The two years as an ACE teacher are different for each individual, and are affected by many different factors such as geographic location, teaching placement and personal dispositions. But for all ACE teachers, the journey is punctuated by several major milestones.
First ACE Summer
During the first ACE summer, teachers engage in highly practical, demanding courses and work with their professors to prepare to lead a classroom of their own starting in the fall. They also begin to apply what they have learned with actual students during an extended practicum teaching experience in a local public or Catholic school. In addition to their academic and professional preparation, ACE teachers get to know their immediate community members as well as the wider ACE community through various fellowship activities. They are also encouraged to continue their individual spiritual growth through retreats, Mass and other opportunities for prayer and reflection.
First Year of Teaching
During the first year of teaching, ACErs are welcomed into their new school and local communities and are often initially focused on making a successful transition into full-time teaching. They are also invited to participate in the life of the school community beyond the traditional school day, and many take on additional roles such as coaching a sport, directing a choir, or moderating a student club. ACErs also get to know their house community members better, and gradually learn how to balance community and spiritual life with the demands of first-year teaching. Each ACEr is supported throughout this transitional year by his or her academic supervisor, principal, mentor teacher and pastoral administrator.
Second ACE Summer
Similar to the first summer, the second ACE summer is designed to help ACErs to grow in all three pillars: professional teaching, community and spirituality. The academic coursework remains practical and rigorous, and helps individuals process their first-year teaching experiences with a constant focus on how to improve upon them in the second year. Through retreats, shared meals, Mass and other activities, ACErs continue to grow in relationship to God and to one another.
Second Year of Teaching
While the second year of teaching is still challenging, many ACErs describe how much they enjoy the opportunity to return to a familiar community and city. This familiarity enables ACErs to really improve their teaching, enter more deeply into community life and make more intentional time for prayer. Professionally, ACErs are pushed to grow in new ways by their academic supervisor, principal and mentor teacher. Meanwhile, the pastoral administrator and even fellow community members challenge ACErs to grow personally and spiritually.
The two-year ACE journey culminates in Graduation Weekend, a wonderful time for ACErs to celebrate their accomplishments with friends and family. Since the annual Notre Dame Commencement Exercises are held in mid-May when most ACErs are still teaching at their sites, the University offers this special weekend full of events for ACE graduates, including a commencement ceremony and a graduation Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. An optional commencement retreat is also offered in the days leading up to graduation, which many ACErs enjoy as an opportunity to bring closure to their community and spiritual life in ACE.
Life after ACE
The post-ACE pursuits of program graduates are as diverse as their pre-ACE academic and personal backgrounds. Many individuals remain in the Catholic school classroom, while some choose to teach in public or charter schools. Others pursue further graduate, law, medical or business degrees. Still others transition into educational administration, or begin an entirely different career path outside of education. Several ACE graduates have responded to a call into religious life or the priesthood after their two years of service.
Regardless of the career and vocational paths ACE graduates choose, we hope all remain advocates for children in need, particularly through supporting Catholic schools. For more information about how ACE graduates and others remain committed to sustaining and strengthening Catholic schools, visit the ACE Advocates.