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Research on Teacher Resources Exemplifies ACE Teaching Fellowship

Written by William Schmitt on Wednesday, 22 February 2012.

Melody Family Program Supports Teachers at the Leading Edge

Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) graduate Beth Burau is taking her passion for Catholic school teaching to the next level, along with her desire to give disadvantaged children excellent educational resources. Her efforts are taking her deeper into the world of digital information, with help from a new fellowship program.

An ACE program, now in its second year, is assisting her cyberspace explorations while reaffirming her enthusiasm to stay in the classroom. This pilot program, called the Melody Family ACE Teaching Fellowship, strives to enhance the leadership potential of ACE graduates. That's a goal particularly advanced by the international network called ACE Advocates for Catholic Schools, where the Fellowship program is housed and where Beth's entrepreneurship has found a helping hand.

Beth is one of the first ACE Teaching Fellows, receiving a range of support thanks to a generous gift from the Melody family of Houston. The Melody family has partnered with ACE to support highly talented Catholic school teachers in their commitment to teaching, learning, and leadership.

Beth is conducting a research project she calls "Technology in Teaching: Free and Simple." She is compiling information about resources that will offer educators everywhere expanded access to free and low-cost technology for use in instruction and assessment.

"During this second year [of the Fellowship], I've been working on developing a rubric for teachers to use when evaluating the digital tools they find and use," says Beth of her project. "Frequently, we get caught up in the bells and whistles of new technology, websites, and Web 2.0. It's not simply enough to use technology in the classroom; it needs to be used effectively and be of benefit to the students."

Beth graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2000 with degrees in English and computer applications. As a member of the ACE 7 cohort, she taught computer skills at St. Mary of Carmel elementary school in Dallas. She has embraced the profession and now teaches at Bishop Lynch High School in the same city.

The pilot program of fellowship support, awarding assistance to successful applicants from the Melody family's home state of Texas, aims to keep top-notch Catholic school teachers practicing their vocation. At the same time, it provides professional development that nurtures their special research interests, builds their expertise in a chosen area, and cultivates them as leaders with a wide impact on Catholic education.

"We don't want the children in our Catholic schools to lose a single great teacher," says Meghann Kirzeder, senior associate director of ACE Advocates and coordinator of the Melody Family ACE Teaching Fellowship. "Blessed by the partnership with the Melody family, ACE can support teacher retention and build a multiplier effect where motivated teachers become leaders who help themselves and others offer even greater service to kids."

The Fellowship seeks to accomplish this for selected recipients by offering a stipend to support their research, plus specific funding for professional development and individual mentoring by a member of the ACE faculty. The term of the Fellowship extends for three years. Fellows return to the University of Notre Dame campus every summer for a conference that combines peer support with assessment of progress and planning for the future.

Nearing the end of her second academic year as an ACE Teaching Fellow, Beth sees progress in her drive to place educational technology at the service of more children. "The Fellowship is helping me become a more skillful teacher in the classroom at the same time that I reach outside my school to pursue ideas that will help lots of other teachers and at-risk students," she says. "I'm compiling resources that are easy to afford and use—tools that are valuable for teachers to know about and for students to benefit from."

The Melody Family ACE Teaching Fellowship, which began in 2010-2011, will soon be seeking applications for a second cohort of Fellows whose three-year terms will begin in 2012-2013. Catholic school teachers working in Texas will be invited to apply, with five Fellows to be chosen based on a range of criteria. Applicants will be asked to describe in detail their proposed area of specialty, and comments will be required from each applicant's principal.

As for Beth, she enjoys making her dedication to the high school classroom (teaching Language Arts and German) go hand-in-hand with her desire to grow and contribute as an educational leader with specialized skills. Recently, she attended the Texas Computer Education Association's annual conference in Austin.

"My students were not left to fend for themselves without me," she recalls. "I created videos and podcasts for the substitutes to use in my absence. I was still able to teach them and guide them even though I was not in the same city."

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