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In the Spotlight: Cassie Brownell

on Friday, 02 November 2012.

Cassie Brownell had her first introduction to Catholic schools when she enrolled at Marquette University. "The closest Catholic school [to our small North-Central Montana town] was sixty miles away," she tells us. What captured her imagination as a college freshman is what continues to motivate her today: a love of service and living "as a woman for others."

That motivation is also what led her to ACE Teaching Fellows (plus, she says, the influence of "some great MU alums in the ACE program") and then spurred her to enroll in ACE Teaching Exceptional Children. About her interest in TEC, Cassie says, "After three years teaching in post-Katrina New Orleans, two years in second grade with ACE and one year in first grade at my post-ACE school, I recognized trends among the academic and behavioral needs of the students I encountered. From discussions with [ACE Senior Director of Program Development] Dr. Joyce Johnstone, I knew more could be done to address the needs of not only students but parents and educators."

Through TEC, Cassie established a Strategic Intervention Team (SIT) at her school, which allowed her and her colleagues to develop relationships with six families that now, she says, "have new hope for the future of their children's academic careers." She went on to say, "My principal commented that SIT is the single-best thing to happen at our school."

Now in her fifth year of teaching, Cassie continues her focus on service and living for others. Recently she visited her ACE school, where she ran into a former student. In the first moments of their conversation, the student asked, "Do you still love all of us?" That summed up Cassie's commitment as a Catholic and an educator: "Loving my students and meeting them where they are."

ACE Teaching Fellows in the News: Radio Interview, Los Angeles Inspiration

Written by William Schmitt on Monday, 29 October 2012.

Hear ACE Communities Described, Read An ACE Story of Compassion

A national Catholic radio program, "The Son Rise Morning Show," talked with ACE last week about the communities of teachers who serve in 26 arch/dioceses around the country as part of the ACE Teaching Fellows  initiative. Amy Wyskochil, director of operations for ACE Teaching Fellows, talked to program host Brian Patrick about the recent New York Times column that commented how the legacy of religious orders' service in U.S. Catholic schools is recalled by these intentional faith communities for the 21st century.

Meanwhile, The Tidings,newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, told an uplifting story of caring students and teachers engaged in the "Locks of Love" initiative at Mother of Sorrows School in South LA, a school served by ACE graduates. The story mentions the role of teacher Heidi Witte, formerly in ACE Teaching Fellows, and principal Griselda Villareal, who is currently a first-year participant in the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program.


ACE in the News: New York Times tells of faith community in Tucson

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 19 October 2012.

Spotlight on "Brothers & Sisters of the 21st Century" in ACE Teaching Fellows

New York Times religion commentator Samuel Freedman offers a look at the ACE Teaching Fellows faith community in Tucson in a piece published on Oct. 19.

Freedman writes: "Devoting themselves to society’s overlooked and left-behind, voluntarily accepting a wage of $1,000 a month that is roughly at the federal poverty line, living in intentional Christian households, the 1,600 teachers produced by ACE in its 19-year history have formed the 21st-century equivalent of the sisters and brothers from Catholic religious orders whose sacrifices for decades sustained the American parochial school system."

In the Spotlight: Steve McClure

on Thursday, 18 October 2012.

Steve McClure was born with a generous spirit toward people and places different from his own. The gift became especially clear when, as a Notre Dame undergrad, he recognized his passion for being immersed in other cultures, particularly Latino culture. This led him post-college to Oaxaca, Mexico, where he taught English, and then to Arizona, where he served refugees from all over the world as they established new lives after fleeing their homelands. That job, Steve says, was eye-opening. "In helping refugees find employment, provide for their families, educate their children, and make simple adaptations to their lifestyle so as to succeed in the U.S., I began to vicariously experience the challenges of being an immigrant."

Today, as associate director of the Catholic School Advantage (CSA) campaign, Steve is putting that empathy to use, working alongside Fr. Joe Corpora to equip Catholic schools to better serve Latino families and students. "In many ways," Steve says, "the experience of Mexican-Americans in the US, whether first generation or third, is consistent with that of any immigrant." At base is their effort to assimilate into a culture that in many ways does not resemble their own. "The need for culturally responsive schools is absolutely critical," Steve says. Without them, students strain against the disparity between their home and school cultures, often struggling with academic achievement as a result.

Steve explains how the mission of the CSA campaign—to address the achievement gap and improve the educational opportunities of Latino children and families—is ripe for the nation's changing landscape. "ACE is serving communities in one the most... fundamental ways to effect change: education. And not only education for the sake of economic security and prosperity, but a Catholic education that [forms] both the heart and the mind. The Catholic Church has historically done well educating the immigrant church, so Catholic schools are well positioned to provide our Latino brothers and sisters with superb educational opportunities in an environment consistent with Latino culture and familial life."

To learn more about the Catholic School Advantage campaign, click here.

Faith Learned, Faith Lived: Surprised by Joy from a Teacher's "Yes"

Written by Fr. Joe Carey on Tuesday, 16 October 2012.

Reflections of ACE Chaplain Rev. Joe Carey, CSC, for Church's Year of Faith (#1)

The Year of Faith begins on October 11th and goes through November 24, 2013. There are many things that we can do during this time, but the most important is to take time to reflect on our lives and where we can discover God's presence in our lives. I look at it as a retreat which we are on for a year. It is a different type of retreat in that we do not go away, but that we look at our daily lives. I would suggest that we ask one question in this journey. Where is God in our lives?

I am writing a faith blog during this year in which I will take stories from the ACE community and explore where God is in the story of a member of the community and connecting it to the gospel.

I was talking with an ACE teacher recently who shared a story. She had been accepted into the ACE program and a similar program at another school. She made the decision to join ACE because she was going to teach Spanish K through 8, and that was what she wanted to do. She came to Notre Dame for ACE summer and, near the end, she received some news that was upsetting. Her principal needed her to teach fourth grade—and not Spanish. You can imagine how she felt. She felt angry, disappointed, and betrayed, and she considered quitting because she was not going to do what she wanted to do. She decided, through the encouragement of her mother, to accept the new assignment, although she was not happy.

I was talking with her a year later and she told me that she could not be happier teaching fourth grade. She loved her students last year, and this year as well. She felt that it was very important to have faced this decision and to have been able to say "yes."

If we look at this story from the perspective of faith, we can see something of Mary's "yes" to become the mother of Jesus. It was not what Mary expected, but she is a role model for facing questions and doing the will of God.

As you think about your life, what challenge have you faced and how do you look at it as an invitation to follow Christ more closely? Let us pray that we can discover in our stories a connection to doing what God is calling us to do. Through our "yes," we can say like Mary, "my soul proclaims the greatness of God."

May God bless you in this Year of Faith.

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