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Into the Classroom and Beyond: An ACE Teacher's Journey of Life-Long Learning

by Isabell Gilfoil

Mike Agrippina

ACE Teaching Fellows can take you many places. For Mike Agrippina, ACE took him into the classroom and beyond. 

Mike learned about ACE and the Teaching Fellows program when he was a student at Holy Spirit Preparatory School in Atlanta and was taught by several ACE teachers. He had a feeling that he might join the program like his favorite teachers and coaches did. 

Mike Agrippina and student“I always had it in the back of my mind because I was the recipient of this great teaching,” he said. 

Mike went to work in consulting for Deloitte US after graduating from Washington and Lee University, but he kept ACE in the back of his mind. He had a passion for teaching and wanted to try it on a more permanent basis, even spending the fall before his Deloitte start date working as a teacher assistant teaching high school English in Italy. 

“I lived with a host family. Both the mom and dad were teachers, and I really got to see that lifestyle play out – and of course, being in Italy was an added bonus,” Mike said. “I loved that. I love teaching and I love the connections I was able to make with students. Every day was different, and every day you felt like you left with a story.”

After about two and a half years at Deloitte, Mike decided to explore ACE Teaching Fellows again because he felt he was not using the gifts that God gave him. He was nervous about the huge career jump, but he found comfort in a quote he saw on a whiteboard in his office that read, “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.” 

Mike joined the 25th cohort of ACE Teaching Fellows in the summer of 2018 and loved it from the very beginning. While many ACErs join right after their culmination of their undergraduate studies, Mike saw being a few years removed from school as a blessing when he joined. 

Mike Agrippina coaching“I think the big picture is the perspective of being 25 versus being 22. Going back to ACE summer and living in the dorms and playing basketball, I thought, this is a blessing,” he said. “This is not what people my age normally get to be doing with their lives, and this is so much fun.” 

Mike spent his two years in ACE at San Juan del Rio Catholic School in Jacksonville, Florida, teaching middle school English as well as coaching middle school basketball and track at Bishop Kenny High School. He said his past experiences teaching in Italy and being at Deloitte helped him connect with his students and feel welcomed in the classroom. 

After graduating from ACE and teaching for a third year at Cristo Rey in Atlanta, Mike joined Chick-fil-A’s Leadership Development Program, where they prepare participants to become operators of Chick-fil-A franchises. Just as his business background helped him with teaching, the lessons he learned in teaching helped him in business.

“I love people, I love to try to develop them, work with them and uplift them – that’s why teaching was a great fit – but I also had this business mindset that kind of led me to Deloitte,” he said. “I want to build a business, I want to create success, and I want to drive towards these goals.”

Mike AgrippinaMike continues to support Catholic schools, including volunteering with high school students at his parish. Given an unexpected opportunity that he couldn’t pass up, Mike has moved to take on a new career path as the general manager of J.Con Salon and Spa, in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he hopes to connect with the ACE teachers in St. Pete or Tampa. 

“I'm a student in an industry I don’t know a lot about, but I feel like the people skills and the leadership skills are going to be transferable, and that’s what’s really given me the confidence to make this jump.”

Mike AgrippinaThere might be some students interested in ACE Teaching Fellows that have similar passions and interests to Mike, but wonder whether they should apply for the program. Mike said that if they have a heart for serving others and want the opportunity to be a distributor of joy like many have experienced with their own teachers, ACE is an opportunity they won’t regret. 

“ACE is a two-year bootcamp in public speaking where every single day you speak for six or seven hours and all eyes are on you,” he said. “How do you present, how do you keep attention … all these different things that you’ve learned about as a teacher to effectively communicate. I think it’s given me a lot of confidence to drop me in front of a group and I can speak and present to them.”

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