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In the Spotlight . . .

Opportunity for Rising Seniors to "Go All In" to Serve Nation's Children

Written by Ashley Currey on Friday, 20 March 2015.

ace internshipFor most members of the newest cohort of ACE Teachers, this past Wednesday marked an end to a week’s worth of waiting between receiving their acceptance letter and learning their school placement.  Would they be going to Baton Rouge or Chicago? Should they brace themselves for a move to the South or a new life on the West Coast? Some are still discerning whether or not to accept their placement in ACE 22.

For a handful the newest ACE Teachers, however, Wednesday night marked an end of a much longer waiting period: fifty-two weeks to be exact. These Notre Dame students said “yes” to ACE with no prior knowledge of where that commitment might send them, in response to an invitation to participate in the ACE Internship program.

For the last several years, ACE has invited rising seniors from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, and Holy Cross who were interested in serving the ACE mission during their final year of college and who were willing to commit to two years of teaching with ACE upon graduation. Current intern Katie Moran calls it “going all in;” as soon as she knew learned about the ACE Teaching Fellows, she wanted to throw herself into working with ACE as much as possible.

Moran said her certainty came from a few different sources: the testimony of ACE interns she met in her first few years at Notre Dame, her own gifts, and ACE’s compelling Catholic character. She was also drawn, as were her fellow interns, to the intensive training and preparation ACE offers its teachers. 

“I know I’ll be a good teacher—eventually,” she said. “And ACE is what’s going to help me do that.”

Her fellow intern, Anthony Barrett, echoed Moran’s thoughts. He said he’s awed by the fact that every year, ACE takes “ninety people with almost no teaching experience” and turns them into capable and joy-filled teachers across the country. He said it’s one of the things that made him want to choose ACE in the first place.

The six interns selected last April have said “yes” to ACE again and again over the last eleven months as they have assisted ACE team members in mission-critical roles to recruit their future community members, reach out to potential applicants from other colleges, and network with other on-campus students looking to learn more about the ACE experience.  

This semester, several have had opportunities to work on projects with ACE faculty. Moran speaks with enthusiasm about her work helping Dr. Matt Kloser with his research in STEM education, while fellow interns Barrett and Johnny Fuller said they are similarly excited by their projects to examine iPad use in the classroom and analyze data on the impact of the thriving Notre Dame ACE Academies.

As the year draws to a close, the interns said they look forward to embracing the next step in their involvement with the ACE movement as they are sent off to serve both the church and their students through the ministry of Catholic schools. More than where they are going, however, the interns are excited about meeting the people who will walk the journey alongside them and welcoming the rest of ACE 22 into an adventure they have been anticipating since last spring.

The deadline for applications for the 2015-2016 ACE Internship is on March 27th.  To learn more about the internship and find out how to apply, click here

Teachers Find Timeless Experiences and Timely Skills in ENL Program

Written by Bill Schmitt on Friday, 27 February 2015.

When Jenni Crain looks back on her year of study in ACE’s English as a New Language (ENL) program, she is reminded of the feeling of looking out her classroom window and seeing the house where her grandparents lived.p2260507

Crain teaches first grade at St. Adalbert Catholic School in South Bend, Ind., a school vibrant with the energy of growing Latino enrollment. When the parish and school were founded in 1910, though, this part of town housed many of the new Polish immigrants. Her mother and grandfather both went to the school, supported in the challenge of learning a language that was foreign to her grandfather.

“It’s a completely different culture and nationality today, but it’s kind of the same story,” Crain recalls. “One hundred and four years later, parents are still scraping together pennies to support their ENL students on the west side of South Bend.” 

Catholic schools’ ongoing legacy of welcoming and enriching newcomers gives Crain not only a sense of accomplishment spanning her ten years at St. Adalbert, but also a sense of solidarity with ACE’s strong spirit of community. That’s what she experienced in 2010-2011 as a member of the ENL cohort, combining coursework with uninterrupted teaching careers. She and educators from around the country prepared for licensure in key language pedagogy skills—an experience she now would recommend “absolutely, a hundred times over.”

