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Scholarly Journal Sees ACE Model Responding to Schools' Needs

Written by William Schmitt on Monday, 12 November 2012.

            The Alliance for Catholic Education's ACE Teaching Fellows model for sending forth college graduates to teach in Catholic schools, now in place at 15 colleges nationwide, is an "enterprise that has hallmarked the contours of Catholic education in the last decade." That's a description by historian Timothy Walch, whose article in the latest issue of American Catholic Studies surveys major responses to the challenges facing Catholic schools in the United States.

"Collaboration among and between Catholic universities across the nation," beginning with ACE at the University of Notre Dame in 1993, led to establishment of the University Consortium for Catholic Education (UCCE), Walch points out. He praises the UCCE as "a locus for collaboration and experimentation" in his article, titled "An Honest Response to Serious Losses: Recent Initiatives in American Catholic Education."

The author emphasizes that the three pillars embodied in the ACE model—academic preparation, community, and spirituality—make the Consortium experience unique. He quotes Rev. Ronald Nuzzi, senior director of ACE's Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, as saying: "While the participants of Consortium programs are not members of a religious community, nor do they limit acceptance to specifically Catholic applicants, they are historically linked to the original mission [represented by professed religious who were the majority of teachers in an earlier era]."

"In the Consortium program's three pillar model, new teachers view their work through the lens of service," Father Nuzzi continued.

American Catholic Studies, published by the American Catholic Historical Society, is the oldest continuously published Catholic scholarly journal in the United States. Walch's article appears in the fall 2012 issue—volume 123, no. 3.

In the Spotlight: Andrew Hoyt

on Thursday, 08 November 2012.

This week, Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School teacher Andrew Hoyt answers our questions about his experience as a teacher, a Melody Teaching Fellow, and a witness to the difference Catholic schools make.

How did you come to be professionally involved in education?

My first exposure to teaching (aside from my own experience as a student) came in an unusual setting: a homeless shelter. While I was an employee at the Center for the Homeless in South Bend, a group of graduate students from the MFA in creative writing program at the University of Notre Dame started up a writing workshop for our guests at the CFH. These graduate students were nice enough to let me sit in with them, and they amazed me with their ability to engage even the most unlikely students in the written word.

A few years later, I became involved with a community of educators and ACE-grads who were [interested in] the Cristo Rey model. The more we researched it, the more impressed I became with the intersection of academics, spirituality, and social justice that drives these schools. When I heard of the plans for a new Cristo Rey school in Houston, Texas, I started shopping online for belt buckles and cowboy hats. I've been lucky enough to teach English at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory of Houston for the last four years.

What led you to Melody Teaching Fellows, and how has the program helped you as an educator?

The Gwen and Larry Melody family have been incredible supporters and friends of Cristo Rey Jesuit in Houston, and when I heard of the idea for the Melody Teaching Fellows, I thought it would be a great opportunity to hone my practice and develop responses to some of the unique challenges my students face. In particular, the program gave me an opportunity to investigate, understand, and address some of my students' vocabulary deficiencies. With the help of my mentor and outstanding colleagues, I developed a curriculum to promote morphological awareness that I never could have imagined or completed without the Melody Teaching Fellows program.

I believe that the purpose of education, and literacy in particular, is to provide our students with freedom. With that in mind, the goal of my work with the Melody Teaching Fellows program has been to allow my students to feel hope when they encounter words and terms that they have never seen before, rather than despair or frustration.

Will you share with us a story from your classroom that affirms the value of Catholic Education?

My students work in a dojo-like environment to "chop" words into morphemes, and they earn bracelets of various colors, much like the belts in a karate dojo. Just last week a senior student, who earned a "black belt" in my class as a sophomore, sat in my room for a study hall with the rest of the varsity basketball team. As all of the students worked on their homework, one freshman ran across a word in his reading that gave him trouble. He asked three people what the word meant, but no one seemed to know. Finally, the third student suggested, "Ask Nghia, he's a black belt." The freshman looked in awe at the senior (it's insanely hard to become a black belt), and took his reading over to the older student. Though they didn't know I was listening, two things happened in that conversation that affirmed for me the value of their Catholic education. First, the senior admitted that he didn't know the definition of the word, but asked the freshman, "What should we do?" The freshman tentatively responded, "Break it down?" And the two began working together to determine the definition of the word. When faced with a challenge, Nghia didn't back down. He felt free to begin an investigation of his own; more importantly, he shared that freedom with the younger student. I could hardly hope for more than to see two students, helping one another, emboldened by a sense of hope, and relishing a challenge in front of them.

Read more about Andrew's curriculum on his blog here.

ACE Teaching Fellows in the News: The Observer Looks at ACE Service to Underprivileged

Written by William Schmitt on Thursday, 08 November 2012.

