 - Atlanta)

April Retreat 2021

Jess Zlaket (Fort Worth) and Peter Spalitto (Atlanta) are finishing their second years as ACE teachers as they transition to become part of the Teaching Fellows’ pastoral team. They joined ACE 28, the newest members of ACE Teaching Fellows, on their annual April Retreat and reflected on both sides of their journey.


Monday, April 26, 2021

Higher-Powered Learning - Goals

In our last post, we explored how challenges in video games can inform how we design and present challenges in the classroom. Using Carol Dweck’s model of response patterns to challenge, we noted two typical mindsets: “mastery-oriented” and “helpless.” Video games are designed to promote iteration, stepwise progress, and little social cost of failure. Students are therefore more likely to develop a mastery-oriented mindset towards them, but the same cannot be said of all classrooms.

College Athletics to Teaching - A Different Kind of Love

Friday, April 23, 2021 by By: Claire DeSelm - ACE 27, Dallas

Claire DeSelm - ACE 27, Dallas

My alarm clock is set to the same time this year as it has been for the past four years -- 5:30 AM. Walking into my dark classroom at Cristo Rey Dallas is a lot like walking into the dark locker room to get ready for morning practice. Similar to my years as a college athlete, most days I find myself taking a deep breath, having a sip of coffee, and saying a quick prayer before I turn on my classroom lights and say yes to the grind of the day ahead. When I chose to swim at Notre Dame, a lot of people told me that being a college athlete would be the hardest thing I would ever do. They were right! When I chose to do ACE, move to Dallas, and teach high schoolers for the next two years, several others told me being a first-year teacher would be the hardest thing I would ever do. They were right, too!

Can video games inform good pedagogy?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Higher-Powered Learning - ACE Blended Learning

If you are a teacher, I’m sure you’ve heard your students talking (at length) about Among Us, Minecraft, or Fortnite. Games have always been a central fascination of childhood, from hopscotch to Halo. Every one of these games is predicated on challenge; repeatedly trying something you may fail at is the fun. Shouldn’t the challenges encountered in the classroom be similarly engrossing? As Higher-Powered Learning director Fr. Nate Wills, CSC, asked in his doctoral dissertation, “Why [is] it not uncommon for kids who can’t pay attention to a math worksheet to be immersed in a good video game for 40-50 hours until they beat it?”

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