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ACE teacher emphasizes faith

Joseph McMahon | Tuesday, November 27, 2007

When Elias Moo, a 2007 Notre Dame graduate, applied to become a teacher as part of Alliance for Catholic Education, he saw the program as a way to continue to live Notre Dame’s message of service. He was eager for the chance to help others after graduation.

“My whole career at Notre Dame was very service-based,” Moo said. “ACE seemed like a great fit for what I wanted to do post-Notre Dame.”

However, like all ACE participants, Moo had no idea where he would be placed. He had talked to some of his friends that were participating in the program. After hearing about their experiences, Moo decided to apply for a teacher position.

Eventually, he was assigned to teach for the next two years at an elementary school in Denver, Colo. The urban west side of Denver has seen a rise in percentage of low-income families living in the community over the past several years. At St. Rose of Lima, the school Moo works in, 80 percent of the students are on free lunch and receive scholarship money.

As their teacher, Moo is with the children everyday from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. In addition to giving them a well-rounded academic education, Moo also stresses the religious component of his job. He said that one of the most important aspects of his job is to help these children grow spiritually as well as intellectually.

“Even though these kids come from low-income families, we get them to try to have a sense of service for each other and other in the community,” he said.

For the past 15 years, ACE has placed college graduates like Elias Moo into teaching positions in Catholic schools in low-income communities around the country. The program is a two-year commitment, and in return for their service, all ACE participants receive a tuition-free Masters degree in education from Notre Dame. The coursework for the degree is taken during the two summers of the program.

ACE was originally founded as an option for students who wanted to obtain a degree in education, said ACE assistant director Liz Stowe.

“ACE is a Notre Dame program founded in 1994 as a response because many students wanted to become teachers,” Stowe said. “So ACE matched that need as well as the need of Catholic schools.”

For many, however, the Masters is just a bonus. The opportunity to shape young minds and help troubled children is a reward in itself for ACE participants like Moo. He said that he tries to instill in his students the “three pillars” that came to define his Notre Dame career.

“It is about spirituality, community and education,” he said.

After a Notre Dame career marked by a service record, Moo believes his participation in the ACE program is an extension of his work at the University.

“I believe that the ACE program is an extension of Notre Dame and the Notre Dame mission,” he said.

Although teaching in a low-income community can often be a trying task, both Stowe and Moo agree the results are well worth the effort.

“We are answering the financial need of Catholic school and the spiritual need,” Stowe said. “These young energetic adults are able to bring life and faith to these communities.”

In fact, Moo has found the program so rewarding that he is reconsidering his previous plans to continue on to graduate or law school.

“Now that I’m actually here, I’m a little more confused than I was before,” he said. “I really enjoy teaching, and I can definitely see myself in education.”