Under Construction: April Adalim and St. Catherine Break New Ground
April Adalim, one of ACE Teaching Fellows’ newest graduates, will be breaking ground this spring. Having committed to a third year of teaching middle school English Language Arts at St. Catherine in Tulsa, Oklahoma—the site of her ACE placement—April will be joining the community of St. Catherine in constructing a playground three years in the making.
St. Catherine has been attempting to raise funds for a new playground since 2014, the year April began her teaching career as an ACE Teaching Fellow. Still short on funding in her second and presumably final year at the school, April met with her principal and committed herself to writing a grant through Kaboom! to fund the construction of this long-awaited school necessity.
With no prior grant-writing experience, April assumed the grant application would involve no more than a few pages of argumentation in support of the playground. The more she worked on the grant application, the more she realized how much work was required to complete it. Her case in support of the playground would require data collection on the demographics within the school community, a detailed budget, and meetings with the school financial council. Though oblivious to it at the time, the application process and April's singular focus on securing the means to leave St. Catherine better than when she had found it forced April to lean into and learn about the community that had so readily embraced her a year earlier.
Months passed, and April heard nothing. Nearing the end of the spring semester, she had accepted the fact that her grant-writing efforts had failed to secure funding for St. Catherine’s playground. When her phone rang one ordinary afternoon well past the decision deadline, she was not expecting to hear the news on the other end: St. Catherine had received the grant from Kaboom! They would be getting their playground after all.
St. Catherine would also receive one more addition to their 2016-17 academic year: another year of April. She had assumed early on that she would continue teaching post-ACE, but having become so entrenched in the school community, she could not imagine herself anywhere other than St. Catherine. When St. Catherine begins work on the playground this spring, after careful planning and commitment by the whole school community, April will be present to witness the construction.
She is quick to credit the families of St. Catherine, many of whom will help save on construction costs by helping with the building and transportation of materials, with this project. Her students would be quick to offer April much of the credit as well, arguing that her grant-writing actions are the embodiment of the questions she asks her students in her classes: “How is this text making us better people? How are we changing the world through what we are reading, writing, and doing?” These questions are not unlike the questions she asked of fellow ACE teachers this summer when she returned to Notre Dame as a mentor teacher in ACE’s Teachers in Residence Program. During those summer months, she focused on sharing all she had learned about the relational work of teaching. She spoke of St. Catherine and how important the role of the teacher can be in building lessons, building playgrounds, and ultimately building the Kingdom of God—right here, right now, on the grounds of the schools we serve.