These ENL participants faced their own concerns and challenges of adjustment as they began the program, Crain recalls. She was worried about being able to afford the program on a teacher’s salary. She wondered if she could manage extra academics amid the schooldays at St. Adalbert when teachers “wear a lot of hats”—supervising students’ extracurricular activities, for example.

Crain found that the ACE team at the helm of the program, her ENL classmates, and her principal and colleagues at St. Adalbert all came together to encourage her and to make everything possible.

“I couldn’t come up with a worry that the ENL leaders couldn’t answer,” she says. “There wasn’t any situation they weren’t willing to work with me on.”

The Catholic school educators who gathered on campus to enter the program in summer 2010 soon realized they shared experiences in common and formed a mutually supportive community.

As Jenni’s venue for the curriculum moved back to St. Adalbert in the fall and spring, the school community showed strong support, too. Cooperation and schedule adjustments made the studies doable, Crain says. Moreover, many ENL assignments involved activities in the classroom, “so, rather than creating a ton more work for a busy teacher, the coursework helped me to better focus the work I was already doing.”

ACE’s approach, unlike a conventional collegiate program, is planned with the classroom teacher’s schedule in mind.

That design advantage goes even deeper, Crain says.

“It was clear from the day we arrived that Christ was the reason for the program; better serving his children was the goal. Even on the tough days, that keeps you moving in the right direction.” 

Crain says she’s enjoyed the program’s benefits year after year. Ideas and insights she learned proved applicable right away and ever since.

She had enrolled with ACE not only to benefit the students who needed the most ENL help, but also to avoid shortchanging those in her class with lesser language needs who still deserved her time and attention. Equipped with efficient and effective techniques and with know-how broadly suited for teaching languages, Crain discovered that “better serving my lowest learners was what was best for all of my kids.”

The ENL program has made her classroom a better reflection of the Catholic legacy that transcends time and societal change, just as St. Adalbert School has done between 1910 and 2015, and now into the future.

“I have a lot more confidence with the cultural aspects of my job,” Crain says. “My classroom is much more inclusive of different learning styles. Overall, the bar has been raised—both for me and my kids.”

To learn more about the English as a New Language Program, please visit enl.nd.edu or start your application by clicking the button below.

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School's STEM Program Changes How Students, Teachers Look at Learning

Written by Eric Prister on Friday, 20 February 2015.

At St. Luke Catholic School in Palm Springs, Fla., STEM isn’t just a catchy acronym for the students work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM has become a new way of thinking, of teaching, and of learning.screen shot 2015 02 20 at 10.34.10 am

“When a student says they don’t understand, as a teacher you want to go in and point them in the right direction,” Principal Sue Sandelier said. “With [a STEM-based approach], you don’t do that; you question them and lead them to where they can figure it out. As teachers and as professionals, we’re really reflecting on how to integrate that as a faculty, and we’re supporting each other.”

Sandelier said it’s amazing how far they have come in such a short time, since it was less than two years ago that someone from the Diocese of Palm Beach approached leaders from St. Luke and Cardinal Newman High School about incorporating STEM practices into their curriculum. 

“During that time, we were talking with the high school [leaders] and they said, ‘We’d like to learn a little bit more about STEM and how we can move forward with that for our students,’” she said. “And I said, ‘I think that would be a great thing and great possibility.’ I didn’t realize the ground we’d be breaking with STEM.”

The superintendent of the diocese, Gary Gelo, put Sandelier in touch with Dr. Matt Kloser, the director of the University of Notre Dame’s Center for STEM Education. Kloser traveled to Palm Springs and hosted a visioning session with the local community, sharing with parents, teachers, and school leaders the importance and power of a well-rounded STEM education.

“From there, we really jumped into the deep end,” Sandelier said. “We have not stopped paddling since. Doing a lot of research in STEM, we began to quickly realize that we needed to make sure teachers were on board, that teachers felt comfortable in doing it, and how we could explore different programs to bring STEM into our classrooms.”

