As first-year teachers in ACE 27 and community members, they’re part of a long ACE tradition: carpool buddies. That means mornings and afternoons swapping stories and reliving the fun parts of the day together.
Whitney drives her silver Subaru she’s named Gia, and carpooling with Raymond makes the drive from the north side of Philly to South 16th Street much more enjoyable. “I’m mostly listening to Raymond talk while trying to navigate the Philly streets, also known as not getting hit and not hitting anybody,” Whitney says. “During the drive, mostly down Broad Street, we pass by Temple and City Hall. Sometimes we see protests or concerts.”
While each drive may bring something new, they typically start in the same way. “The ride begins with me double-parking as Raymond runs to the car and tries not to hit the car door on the curb,” says Whitney, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2020. Then, the carpool conversation begins.
This semester, with schools facing the challenge of the pandemic, many of Whitney and Raymond’s conversations have centered around Zoom events. “We’re both teaching virtually from school, so we can laugh about all the oddities of our kids figuring out Zoom,” Raymond says.
In Whitney’s third-grade classroom at St. Helena-Incarnation Catholic School, one Zoom call included the celebration of her students’ stuffed animals. “We do a ‘good morning’ chain, and my kids had been wanting to do show-and-tell,” Whitney explains. “On National Bring Your Teddy Bear to School Day, we also had standardized testing, so doing show-and-tell was a fun way to start the day. One student brought a stuffed animal named Mushroom, another brought Sonic the Hedgehog, and some had huge Costco teddy bears that are bigger than they are.”
Raymond’s high school students at Cristo Rey Philadelphia may not bring stuffed animals to his Zoom classroom, but they share their personalities in different ways. “One day we were discussing contentious topics in class, such as pineapple on pizza and Thanksgiving versus Christmas,” Raymond says. “We had already spent a little more time on the discussion than I was planning for, so I let my students know that we would be moving on.
“One of my students who usually works with his camera off came out of nowhere, didn’t raise his hand, just unmuted himself and said, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Moylan, but I’ve got to stop you because Thanksgiving is not the best holiday,’” recalls Raymond, who graduated from Saint Louis University in 2020. “And then he went on a three-minute tear about Christmas.
“His mic-drop moment came when he concluded with, ‘And, need I say more, Christmas has my name in it,’” Raymond says. “I was able to share that moment during parent teacher conferences, which was a lot of fun.”
When dealing with the not-so-fun moments that inevitably arise, Whitney and Raymond have not only their ACE home community but also their school communities to turn to. This semester, when their kitchen needed repairing, Whitney’s principal, Nick Huck (ACE 11, Atlanta), offered meal assistance.
“Nick stops by my classroom or virtual classroom almost every day,” Whitney says. “When he heard about our kitchen, he sent a GrubHub gift card for our community to have dinner.”
Nick’s generosity is just one of the many moments of grace that Whitney and Raymond are experiencing. In fact, Gia, the car that carries them home from school every day, is a reminder of how grace-filled their days are.
“Gia is short for Giannina, which means ‘God is gracious,’” Whitney says. “The name is a reminder to be gracious to my students and to myself every day. It was also a big grace that I actually got this car because car-shopping in San Francisco during ACE Summer in the middle of a pandemic was not easy!”
“We’re full of grace in this car,” Raymond affirms.
Looking for more grace in your life?
Learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows at ace.nd.edu/teach!