Their backgrounds vary, and so do the reasons they took part in the ACE Teaching Fellows program. But these ACE Interns (above, L to R, Justin Novotney, Andrea Krebs, Kyle Pounder, Casey Flynn, and Jim Murphy) are united by their faith, their commitment to Catholic education, and their views about what ACE is doing for Catholic schools.
With a father who is a deacon and a mother who was in charge of RCIA at their parish, Andrea Krebs has been a practicing Catholic since her earliest years, Still, her first experience with K-12 Catholic education was in the year after college, when she served as a missionary in Mexico, and her second was as a teacher in ACE. Of that experience, she says she especially appreciates the freedom to talk about God in the classroom and is purposeful about teaching her students to enjoy that freedom, too. "I spend a fair amount of time helping kids develop ways to talk to God." She counts her ACE experience significant in preparing her for that. When asked about how ACE makes a difference in her school, Andrea says, "ACE provides an energy and motivation for all the school's teachers and students to keep improving, to keep learning more."
Kyle Pounder agrees. "ACE is bringing young, enthusiastic, and," he adds with a grin, "naively ambitious people into Catholic schools." Unlike Andrea, the faith was not a big part of Kyle's life until he attended a Catholic high school with a largely non-Catholic student body. There he became a Christian when friends took him to a Methodist church. He also met a teacher who graduated ACE. By the time this service-oriented youth graduated college, he says, "I felt like I had received so much from people, things I didn't deserve, and I wanted to give back." He talked with his former teacher, who steered him toward ACE. Today this Protestant is passionate about Catholic schools, saying, "In addition to providing good academics, [they] provide a place of belonging for students. They are concerned about the overall well-being of each student."
Casey Flynn and her family exemplify that fact. Her dad helped start a Cristo Rey school in the Washington, DC area and now sits on the board, while her mom serves as volunteer coordinator there. And when Casey graduated from MIT, she says, "I was looking for a faith-filled service program and wanted to do it in education because that has been such a big part of my family's life." ACE filled the bill. About the program, Casey says, "[It} provides great, well-educated, young, spiritual role models for kids across the country. Each school is different, and each needs different things, but the unifying factor for all 180 ACE teachers is that they are role models."
She took the words right out of Jim Murphy's mouth. "ACE teachers are young," says the son of two Catholic school educators, "Kids see that they're comfortable with their faith." This, in addition to their emphasis on academics, makes them uniquely valuable in the lives of students. "ACE gives students both academic and spiritual role models, reinforcing learning and intellectual development as well as strong and public faith lives." Jim emphasizes that value in Catholic education writ large, too. "[It] gives students a chance to connect faith life with academic life, so instead of faith becoming a part of what they do, it becomes a part of who they are."
Justin Novotney put it this way, "Catholic education forms the whole person." Justin particularly appreciates the historical rootedness of the institution. "I believe in Catholic education," he says, "because I trust those who came before me." A product of Catholic schools, Justin graduated college with the desire to become more involved in the community and the Church. "ACE fell into my lap in the most wonderful of ways," he says, recounting his casual decision to apply after hearing an announcement about it at Mass one night. His simple thought was, "if I get in then I will do it." Now that he's finished with ACE, he speaks about the difference it is making "because it is bringing talented, enthusiastic individuals into Catholic education who otherwise might not be there. Over time, that influence adds up to supplement what the Catholic school system in America has going."
Justin, a former middle school science and math teacher, will be a student at Moreau Seminary this fall. Jim will teach world history, government & economics for a third year at a Catholic high school in Los Angeles. Casey, a math teacher, will join the faculty of a Catholic high school in Chicago. Kyle, also a high school math teacher, will begin doctoral work in math at the University of Arizona. And Andrea will return to her high school in Los Angeles, teaching Science and math.