ACE invigorates Catholic schools

Author: Michael O. Garvey


According to an institutional commonplace, Notre Dame is a place wherethe Catholic Church does her thinking,but this year the University marks a 10 th anniversary which agreeably demonstrates that its service to the Church is not always so passive.

Founded in 1994 by Rev. Timothy R. Scully, C.S.C., and Rev. Sean McGraw, C.S.C., Notre DamesAlliancefor Catholic Education (ACE) program provides college graduates an opportunity to earn master of education degrees while serving as teachers in understaffed Catholic schools nationwide. In exchange for a modest stipend and a tuition-free graduate program, ACE participants make a two-year commitment to teach in these schools.

More than 80 recent college graduates from a wide variety of educational disciplines enter ACE each year.They take courses and participate in teacher training projects at Notre Dame during their two summers in the program and work in full-time teaching positions at schools in some 30 cities in 14 states during the school year.After two years, the students graduate with a master of education degree and 75 percent elect to stay in the teaching profession.

Each summer ACE draws faculty members from reputable teacher education programs around the country for its eight-week intensive teacher-training sessions. This national faculty is enriched by members of the Notre Dame faculty and staff from a wide array of departments on campus.

The training is not merely technical, as ACE participants are encouraged to regard teaching not only as a profession but also as a vocation, to deepen and nourish lives of prayer in community and to support one another in their commitment to serve.

It is hard to believe that I graduated from college less than two months ago,said Notre Dame alumna Jackie McAdams, who has just joined 84 other recent graduates to begin her first year in ACE.The program keeps us very busy during the summer with schoolwork, retreats, student-teaching, and lots more.It has been both a challenging and rewarding experience so far.

McAdams is student-teaching this summer in a third grade classroom atBeigerElementary SchoolinMishawaka.In August she will move toKansas Cityto teach third grade in an elementary school whose students are almost entirely first generation Mexican immigrants.She expresses slight trepidation regarding the conspicuous challenges she will face.

The students know English because they have been attending the school since kindergarden,she says.But I am told that most of their parents do not speak English, nor do many have computers or even telephones at home.It will be hard to make contact with the parents in the community.

Whatever misgivings she may have about the adventure on which she has embarked, McAdams is confident that ACE will provide her and her colleagues indispensable equipment for their journey.

When we enter our classrooms in August, I know that we will all be well prepared to begin our first year as teachers thanks to the training we have been provided with this summer,she says.In this program, not only have I learned how to be a committed Catholic schoolteacher, but I have also met wonderful new friends from across the country and grown in my own personal spirituality.For me, ACE is a great transition from college into the ‘real world.For the next two years, I get to live with five other beginning teachers who are my age.We have the opportunity to experience the joys and challenges that the first couple years of our careers as teachers will bring us, together. I am very happy that I chose this program and I can’t wait to begin teaching in my own classroom very soon.

The students in beleaguered Catholic schools across the country cant wait, either, and ACE is bringing such meetings closer.

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