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Seniors commit to teach with ACE program

| Friday, May 15, 2015

As seniors contemplate and prepare for their postgraduate opportunities, a handful have already committed to spending the next two years teaching children in underserved Catholic schools as part of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

Founded in 1993 by Fr. Sean McGraw and Fr. Timothy R. Scully, ACE seeks to strengthen Catholic education in under-resourced schools in the country. The organization has sent more than 1,200 teachers to Catholic schools across the United States.

More than 30 members of this year’s graduating class have committed to serve as ACE teaching fellows. In addition to teaching for the next two years, they will also engage in intensive studies at Notre Dame during the summer.

Matthew Gelchion, recruiting coordinator for ACE teaching fellows and a 2009 graduate of Notre Dame, credits the tight-knit and formative environment of the ACE community with the relative success of the program. Gelchion said ACE teachers are distinguished by their willingness to embrace challenge and their unique energy and noted how their experience with ACE left them transformed for the better.

Anthony Barrett, a senior from Stanford Hall and English major with minor in education, schooling and society, said he decided to become a teacher after working with ninth graders during one of his summers as an undergraduate. Barrett, who will work in St. Pius X middle school in Denver, Colorado, said his internship at ACE during his senior year motivated him to apply and join the program.

“Working with the other people in the ACE program was just really incredible, and every person I talk to, whether they’ve already committed to ACE or whether they’re thinking about it, got me more excited about teaching,” Barrett said.

Emily Voorde, a senior from Ryan Hall with a major in political science, said she was introduced to ACE by her high school principal and teacher — both graduates of the program — and was drawn towards ACE’s intense curriculum and close community. Voorde, who will be teaching second grade at Resurrection Catholic school in Pascagoula, Mississippi, said she hoped to ultimately inspire a love of learning and faith in her students.

“I think I’m really looking forward to the purpose and reward that comes from influencing these kids in a positive way,” Voorde said.

“I want to be able to look back and say, ‘I provided these kids with not only this great academic formation but also just [instilled] in them a confidence that maybe they don’t get at home,’ and just instill in them a love for their faith and a love for their academics,” Voorde said.

Maria Murphy, a senior from Pangborn Hall, said she decided to apply to ACE after examining the systemic problems in the American education system through the University’s education, schooling and society minor. Murphy will be teaching in Corpus Christi, Texas, and said she hoped her experience with ACE would provide her with the opportunity to address some of those systemic problems. Murphy said the program’s Catholic nature and focus distinguishes it from other service programs.

“[ACE] is not only Catholic in name but also Catholic in practice, so that’s one of the main focuses when we enter a classroom. We don’t just want to help the kids learn social studies or history, but we want to help them grow in virtue and as Catholics,” Murphy said.

“Once you’re invested in Catholic education or Catholic schools in America, you can’t leave that behind after two years,” Murphy said.

Mary Ostrowski, who will also teach in Texas, said the ACE program is an opportunity for deep and meaningful service rather than just a two-year commitment, noting how most students in the program aim to stay involved in education after they finish, whether through teaching or involvement in education policy.

“You hear all the stories of people who have done ACE, and they’ve just grown so much as a community and have been able to form that network that extends beyond those two years of classroom teaching, as well as learning how to put others (especially students) before yourself. The next two years are going to be a huge growing and learning experience, and I’m really excited,” Ostrowski said.

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