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From the Field: Christie Hjerpe

on Friday, 28 October 2011.

As a young girl, when ACE 17's Christie Hjerpe heard her grandfather sing, "It's a great day to be alive," little did she know that years later, it would become a kind of theme song in her classroom!

Christie teaches third grade at Santa Cruz Catholic School, a Notre Dame ACE Academy in Tucson, Arizona. True to the upbeat nature of that song, the Rhode Island native is an enthusiastic ACEr, who says that "ACE had my heart" from her earliest days as an ND undergrad. Christie is also an enthusiastic Notre Dame ACE Academies teacher, saying, "I feel so blessed to have the support at Notre Dame ACE Academies that I do; [it] has definitely made the transition into teaching easier and more enjoyable."

Christie H student praiseChristie is especially enthusiastic about literacy: "It's almost become an obsession. I want all of my kids to read at grade level or above, no excuses." It can be a challenge for any classroom, but Christie Hjerpe remains undaunted. "With Notre Dame ACE Academies we're developing a stronger school culture, with shared beliefs that all of our kids can make it to college and heaven."

So, whenever her students are tired, Christie cheers them on with, "Work hard, get smart...no excuses." And whenever she gets tired, her students start to sing, "It's a great day to be alive!" With the semester just half over, Christie reports that she has seen tremendous growth in her readers.

"If Notre Dame ACE Academies teachers and staff can really make kids feel like it's a great day to be alive, and help them to see God in all things, we will achieve our goals of sending these kids to college and heaven." She continues, "I feel so blessed that I can wake up happy to go to work in the morning, knowing that I'll have 24 smiling faces at my door waiting to say 'Good morning!' 'I love you!' and 'Miss H., we're ready to learn!' Now, what could be better than that?"

Listen to Travis Tritt sing "It's a great day to be alive!"

Click here to learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows.

Play Like a Champion Today in Football and Soccer Awards Partnership

on Wednesday, 26 October 2011.

Play Like a Champion Today®, the athletics-focused initiative in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame, has teamed with the Trusted Sports Foundation in two awards programs that honor the country's most inspirational high school athletes in the sports of football and soccer.

The football awards program, called the High School Football Rudy Awards and now in its third year, presents $25,000 in academic scholarships annually to 12 young football players recognized for a commitment to excellence combined with character and courage. The awards are based on the story of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, known for his persistence in making the Notre Dame football team as featured in the film Rudy.

ACE Advocates Host Annual Leaders Summit

on Monday, 24 October 2011.

Champions for K-12 Catholic education recently gathered at the University of Notre Dame from around the country to share skills and ideas at the annual ACE Advocates Regional Leaders Summit. The advocates, active year-round in 25 regional groups from Washington, DC to Los Angeles and from South Bend to Dallas, returned to the home of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) to advance their goal of building a movement in service to Catholic schools.

Every annual summit provides ongoing leadership formation for the national network of ACE graduates, who represent an important pool of talent for the Church. Through their regions, these leaders—a majority of whom are still Catholic school educators themselves—perform a range of services to schools, parents, and children. Communities have raised funds for schools, assisted individual students' families facing emergencies, and taken supportive stands on statewide parental choice policy initiatives. Regions also provide spiritual nourishment and an encouraging community for local Catholic school supporters.

From the Field: The Duffey Family

on Thursday, 20 October 2011.

Duffey FamilyDr. Richard and Susan Duffey and their seven children testify to the power of Catholic school teachers to touch the lives of whole families—and the ability of families to nurture the value and vocation of teaching.

The Duffeys live in Mobile, Alabama, where ACE teachers have served for 18 years. "Susan and I and our children have watched them make a tangible difference in the Mobile schools as they bring youth, faith, energy, and solid teaching to their classrooms," says Dick, noting that ACE teachers' enthusiasm spreads "to their students, students' parents, and fellow faculty and staff members."

The Duffeys know this first-hand. All seven children attended Catholic grade school and high school, and they came to know many ACE teachers personally. Dick and Susan's generosity was a contributing factor; the Duffeys have welcomed Mobile ACE teachers to their home and dinner table on many occasions. As Dick and Susan learned more about ACE, they began to see the program's national scope, observing that ACE teachers were "transforming the landscape of Catholic education, not just in Mobile, but throughout the country," Susan recalls. The next step was not surprising: Upon graduation from college, the Duffeys' oldest children, Kati and David, became ACE teachers themselves.

The story is just beginning for the Duffey family and the ACE family. Kati is married to Mike Macaluso, another ACE graduate, and both are pursuing doctoral studies in education. David has moved on from ACE to law school. Their younger siblings are "watching attentively," the Duffeys report, and considering ACE participation among the opportunities to "initiate a lifelong journey of giving back to God." Meanwhile, ACE teachers continue to serve in Mobile, building the future in various ways and blessed to find community members who, like the Duffeys, share their enthusiasm. "Susan and I could not be more pleased for the experience ACE has brought to
the lives of our whole family."

ND ACE Academies Receive Target's Support

on Monday, 17 October 2011.

The University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) today launched the "ACE Readers" program, a state-of-the-art childhood literacy program designed to combat the achievement gap that plagues at-risk communities. The program will be implemented in the Notre Dame ACE Academies in Tucson, Ariz., and was made possible by a $118,000 grant from Target as part of the retailer's campaign to improve education and reading.
              "With Target's support, we are able to significantly strengthen literacy instruction in our partner schools," said Dr. Christian Dallavis, director of the Notre Dame ACE Academies initiative, noting that strong reading skills will bolster the students' future achievement. "The development of early childhood literacy is critical because children need to learn to read before they can read to learn. This grant provides the tools teachers need to ensure that the at-risk kids we serve can defy the odds by being on the path to college from a very young age."

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