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Outlined against a yellow-orange October sky, the three Hanisch men rode again

by Isabell Gilfoil
Mike Hanisch (L) and Matt Hanisch (R)
Mike and Matt Hanisch

The last of the bags were loaded into the cargo hold. The open skies before them, John, Matt, and twelve-year-old Michael Hanisch (ACE 30, Chicago) set off from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in search of adventure, or at least to find the perfect fit for his brother’s university years. 

The final destination for this flight was special. It was his grandfather's alma mater. Autumn in South Bend, Indiana. Peak visiting season at the University of Notre Dame, and it didn’t disappoint.

“I couldn’t believe what I was looking at when I was walking across campus,” Hanisch said. “It was October, it was beautiful weather, and it became my dream school in seventh grade.”

Hanisch fell in love with the school and made it his mission to go there when he finished high school. “I had a one-track mind. I was going to do anything I could from that moment to get in.”

So he set about making his dream a reality, not realizing that three familiar faces he saw daily back home at Bishop Kelley High School would be instrumental — not only on his road to Notre Dame — but his path through and beyond it as an Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Teaching Fellow.

Those three faces belonged to ACE grads, Fr. Brian O’Brien (ACE 5), Michael O’Connor (ACE 24), and Tim Wymore, CSC (ACE 19). Hanisch stood out to each of them in different ways.

Fr. O’Brien walked with the whole Hanisch family. “Michael comes from a great family. I knew his grandparents, parents, and older siblings before I knew him. He was his own man. He was involved in sports and later got into acting and singing. He always had a quiet confidence. Michael kept working on his craft and growing in confidence year by year.”

Hanisch (right) at Bishop Kelley after a football game with a teammate
Hanisch (right) at Bishop Kelley

O’Connor and Wymore worked with Hanisch on the student Search retreats and remembered his positive presence around school. “He was an active member of student theater productions and always excelled at Bishop Kelley,” O’Connor recalls. “On retreats, I was especially impressed with his willingness to lead, his self-confidence, and his friendliness. He was very approachable and made others feel welcome around him.”

“Mike himself struck me as being reflective and thoughtful,“ Wymore said. “He was a student leader, and he led well. That is always essential; the adults set things up ahead of time, but it takes the juniors and seniors —the students who have experienced the retreat before, and who can also speak best to the younger students—to make the retreat a success.” 

The successes kept coming. When his dream of attending Notre Dame became a reality, those familiar supportive ACE faces were smiling as well.

“I remember when I told (O’Connor) I got in and he gave me a big hug,” Hanisch said. “It was really nice to have someone who got it, understood why I was so excited to go to Notre Dame, and also shared that excitement with me.”

Near or far, Hanisch kept in touch with his Bishop Kelley roots. He went from being supported to supporting others. He would see Wymore around campus. “I’d see him wearing a Bishop Kelley jacket and he made an effort to schedule lunches with BK grads pretty frequently.”

As Hanisch began to think about what he wanted to do post-college, thoughts of service persisted. He applied to ACE’s Pursuing Achievement through Higher Education (PATH) program and their summer internship in which college students go to Tucson, Arizona, to teach middle school students. 

4 images side by side. 1 - PATH Summer Interns group photo. 2- Hanisch with PATH students. 3 - Hanisch and Alec Torigian. 4- Group selfie of PATH interns

The pandemic had other plans for the summer of 2020 though. He enjoyed the virtual experience, but it was the in-person experience in the summer of 2021 that Hanisch credits as his reason for applying and being accepted to the ACE Teaching Fellows program. “Without PATH, I don’t think I’d be here. It was good practice and it prepared me,”  Hanisch said. “So I am very grateful to have done it and proud to have done it.”

“It's been a genuine joy to walk alongside Mike as he's grown as an educator and continued to discern his passions and calling in life. I'm so proud of Mike, and I have no doubt that the best is yet to come for him and the students entrusted to his care!” - Alec Torigian, PATH National Coordinator

Now finishing his first year as a language arts teacher at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, Illinois, and looking ahead to what comes next, his former teachers from Bishop Kelley gave him some advice — from one ACE teacher to another.

Wymore said, “I would remind him that the power of his example as a positive role model makes a big difference, maybe the biggest, in the lives of his students over the long run.” 

“Remember to do the things that are important to you and give you energy outside of work,” said O’Connor. “Make sure to make time for something you love doing each day, even if it’s only for a quick 15 minutes!” 

And Fr. O’Brien concludes, “Keep honing your craft! The best teachers I know are constantly trying to improve for the good of their students. A good teacher (like a good athlete or good musician) is never satisfied.”

Interested in learning more about ACE Teaching Fellows?

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