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December Retreat Helps ACErs Look Back and Look Forward

Written by William Schmitt on Tuesday, 29 November 2011.

One of ACE's longest traditions—and a rich source of memories for ACE teachers—will be convened for the eighteenth time in early December. Members of the ACE 17 and ACE 18 cohorts in ACE Teaching Fellows will gather at a retreat center outside Austin, Texas, for the annual ACE December Retreat.

About 170 teachers serving in 26 dioceses will mark the half-way point in the school year with experiences of prayer, personal reflection, community-building, and fun during the three-day weekend, starting Dec. 2.

They will be joined by numerous ACE faculty and staff members who support the teachers throughout the year. They will also be joined in spirit by ACE alumni for whom the retreat served as a milestone in their formation.

From the Field: Emily Lazor

on Friday, 25 November 2011.

"ACE is unique," says Emily Lazor of the STT community in Jackson, MS, "because it allows you to perform a much-needed civil service while also furthering the Church's mission of evangelism—a combination I found difficult to find in other long-term service programs."

This high school Spanish and Religion teacher has thrown herself into both service and mission this year—and speaks eloquently about what she has gained.

Being an ACE teacher is challenging, she says, but she deeply appreciates her students' excitement about learning Spanish and growing in their faith. "It is wonderful to see the world opened up to them, or to see their confidence grow as they can suddenly speak to you in another language," Emily says.

She continues, "Teaching in a school where prayer is not only accepted but also encouraged has taught me a lot about how acutely aware these students are of others' needs - both locally and around the world. They care deeply for one another, but also for people they have never met and will never meet, and I think a lot of that has to do with the formation they are receiving from a Catholic education."

While she's not been teaching long, Emily testifies to how she has grown from the experience—academically, professionally and spiritually. Much of the credit goes to her students, who have brought her deep joy both in and outside of the classroom. "I try my best each day to offer them something meaningful," she says, "but I am always humbled that more often than not they are teaching me about what is important, true, and beautiful about life. Being able to thank them and in turn affirm them for that is truly a gift."

5 Minutes with Christ: Time for Teachers

on Tuesday, 22 November 2011.

The perfect Christmas gift for your favorite teacher!

Busy teachers have a new resource to help them build meaningful prayer time into their day. A just-released book, 5 Minutes with Christ, edited by Rev. Lou DelFra, C.S.C., and Ann Primus Berends, has assembled inspirational reflections crafted by graduates and associates of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

Focusing on the ministry of Christ the Teacher, 5 Minutes with Christ provides Catholic educators with the spiritual nourishment they need during their busy days. Each reflection is based on an event in the life of Jesus and follows a simple format: an excerpt from one of the gospels; a personal reflection by a teacher; and a short prayer.

Teachers can use these reflections and prayers as starting points for their own daily devotion. The book is ideal for teacher retreats and spiritual learning communities among faculty members.

Father Lou DelFra is ACE's Director of Pastoral Life. Ann Primus Berends is an Associate Director in ACE.The book can be purchased from the publisher at the Ave Maria Press website.

A Word of Thanks

Written by William Schmitt on Tuesday, 22 November 2011.

ACE is a Eucharistic community, and we're mindful that "Eucharist" means "thanksgiving." The Thanksgiving holiday gives us a chance to pause and look back upon 2011 with deep gratitude to divine providence.

This was the year when we moved into our new home, enjoyed a weekend of memorable dedication events, launched Notre Dame's "Forum" series "reimagining" K-12 education, sent forth young teachers for service in classrooms for the eighteenth time, and welcomed a number of distinguished visitors.

From the Field: Adam Barajas

on Friday, 18 November 2011.

The powerful witness of ACE is not lost on Adam Barajas. As a high school student, he studied science under an ACE teacher. That experience not only set his course towards the ACE Teaching Fellows program but, he says, "it made me a better person."

Adam Barajas lives in Brownsville, Texas in an ACE community that refers to itself—true to Texas form—as "the biggest and best in ACE." The middle school math and science teacher describes why he joined ACE Teaching Fellows: "I was taught Chemistry and Physics by an ACE teacher in high school. His influence in my life reached far beyond the classroom and past my time in high school...When I was discerning God's plan for me after college, it seemed as though I was called to give back to the program that had done so much for me."

Indeed, Mr. Barajas is giving back. While he speaks of areas where he needs "a lot of improvement," he attests to how he is making a difference. "There is a poverty of depth, experience, and intellectual challenge at the school in which I teach. In seeing and addressing this issue, I feel I am making a difference. My students leave my class with more questions than they came in with. The ability to question and seek answers in a coherent manner is the best gift I can offer my students."

At the same time, Mr. Barajas attests to the gift ACE teaching has been to him. His spiritual and professional growth have made him a different person from when he started the program, such that he can say: "This past weekend I saw the sunset on the bay of South Padre Island [and] the reality that I am doing more than just service and that these kids are more than just my students finally sunk in. God is with the people of this foreign place and he is with me in my time here as well, sanctifying my service and making my broken talents whole."

Click here to learn more about the ACE Teaching Fellows program.

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