After a successful trial run with the first unit of the Engineering in Elementary curriculum, developed by the Museum of Science in Boston, St. Luke’s faculty decided to fully incorporate STEM into their curriculum. They adopted Project Lead the Way in grades K-5 and Carolina Curriculum’s Science and Technology Concepts program for the middle school.

“We’re having a lot of success with . . . solid C/B students who now seem to embrace that idea of looking for exploration, and they see a purpose to their learning,” Diann Bacchus, St. Luke’s middle school science teacher, said. Bacchus also serves as the STEM coordinator for the whole school. “I just completed my first entirely STEM-based unit, and the assessments for my sixth and eighth graders really showed that they were able to take it to the next level, and understand that I’m not just telling them what to learn, they’re exploring and telling me, and I’m more of their guide.”

St. Luke also hosted a summer robotics camp hosted by the Notre Dame STEM Center, and Bacchus said her students still talk about the concepts they learned at the camp and incorporate them into their work. Bacchus also started a STEM club and is taking twenty students to compete at a local engineering competition.

“The kids are clamoring to be a part of this,” she said. “I think a lot of that comes back to the camps we did because the kids see that it’s learning, but it’s learning in a fun way. They did more with the camp than I ever thought they would do with it, and still talk about it.”

Sandelier said that everyone in the St. Luke community—teachers, students, and parents—has embraced the incorporation of STEM into the curriculum, and that the results have been overwhelmingly positive. 

“The first grade teacher was doing the kindergarten Project Lead the Way program with her students, and they had designed a paintbrush that they were then going to use after Christmas,” Sandelier said. “When they came back from break, the teacher had set up an art center. One little girl came over to her and said, ‘I’m going to be an engineer and redo my paint brush, because it didn’t work the first time, so I want to do it again.’ That was unsolicited; it was just her thought process where the program and her teacher had led her.”

To learn more about about Notre Dame’s efforts to improve STEM education, please visit stemeducation.nd.edu, or apply to become a Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellow by clicking the button below.

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A Love Born from Zeal

Written by Eric Prister on Wednesday, 11 February 2015.

The call started before Notre Dame, before seminarian Geoffrey Mooney knew much about Blessed Basil Moreau, the Congregation of Holy Cross, or Moreau’s “flame of burning desire which one feels to make God known, loved, and served.” The call came before he spent five years teaching high school in a city in which he never dreamed of living.

But through his time at Notre Dame as an undergraduate, as a teacher in Pensacola, FL with ACE Teaching Fellows, and inspired by the confidence others gave him to pursue his vocation, Geoffrey Mooney found his way back to Notre Dame, filled with the zeal of Fr. Moreau.

“I first thought about the priesthood while in high school, but admittedly refused to consider it too seriously,” Mooney said.

But Notre Dame provided him with opportunities to cultivate his faith life, through daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, and through his interactions with the Holy Cross priests on campus.

“I might not have recognized it fully at the time, but witnessing my dorm community gathering for the Eucharist each week and joining the larger Notre Dame and Holy Cross communities for campus celebrations had a profound impact on my undergraduate years and my own discernment,” he said.

That zeal manifested itself in a passion for serving in Catholic schools. He was accepted into ACE Teaching Fellows, and upon graduation from Notre Dame, traveled to Pensacola to become a high school teacher.

“When I first learned about ACE in my sophomore year, I knew I was being called to join and become a teacher,” Mooney said. “I felt that was where God was leading me after graduation. As it turns out, I fell in love with teaching.”

Mooney immersed himself into Pensacola, teaching, coaching, and throwing himself into the local parish community as well. His much smaller ACE community also provided a place where Mooney could grow in his faith.

“I credit my housemates with encouraging me always to be my best professionally, but also challenging me to share myself, my faith,” Mooney said. “It was somewhere between my small ACE community and my larger school and parish communities in Pensacola that I increasingly felt the tug to consider the priesthood more seriously.”

Mooney spent two years in Pensacola as part of ACE, and then stayed for an additional three years at his post at Pensacola Catholic High School. While his ACE community members were gone, the local community continued to lead Mooney toward his vocation.

