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How to Almost Flame Out of ACE but Come to Thrive In It

by Audrey Scott

Dan Reynold receiving the Michael Pressley Award for Most Promising Scholar from John Staud

The well worn cap hangs on the office wall, its navy blue “R” a beacon in a sea of evergreen.

“I still have MY REDEMPTORIST WOLVES baseball hat.”

Dan Reynolds hops up from behind his desk and proudly dons his cap.

Fifteen years are erased in an instant. 

“​​This was my ACE school,” he said, smiling wide and flipping it backwards. 

“I keep it here to remember. When you're a teacher educator, you gotta think back and really remember what it actually felt like to be a teacher.“

“This tells a happy-go-lucky story of ACE, but man, my first semester as a teacher in ACE was rocky. Roooccckky. There was a lot going on in my life at that point, and with living far away from home,” Dan said, “Judy Madden, ACE’s student support specialist, was on the phone with me anytime I needed her.” 

With the support of ACE and the support of his school readjusting his teaching, Dan returned for the second semester of his first year renewed:

          “I really felt the school had my back.
           I started coaching baseball.
           I formed better relationships with the kids.”

The second summer back on ND’s campus:

          “I learned more about teaching. 
           I figured out more about unit planning.
           I had a full curriculum experience.

and my second year in ACE was much better.”

And then some.

Dan stayed at Redemptorist High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after graduating from the Alliance for Catholic Education’s (ACE) Teaching Fellows program. He instituted the school's first AP English class, and he stayed in Catholic education for the next four years, teaching English and serving as the dean of students at San Juan Diego Catholic High School in Austin, Texas, before pursuing his doctorate in language, literacy, and culture from Vanderbilt University. 

The unique support given by the people of ACE empowered Dan at pivotal moments. “My ACE mentors were helping me not just to get through ACE, not just to get to the next job after ACE, but helping me think about the whole trajectory of my intellectual career in education and Catholic education. My recommendations were written by Doc Doyle, John Staud, and Christian Dallavis. They stayed in touch with me and they were still advocating for me.”

Now, as Chair of the Department of Education and an associate professor of literacy education at John Carroll University, Dan wears many hats. He researches adolescent literacy, examining how high school students’ literacy can be scaffolded through careful instructional design and responsive interactional scaffolding in discussion.

Dan is also a Coyle Fellow in the Center for Literacy Education in the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame, where his research and teaching encourages teacher candidates to develop human relationships as an integral part of literacy learning, and challenges candidates to become intimately acquainted with their students’ knowledge, cultures, and identities. 

For his commitment to Catholic education and his dedication to adolescent literacy, with a special focus on reading comprehension of complex texts with culturally and linguistically diverse students, Dan was awarded the 2023 Michael Pressley Award for a Promising Scholar in the Education Field. This award honors an ACE Teaching Fellow graduate whose work as an academic in the field of education shows exceptional promise. Dan was a member of the 13th cohort of ACE Teaching Fellows.

As department chair, Dan can be found teaching in the college classroom, but his research recently took him back to his roots in the high school classroom to study reading interventions through a promising one called STARI, which looks to address gaps in fluency, decoding, reading stamina, and comprehension. “I was trying to do the research that would bring me closest to the very heart of studying the opportunity gap,” Dan said. “What kind of opportunities for really rich reading, instruction and literacy learning are being provided to children in low income schools that are almost all Black?”

With a grant from the Advanced Education Research and Development Fund, which saw the potential in immediately disseminating findings directly to it and its network of districts in order to make decisions faster, Dan helps bridge a gap that makes research findings applicable faster. 

“I try to constantly be moving back and forth between the world of practice and the world of the academic institution,” he said. “Working and publishing in translational science, designing research projects that can directly inform research practice, and then working with funders who are not just academic publishers, but even with foundations and funders that have a connection in the practice network is a way to do that.”

Reflecting on receiving this award, which he accepted in July during ACE’s commencement ceremony, Dan said, “I was not in ACE when Dr. Pressley was in ACE, but I actually encountered his work as a scholar citing his work with literacy, scaffolding, and literacy scholarship. It was then that I learned more about Dr. Pressley's influence on ACE and beyond. It was awesome to connect his work and the influence it continues to have. And I’m honored to carry on in some small way that kind of legacy of caring so much for Catholic education and literacy scholarship.”

Dan credits the ACE network as a guiding force, not only his professional journey—

“When I saw Judy this summer on campus for the ceremony, she was overjoyed to see a guy who almost flamed out of ACE turn things around and be honored in this way.” 

—but his personal one as well. When Dan left Baton Rouge to teach English at San Juan Diego in Austin, he did so at the behest of an ACE 13 classmate, Laura MacLean, who had left that position to become the school’s dean of academics. 

“Do you know who that ACE classmate was?” Dan asked. 

“Spoiler alert: She became my wife. We now have five kids and are expecting a sixth child come April.”

“The hand of Providence was clearly at work here,” Fr. Lou DelFra, CSC, director of pastoral life for ACE, said during their wedding homily.

“The ACE journey for me did not end with graduation,” said Dan. For the opportunities, the counsel, the friendships, the family and the never ending support: for all the gifts the community of ACE has given, “I am extremely grateful.”


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