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From the Field: Joe Womac

on Friday, 06 January 2012.

womacs teaserJoe Womac has carried the spirit and mission of ACE with him from Indiana to Louisiana to the Pacific Northwest. He leads the Fulcrum Foundation, which provides grants enabling students—some 10,000 of them so far—to attend Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Seattle. His determination in boosting access to Catholic education dates back to his time as an ACE teacher in Louisiana Catholic schools between 2000 and 2002.

After teaching and coaching in Louisiana, this Washington native earned a J.D. degree at Seattle University and was then hired as executive director of the Fulcrum Foundation. Under Joe's direction, Fulcrum has become a model for other private organizations around the country providing support to at-risk Catholic schools, raising more than $42 million for children in the Seattle area. With tuition aid and other forms of financial and management assistance, Fulcrum promotes academic excellence and faith formation in at-risk schools. In 2010 alone, Fulcrum distributed more than $2.5 million to western Washington families, teachers, and schools.

In the summer of 2011, Joe returned to Notre Dame to accept the Michael Pressley Award for Excellence in Catholic Education, bestowed annually to honor ACE graduates who have made significant contributions to the ministry of Catholic education. In accepting the award, Joe recalled that, as a law student, he was always told not to take one's work personally. "I broke that advice every day that I taught in the ACE program, and every day since I took the job at the Fulcrum Foundation," he said.

Joe also extended his gratitude to Paola, his wife. The couple met as members of the ACE 7 cohort, and Paola expresses her commitment to Catholic education by continuing to teach. Joe and Paola are now the parents of two children.

"She really inspires me day to day," says Joe.

Father Joe Goes to Mexico

on Thursday, 05 January 2012.


December 21: My fourth trip to Tequepexpan began with three flights --- South Bend to Atlanta, Atlanta to Monterrey and Monterrey to Guadalajara. There was a layover in Monterrey. My good friend, Fr. John Herman, CSC, came to the airport and we were able to visit for about 40 minutes. It was great to see him and to hear how things are going in the parish where he is the Pastor. The plane arrived in Guadalajara at 5:00 p.m. A student from Dillon Hall, Ignacio Aranguren, who lives in Guadalajara, picked me up. Since he knew that I was coming to Guadalajara, he had called me and asked me to bring a pair of shoes that he forgot in the study lounge in Dillon before leaving. I love how comfortable Notre Dame students feel with us Holy Cross priests. He brought me to the hotel. There is a Church across the street from the hotel. And like all Churches in Mexico there are always evening Masses at 7 pm and 8 pm. I went to Mass and then I spent a couple hours walking around Guadalajara, a city that I have grown to love very much. I ate totally great mole poblano at a restaurant one block from the hotel. It was a beautiful night --- sounds, color, people, activity everywhere and it was about 75 degrees.

December 22: After morning Mass, I went for a run in Guadalajara. It really is a beautiful city. Mexico decorates so much for Christmas. At 1:00 p.m., Ignacio picked me up at the hotel and brought me to the bus terminal in Guadalajara to get the bus to Tepic. I arrived in Tepic around 5:00 p.m. Tepic is a city of about 360,000 people. After checking into the hotel, I went to the Cathedral. Bishop Ricardo Watty, M.Sp.S., the Bishop who first invited me to come to his diocese and to work in Tequepexpan, died on November 1. I wanted very much to visit his tomb. He is buried in the crypt of the Cathedral. So I spoke with the Rector/Pastor who took me down to his tomb. I prayed there for his eternal rest and in gratitude for his life. I did not know him well, but it did not take long to know that he was a wonderful man and religious and Bishop. I thoroughly enjoyed my three visits with him on my other trips. After praying at his tomb, I went to greet the Sister who was his housekeeper. And then, as I love to do, I simply walked around the city. The hotel is right on the main plaza of Tepic. There was Christmas music and groups and entertainment until long after I fell asleep.

December 23: I got up early at 6:30 a.m. and went to the Cathedral for the 7:00 a.m. Mass. The Rector/Pastor asked me to take the Mass so that he could hear confessions. I was happy to celebrate Mass. There were about 100 people. I cannot put into words how grateful I am to God to be a priest. 

Changing Lives: ACE's ENL and TEC Programs

on Thursday, 05 January 2012.


Learn to reach ALL students in your classroom!  ACE's English as a New Language (ENL) and Teaching Exceptional Children (TEC) programs benefit schools and teachers alike. 

