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Back to Thee, O Notre Dame

Sunday, November 06, 2016 by Nick Padrnos - ACE 22, Biloxi

Nick Padrnos Alliance for Catholic Education Teacher

Current ACE Teaching Fellow Nick Padrnos (ACE 22, Biloxi) details his recent trek back to campus for the Notre Dame-Stanford football game. 

Nick Padrnos ACE Teaching FellowsFriday, 1:38 PM: Fifth-graders frantically exchange currency (in this case, beads left over from Mardi Gras) for healthy maize crops. Sighs abound as several students realize they lack any “natural resources” for successful trade. This lesson on how specialization and surplus led to the expansion of the Mayan empire is the only thing standing between me and a trip back to the Motherland, Notre Dame. Irish football awaits.

Friday, 2:43 PM: I check out from school early and rendezvous in the driveway with my other ACE community members to catch our flight in New Orleans. Did I forget to feed Bruce, the class pet? Bats should be fine for a few days without food, right?

Friday, 6:22 PM: Biloxi ACErs are probably on TSA’s no-fly list. Grace, a fellow ACE teacher, is literally shaking in her boots, and the whole airport seems to be watching as I struggle to pry them off. After a good deal of perspiration and snickers from passersby, they come free. This is what ACE community is all about: struggling, collaborating, and thriving together.

Nick Padrnos ACE 22 Biloxi

Saturday, 1:38 AM: Groggy and hungry, somehow we arrive in South Bend, Indiana. My community member Emily’s aunt drives us to her house, where I eat a block of cheese and a roll of Ritz crackers. Only after a little food do I come to my senses and realize that we are back under the Dome. I have come back to Thee, O Notre Dame!

Saturday, 2:43 AM: I’m fast asleep, but Andrew and Arielle, two ACErs from Mission, Texas, arrive at the house. About fifteen other ACE teachers will stay under one roof this weekend. It’s like we all desperately want to see each other or something.

"Even among the chaos, it’s a time to be grateful for the treasure of ACE friendships and a small retreat from school."

Saturday, 8:24 AM: Run. This is how all good days start. Joined by three other ACE teachers from different cities, I jog along the river and marvel at the trees on the cusp of being fully clothed in autumn colors. Back at Notre Dame, the lakes are placid and the air crisp, something quite different from the stifling South Bend humidity during ACE summers. We finish at the Grotto, wading our way through the hustle and bustle of Notre Dame football fans waiting in excitement for tonight’s game. Even among the chaos, it’s a time to be grateful for the treasure of ACE friendships and a small retreat from school.

Saturday, 9:59 AM: But school has a knack of following ACE teachers wherever they go. I duck into the Hesburgh Library to finish making a unit test for my fifth graders next week. There’s a swanky wine and cheese tasting event going on just feet away. It’s a good incentive to be efficient.

Saturday, 12:02 PM: I arrive at the tailgating scene outside the football stadium. For someone who didn’t go Notre Dame for undergrad, this is a sight to behold. The only point of reference for ACErs like me is the Quidditch World Cup. Banners and tents stretch as far as the eye can see, and cheers echo up and down the lots. I think we are about to watch the Irish take on Stanford, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a broomstick came flying by. We bump into Chris, a teacher in New Orleans, who has an armful of meatball subs and is doling them out like Santa. I eat the first calories of what I estimate to be eventually 6,347 calories throughout the day.

Saturday, 1:53 PM: A group of teachers meander over to our old summer haunt, Alumni Hall, where we spent the last two ACE summers studying, lesson planning, and sleeping (though not so much of the latter). I ask a pair of two very “college-looking” male Alumni residents to snap a photo of us. They give us a disapproving look, clearly thinking that “this is our turf.” Only we know that Alumni Hall truly belongs to the ACE community.

Nick Padrnos ACE Teaching Fellows Back to Thee, O Notre Dame

Saturday, 2:30 PM: I can’t leave Notre Dame before stopping by the ACE office for their beloved tailgate. It’s an excited hub of faculty, pastoral staff, priests, sisters, and past, present, and future ACErs. Oh yeah, and babies. My guess is that about half of all those in attendance were under the age of five. ACE deeply understands that you got to have kids to teach them, or something like that. Anyways, walking back into Remick Commons was a firm reminder that these people care about you, think about you, and pray for you and your students every day.

"Walking back into Remick Commons was a firm reminder that these people care about you, think about you, and pray for you and your students every day."

Saturday, 7:30 PM: Finally, after hours of anticipation and food consumption, the game kicks off. I used to get jitters before the start of a Gonzaga basketball game. This is something entirely new. Between standing shoulder to shoulder with your closest friends, hearing the ringing of the marching band, and seeing those shimmering gold helmets, I get the chills. I guess you could say it is the final rite of induction into the Notre Dame family.

Saturday, 11:37 PM: Despite the Irish loss, we return to the house in high spirits. We eat chili, toss peanut M&M’s into each other’s mouths, share stories, laugh, and say goodbyes. I hit the sack for an early departure out of Chicago.

Sunday, 3:16 AM: Andrew and Arielle leave. Bless their souls.

Sunday 5:15 AM: My alarm goes off. My housemate Brian’s soon follows but is shut off immediately. I’m soon banging on his door as he complains, “My alarm never went off!” Again, this is why we live in community.

Sunday 7:30 AM: The plane departs from Chicago to New Orleans. My head sleepily bobs and perhaps rests on the shoulder of the stranger next to me. But at least I can now dream of how it felt to return to Thee, O Notre Dame!

Interested in learning more about ACE Teaching Fellows? Visit ace.nd.edu/teach