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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 by Brian Scully

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 by Brian Scully

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 by Brian Scully

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?”

Opening Doors for Inclusion

Thursday, April 08, 2021 by Christie Bonfiglio, Ph.D. - Director, Program for Inclusive Education


Catholic schools are called to serve all students regardless of learning differences. In fact, Catholic Social Teaching and Church documents specifically outline our responsibility to individuals with disabilities. It is clear that schools and educators do not fundamentally oppose opening the doors to students with disabilities. We have a heart to welcome every learner. The obstacle most often expressed is one of resources–lack of knowledge, financial support, or personnel to meet unique student needs. Accessing Title funds are one way to provide these resources and remove the barrier so all students have the opportunity to attend Catholic schools.

A Day in the Life of an ACE Teacher

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 by Maria Corr - ACE 27, Oakland

Maria Corr - Day in the Life of an ACE Teacher

I always thought that a teacher’s job began and ended with the school day. They wake up around 6, get to school by 7, teach back-to-back classes until the final bell at 2:30 in the afternoon, go home after an hour of grading or a faculty meeting, and then spend the rest of their evenings how any other person would – perhaps a workout, a nap, family time, or TV time. 

With nearly one full academic year of teaching under my belt (ahh!), I can easily confirm that a teacher’s job does not exist exclusively between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. The daily logistics (planning, grading, meetings), ever-expanding to-do lists (emails, class newsletter creation, more emails), and emotions (joyous celebrations, occasional heavy-heartedness, and, this year, frequent Zoom fatigue) that characterize the beautiful busyness of education cannot be confined to eight hours each day. 

Wireless Connection: Student Engagement in a Hybrid Setting

Monday, March 29, 2021 by Brian Scully

Higher-Powered Learning Blog Engaging Students in Hybrid Setting

“I’m not in the room with half of my students, how do I make sure they’re getting all they can from class?”

We’re often asked by teachers in the Higher-Powered Learning Program for resources to engage students working online. While our blended learning practitioners felt more prepared to transition to distanced/hybrid learning, these learning situations still pose unique challenges for engagement. Below are several approaches to engagement we’ve found successful; we hope these resources and strategies will increase student engagement both now and after we all return to the classroom.

ACE Intern Uncovers a Desire for Teaching by Digging into Data

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 by Kenta Sachen - ACE 28 Intern

My freshman year, I became a founding member of a baseball analytics team here at Notre Dame. Although I’ve never played baseball, it has always been my favorite sport, so I was enamored with the opportunity to “play” baseball with analytics. Led by a couple of juniors, we focused on researching college baseball, and then we worked with the varsity team to provide them with data-driven insights for practices and games. I was brand new to the technical aspects of our work and strived to be a diligent student learning from these juniors.

A Sixth Grade Girl and Her Six Lessons on God

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 by Michael Kenney - ACE 26, Twin Cities

On my way to proctor breakfast duty, I think about the four minutes following our morning bell. Soon, at 9:15 a.m., the first bell will ring, giving students four minutes to head from breakfast to homeroom and granting me those same, precious four minutes to print the eighth-grade religion worksheets, send a student to the office for morning announcements, stick an IEP form in a colleague’s mailbox, and if all goes according to plan, grab a cup of coffee in stride to class.

We Are Not a Lukewarm People

Friday, March 12, 2021 by Joe DiSipio

“But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”  - Luke 15:19

Sometime last year, in the space between the New Year and the start of Lent, Kalie Paranzino led our Sacramento community in a beautiful prayer centered on finding and painting our “word” of the year that could become an easily-repeated meditative prayer mantra. When we hung up our five words in our dining room, we did not know what this year would hold or what those words could come to mean.

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