ENLTop 15 Benefits (Scroll down for TEC)

  1. ENL teachers transform school communities, working to answer Christ's call to welcome the stranger.
  2. ENL teachers support English language learners by promoting cultural awareness, implementing innovative teaching strategies, and making lesson and assessment modifications.
  3. ENL teachers serve as a resource for their colleagues.
  4. ENL teachers design and lead professional development sessions related to ESL best practices.
  5. ENL teachers promote cultural inclusion in schools, from liturgy to pedagogy.
  6. ENL teachers build community by conducting home visits and connecting the school to local agencies that can provide services to families.
  7. ENL teachers actively participate as members of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), working to sustain and strengthen Catholic education.
  8. ENL teachers earn 18 graduate level credit hours from the University of Notre Dame in the foundations of English language instruction.
  9. The ENL program offers some of the most affordable graduate level courses available to educators.
  10. Credits can lead to ENL/ESL/ESOL/ELL endorsements in most states or help participants work towards initial teachers licenses or continuing education credits.
  11. The ENL program tailors its curriculum to meet the specific needs of teachers in Catholic schools.
  12. ENL teachers spend two weeks studying on campus at the University of Notre Dame in July.
  13. ENL teachers  and take the rest of their courses online.
  14. ENL teachers learn from exceptional faculty.
  15. ENL teachers learn in a community that is enriched by diversity in experience, ethnicity and age.
Contact Clare Roach or Jenny Dees: 631-7657 or .

TEC Top 15 Benefits

  1. TEC teachers promote a culture of inclusion in their schools.
  2. TEC teachers support children with mild disabilities in the school through the use of innovative approaches and strategies.
  3. TEC teachers develop and serve on pre-referral teams within their school.
  4. TEC teachers serve as a resource in the effective use of response to intervention (RTI).
  5. TEC teachers are active members of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) community and work to sustain and strengthen Catholic education.
  6. TEC teachers learn the foundations of teaching children with mild disabilities.
  7. TEC teachers learn approaches and strategies for supporting students' socioemotional wellness and mental health in Catholic schools.
  8. TEC teachers learn the analysis of curriculum, effective teaching methods, selection of instructional materials, and use of assessment and technology in teaching learners with mild disabilities.
  9. TEC teachers learn the importance of a pre-referral team within his/her school and how to create and manage one.
  10. TEC teachers learn consultation techniques with professionals, parents, families, and agencies to support children with learning differences.
  11. TEC teachers learn the effective use of response to intervention (RTI).
  12. TEC teachers learn the development, implementation, and analysis of individual educational plans (IEPs) and student support plans.
  13. TEC teachers learn the use of formal and informal assessments for children with learning differences.
  14. TEC teachers learn the teaching of appropriate social skills and behavioral intervention strategies.
  15. TEC teachers will participate in a community of learners focusing on the social justice issues of inclusionary practices in Catholic schools.
Contact Nancy Masters: 574-631-8147 or

ACE Offers Virtual Professional Development to Local Teacher Teams

Written by William Schmitt on Thursday, 05 January 2012.

ACE's first virtual delivery of a professional development program will start on Jan. 11, when four schools will receive Strategic Intervention Team (SIT) training via webinars, with follow-up through wiki and listserv communication and even a virtual SIT coach.

Faculty from four diocesan elementary schools in the South Bend, Ind., area will participate in the interactive webinars on three consecutive Wednesdays this month. Nancy Masters, ACE's associate program director for the Teaching Exceptional Children (TEC) program, will present this award-winning training.

The SIT coach, Lindsay Johns Will (ACE 14), will introduce herself to the participants via a visual link and then will offer her online services for these schools throughout the new year. Lindsay teaches at St. Clement Catholic School in Chicago. She formed a successful SIT team during her own coursework in the TEC certification program.

ACE's Strategic Intervention Teams initiative provides ongoing assistance to Catholic schools that serve children with learning and behavioral problems. The initiative helps teachers develop the process, protocol, and strategies for teacher-led intervention teams, as well as the materials and strategies to help teachers evaluate and enhance their own teaching strategies.

The purposes of the team are threefold: to provide a forum for teachers to develop intervention strategies for students exhibiting learning or behavior difficulties; to provide personnel resource for determining appropriate interventions for students in the regular classroom setting; and to decrease the number of inappropriate referrals for testing or special-education placement.

The SIT initiative, established several years ago and overseen by ACE's Ryan Director of Program Development Dr. Joyce Johnstone, has consistently used digital communications to help its trained teachers stay in touch. Numerous alumni of the teams around the country maintain online networks for sharing experiences and best practices.

Each of the four local schools will also receive several resources that have been found useful by teams across the nation. Also, the webinars will be archived so that future faculty members, or even parents at these schools, may view them.

The schools are: Holy Cross, Our Lady of Hungary, and St. Anthony de Padua, all in South Bend, and St. Vincent, in Elkhart.

For more information contact: Joyce Johnstone, at ; or Nancy Masters, at

ACE Makes News in Sacramento

Written by William Schmitt on Wednesday, 04 January 2012.

Catholic Herald Magazine Features Teachers

Jamel Nicholas and Brita Willis are profiled in the latest issue of the Catholic Herald Magazine, published by the Diocese of Sacramento. Read an in-depth cover story that celebrates the work of these two teachers--from Notre Dame's ACE program  and from the University of Portland's PACE program, respectively--who have joined with other ACErs to serve in under-resourced schools in the diocese.

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