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Large pool enables ACE to be selective

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Senior Jessie Maciejewski opened her mail Monday to discover her post-graduation plans have been sealed – she will have a teaching job for two years after graduation and, at the end of that period, a master’s degree in education.

Maciejewski is one of 87 people who have been accepted into the competitive Alliance for Catholic Education program. This year 380 people applied – four people for each spot.

One-third of those accepted are Notre Dame students and their letters, mailed March 15, were waiting for them in their mailboxes when they returned from spring break. The remainder comes from other universities. Staud expects to fill three more spots before the close of the acceptance process.

Through ACE, college graduates earn a tuition-free master of education degree and spend two years teaching at under-privileged Catholic schools throughout the country. Staud makes selections for ACE with a specific placement in mind for every applicant accepted.

“When we accept people at ACE, they know exactly where they’re going, what they’ll be teaching, what grade level, so that they can make a completely informed decision,” Staud said.

Assistant Director of ACE Colleen Garvey said an applicant’s talents and skills are strongly considered in the application process.

“Let’s say Nashville calls us up and says, ‘I need a math teacher, who will also coach basketball and help out with an after-school Spanish program,'” Garvey said. “So then we go through every single applicant and whoever best fits that match is who we select.”

Jessica Maciejewski will be teaching at a Catholic school in Rio Grande City, Texas next year. She believes her placement is based on her experience studying abroad in Chile, her ability to speak Spanish and her interest in working with the Latino community.

In addition to possessing certain skill sets, Staud considers it necessary for ACE teachers to have a desire to be teachers in a Catholic school setting.

“Ultimately, we are looking for people … who are passionate about serving through teaching, who want to change the world one child at a time,” Staud said.

Maciejewski, who has spent many years in Catholic school and whose mother is a Catholic school teacher, wanted to begin her teaching experience in a Catholic school.

“It’s more of a service aspect I think – I want to give back because I know a lot of the Catholic schools are understaffed right now,” Maciejewski said.

Notre Dame graduate Jim Kilroy is currently working as an ACE teacher. He too was eager to take advantage of the opportunity to serve as a teacher in a Catholic school after a lifetime of Catholic education.

“ACE was more attractive than Teach for America, for example, because its mission serves Catholic schools, which I had attended all my life,” Kilroy said. “You can say that I felt compelled to give back to the system which had the greatest influence on my life outside of my parents.”

Students accepted this year will begin eight weeks of education classes at Notre Dame on June 2. During this time, they will also student-teach at schools in the South Bend area. When the school year begins in August, the new ACE teachers will go to their respective locations and teach for one year, while they continue to take on-line courses. The following summer, students take additional classes at Notre Dame and then return for a second year of teaching.

During the school year, ACE teachers live together in houses of four to seven people.

Notre Dame graduate John Bacsik, who teaches second grade at Saint James School in Savannah, Ga., said the living situation gives him a chance to share his initial teaching experiences with others who face similar challenges.

“Living in a community of teachers provides a unique sense of support,” Bacsik said. “Every day, you know that you have people who are ready and willing to listen to your stories and have great advice to share.”

Staud said that many people coming into the program are not sure whether or not they want to make teaching their career. The experience of teaching, plus a master’s of education degree can be a benefit in most fields, Staud said, but he estimates about 60 percent of ACE teachers stay in the education field.

Maciejewski believes the ACE program will be a good stepping-stone to the opportunities she will pursue when the two-year program ends.

“I definitely want to teach for a while,” Maciejewski said. “But I can definitely see myself going on a different career path for a while and then maybe coming back to it and … maybe getting another degree and teaching at the college level or something like that.”

Contact Kaitlynn Riely at [email protected]