The Observer, the student newspaper for the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary's College, presented a front-page feature about ACE Teaching Fellows on Nov. 8. Sarah Greene, associate director of ACE Teaching Fellows, along with current ACE teachers Steven Alagna and Caitlin Wrend, discussed the ACE mission and their ACE experiences.

Faith Learned, Faith Lived: Take Attendance and See, Jesus is Present

Written by Fr. Joe Carey on Thursday, 08 November 2012.

Reflections of ACE Chaplain Rev. Joe Carey, CSC, for Church's Year of Faith (#2)

Many teachers can relate to having two or three students who are disruptive and making life difficult. It can be every five minutes that a teacher has to say, "Mr. Jones, please get back in your seat." Or "Ms. Smith, please stop talking and pay attention."

These constant types of disruption are upsetting for the teacher and cause one to feel inadequate. After all, the teacher has prepared great lessons for the day and within ten minutes may feel frustrated and angry. It is wearing on one's patience, and the teacher goes home feeling like a failure. This is not what a teacher signs up for when deciding to become a teacher. The motivation has been to love these children and make a difference in lives. The feeling, however, is different, and many a teacher feels overwhelmed, unloved and discouraged.

How does one face a challenge like that? What can be done? Who can provide the support that is needed? There are many people such as the principal, mentor teacher, community members, academic advisor and pastoral administrator. The teacher is not alone, although he or she may feel alone.

I was thinking about classroom experiences that drag teachers down and thought about a passage of Matthew, Chapter 25: 31 – 40. This is the story of the last judgment. Jesus says that when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and prisoners, we are doing it for him. I would like to suggest that you take this chapter and apply it to teaching.

Think about your students—and in particular the few who make you feel incompetent. Take the gospel and change it slightly. Consider Jesus saying:

" I was anxious, nervous, suffering from a learning disability, unable to read, and not respected. When you loved and accepted the troubled student, you did it for me. You made me feel I was a welcomed and a valuable person."

Every day that you walk into the classroom, notice the presence of Jesus in your students. If you do this, you will make a difference and you will see that your primary support is Jesus himself. The vocation of being a teacher is an invitation to connect your experiences to the gospel and grow in faith in Christ.

New Book Surveys Catholic School Principals for Insights, Answers

Written by William Schmitt on Monday, 05 November 2012.

Authors from the Alliance for Catholic Education Identify Needs in Light of New Evangelization

A new book from the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame gives voice to the commitment and concerns of Catholic elementary school principals across the United States and presents recommendations central to the future of Catholic school leadership.

The book, Striving for Balance, Steadfast in Faith: The Notre Dame Study of U.S. Catholic Elementary School Principals, draws upon a survey of 1,685 principals, yielding a rare, comprehensive glimpse of their views on what they need to do their jobs better and how they describe the state of Catholic education today. They identify financial management, marketing, Catholic identity, enrollment management, and long-range planning as their schools' top five areas of need.

The authors—Rev. Ronald J. Nuzzi, senior director of ACE's Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program; Anthony C. Holter, ACE's director of program evaluation and research; and James M. Frabutt, a faculty member of the Remick Leadership Program—assess an enormous amount of data from the survey, find a lively faith among their respondents, and identify problem-solving options in the spirit of the New Evangelization.

"This unprecedented study will help to inform and deepen the national dialogue about the future of Catholic schools," said Rev. Nuzzi, who is a nationally known expert and speaker on Catholic education trends. "New ideas for the support of our school principals deserve to be part of the dialogue, and in this study the principals themselves offered recommendations worth considering—such as revising the position description of principal and helping to amplify principals' voices and expertise through a new national organization."

Besides a call for "more manageable and realistic position descriptions" and a group to advocate for Catholic schools at the national level, the book presents these two recommendations:

  1. "Develop a program of ongoing professional development and renewal for principals" that addresses their needs, both professional and personal.
  2. "Convene multiple groups of national and international stakeholders to advance the understanding of Catholic schools as instruments of the new evangelization."

Based on the data obtained, "the Church seems to have hired well, attracting mission-driven and loyal individuals to the overarching goals of Catholic education." But the study, which was conducted in 2010, finds that these principals embrace a unique combination of goals, including their schools' important role in proclaiming the Gospel, in the spirit of the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith. They also live daily with what has been called "the tyranny of the urgent," hungering for more support—emotional as well as financial.

The book, which follows up on an earlier ACE study of pastors' views of Catholic education, is published by Information Age Publishing and is available for purchase in hardcover or paperback at the publisher's website.

Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education collaborates with dioceses and school leaders nationwide to sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic schools, with a special focus on under-resourced schools serving disadvantaged children. ACE forms faith-filled educators, offers an array of professional services, and cultivates innovative solutions to critical issues. The Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, established in 2002, forms tomorrow's Catholic school leaders.

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