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Accompanying through Uncertainty: ACE Ambassadors Help Others Say ‘Yes’ to Teaching

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

ACE 25 Ambassadors

I’ve never taught before, and I don’t even know where I’ll be sent to teach. How do I tell other college students what it’s like to be an ACE Teaching Fellow?

This question lingered last year on the minds of ACE’s first Ambassadors, who helped recruit ACE 25 as seniors themselves on their college campuses. Ambassadors are ACE teachers from outside of Notre Dame who commit to ACE as juniors and recruit for ACE Teaching Fellows during their senior years.

"We were able to accompany people better because we were sharing that experience of belief in the program, but also uncertainty."

The Ambassadors visit Notre Dame for a three-day Ambassadors Institute the summer before their senior years before serving as the first face of ACE for many prospective applicants, sharing information about the Teaching Fellows program as well as their own personal stories about saying “yes” to ACE.

While the position comes with uncertainty and excitement, ACE’s first Ambassadors say that these feelings helped them connect more deeply with other undergraduates curious about serving students through ACE.

I think it was good, to some degree, that there was a degree of uncertainty,” said Emma Doerfler, a Georgetown University graduate who will be teaching high-school language arts in Stockton, California, next fall. “People would say, ‘You’re already an Ambassador, how do you not know where you’re going?’ Because we didn’t find out until everyone else did. We were able to accompany people better because we were sharing that experience of belief in the program, but also uncertainty.”

Laura Fenerty, who will teach middle school social studies and religion in L.A. South Central, studied education at Penn State University and chose ACE for its strong teacher training program.

“I had the privilege of working with kids throughout college, and I knew that I didn’t want to just jump into a teaching career—I wanted to be intentional about it. I was really seeking out some kind of Catholic or service-oriented [program], and I happened to stumble across ACE my sophomore year,” Fenerty said.

Several Ambassadors, including University of Scranton graduate Dan O’Reilly, sought opportunities for spiritual growth through ACE.

ACE 25 Ambassadors What I especially loved about ACE was the opportunity to continue my spiritual growth because they are so intentional about having your spirituality be so integral to your teaching and who you are,” said O’Reilly, who will teach middle-school language arts in Fort Worth, Texas. “I didn’t want my spiritual growth that I had experienced in college to plateau, and I knew that ACE would continue the growth that I had experienced—and, so far, it has been that and so much more.” This summer, O’Reilly finds energy at ACE’s evening Mass, where Teaching Fellows often pack the Dillon Hall chapel and exchange hugs at the sign of peace.

Tony Berry, who will teach middle school language arts and religion in New York City, said that the joy and mission he found in working at a summer camp for at-risk boys in Houston inspired him to apply for ACE.

I wanted to serve, but I wasn’t quite sure how. Over time, as I heard about ACE, the idea of service through education and also growing in my faith really attracted me to ACE,” he said.

While ACE summer and practicum teaching have brought new challenges for the ACE 25 Ambassadors, the Ambassadors Institute last summer established a strong sense of community that these Teaching Fellows say has helped them navigate their first weeks in the program.

“ACE Summer reaffirmed what ACE is,” said Sean Murray, who will teach middle-school math in New Orleans. “I tried very much not to come in with many expectations going into the year, so I just had a general idea of what [ACE] is. Being here for three days last year at the ACE Ambassadors Retreat was very helpful in getting a sense of the community of ACE and its mission.”

In Practicum, the Ambassadors are experiencing their first successes as new teachers when they student-teach in schools throughout South Bend.

“We’re ready to answer the call, and we’ve had a great year of preparation, of getting rid of own will and being open to God’s.”

“My favorite experience from practicum so far happened while my students were reading Night, by Elie Wiesel,” said Doerfler, who taught at Mishawaka High School this summer. “I had prepared a lesson that included testimonies from other Holocaust survivors, and after our class discussion, one student went home and did more research because he became so interested in the topic. That experience was a good reminder of the privilege and responsibility of nurturing our students' intellectual curiosity, and of the joy in seeing what they decide to do with their knowledge.”

Being an ACE Ambassador, Fenerty said, is about learning to connect with others and embracing uncertainty—skills that she has found useful this summer, and that she knows she will take with her to Stockton this fall.

We learn how to connect with people across the country, and to grow in our own spirituality,” Fenerty said. “We’re ready to answer the call, and we’ve had a great year of preparation, of getting rid of own will and being open to God’s.”