“In relationships with faculty members, students, and local families, I began to see clearly my gifts—enthusiasm, encouragement of others, ability to listen, desire to share the faith and proclaim God’s love,” he said.

After a discernment retreat in Rome at the end of 2012, Mooney said he began to consider more seriously the idea of returning to Notre Dame and entering Moreau Seminary. At the culmination of the 2013-14 school year, and through the encouragement of his students and fellow teachers, Mooney made his decision.

“I remember vividly the afternoon in April that I received the phone call inviting me to join Holy Cross,” he said. “My years in the classroom, founded firmly on my Notre Dame education, provided the grace-filled momentum God knew I needed to take that next step in coming to Holy Cross."

As the oldest member of his seminary class at Notre Dame, Mooney knows well that the call to religious life can come in various ways. For him, it came through his time in Catholic schools.

"I do not regret a single step in my journey of discernment," Mooney said. "I carry with me my years serving the youth of our Catholic schools and the relationships I fostered along the way—God willing, these will only continue to inform my formation in Holy Cross and make me a priest committed to that same zeal of Fr. Moreau.”

Teachers Open Up a World Unseen

Written by Bill Schmitt on Friday, 19 December 2014.

May Stewart came to Notre Dame as an undergraduate three years ago after growing up in a sparse Louisiana landscape of, as she tells it, “plantations and churches.”

Thanks largely to ACE teachers at Ascension Catholic School in nearby Donaldsonville (population 7,000), her worldview and her sense of life’s possibilities grew, too. This prompted her to study at Notre Dame, May said—and to pursue an ACE internship preparing her to follow in her own teachers’ footsteps.stewart

The junior, now earning a major in history and an Education, Schooling, and Society minor, wants to pass along her bolder, broader vision of hope and faith to the next generation. She’s already using extracurricular activities to exercise lessons she learned about compassion and service to those in need.

“I’m the evening child care coordinator at the Center for the Homeless downtown,” May said. “I feel like we students have a responsibility to the community of South Bend.”

Ascension Catholic, a preK-12 school located along the Mississippi River in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, helped build this awareness with help from ACE Teachers who have been commuting daily to the school for years from their home in Plaquemine, La.

May can recite a litany of ACE Teachers who changed her life, one-by-one, in different ways, spanning sixth grade through her senior year of high school.

“From early on, I clung to the ACE Teachers,” she said “I was always interested in meeting different people, and these teachers represented a world I didn’t ever get to see—until now.”

She encountered them as homeroom teachers and teachers of English and science, quiz-bowl leaders and sports coaches, or as confidants in after-school conversations about local, personal concerns or complex international issues. Such discussions were rare in this low-income area, in which few residents ever dreamed of colleges or jobs outside Louisiana, May said.

By seventh grade, May had made her college decision.

“I decided I was going to go to Notre Dame,” May said. “[One of my teachers was] very deep in her faith and incredibly smart, and I said, ‘that’s what I want to be.’ She was always so encouraging. All the ACE Teachers were just so excited to be in the classroom.”

ACE Teachers helped her in numerous ways, from transforming her writing to helping her plan her future.

“[One teacher] reassured me and encouraged me that I could actually go to Notre Dame, that this was a thing that actually could happen.”

Choir practices in the chapel allowed May to see one ACE Teacher regularly enter a pew and pray, a teacher who has now gone on to study for the priesthood.

“[ACE Teachers] emphasized the Catholic part of my education. I tried to emulate how important faith was to my ACE Teachers. It had to be what made them so awesome. I saw the value of the ACE Teachers to my school, as well as how much they influenced my life. That’s such a beautiful thing, and it’s something I would want to give to someone else in some capacity.”

The next plan comes naturally. May said she definitely wants to apply to be a part of ACE Teaching Fellows, perhaps starting with an internship during her senior year.

Is she concerned about where in the country she might be assigned if she were accepted? No, because an ACE Teacher at Ascension once addressed her fears that Notre Dame might not accept her application.

“She told me that God has a greater plan to find the right fit for me,” May said. “It’s not really about my plan all the time.”