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ACE Night exposes students to post-graduate program

| Tuesday, October 30, 2018

After graduation, some Notre Dame students decide to start their professional careers back in the classroom. However, in this capacity they serve on the other side of the desk — as teachers.

Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Teaching Fellows have served in one out of every four Catholic schools in the United States since the program was founded in 1993, according to the program’s website. ACE Night, which will be held Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. in Remick Commons in the ACE Building, will offer students an opportunity to learn about the program, Kevin Fitzsimmons, ACE’s associate program director, said.

“ACE Night is a chance for Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students to experience the passionate, vibrant community of the ACE program,”  Fitzsimmons said in an email. “Students have the chance to learn important information about the program as well as hear former ACE teachers speak on the benefits of their experiences in ACE. Through both of these, we hope that undergraduates can learn more about what it means to be in ACE.”

The event will feature speakers including ACE’s founder, Fr. Tim Scully, and ACE graduates who are now working in the local area. There will also be a video that will showcase various perspectives on ACE. Free Chick-fil-A will be served.

Fitzsimmons said he recommends students attend to see the ACE community in action.

“I think there are a lot more ways to learn about ACE — through the website, through information packets or even through conversations with different people associated with the program,” he said. “There are very few ways, though, to get to experience the vibrant community of ACE and the impact it has on our ACErs, and all of us here working for the program. ACE Night is one great way to see these intangible qualities that make ACE a truly transformative experience.”

The ACE program is a two-year commitment. Teaching Fellows participate in two summers of classes on campus and two years of teaching in an underserved Catholic school somewhere in the United States. Once they have completed the program, the Teaching Fellows receive a master’s degree in education. Fitzsimmons said teachers develop in three key pillars: professional teaching, community and spirituality.

“Our mission is to strengthen, sustain and transform Catholic schools by preparing strong, passionate teachers for our students who need them,” he said.

Senior Katie Wiedenhoft, who has committed to be an ACE Teaching Fellow after she graduates, said in an email she identifies strongly with the three pillars.

“Growing up in a family of teachers, I was always fascinated by how vital caring teachers are to making an impact in students’ lives,” she said. “My dad is a high school social studies teacher (which is what I want to teach), and watching his process of continually learning and bringing the things he learns into the classroom is really something I wish to bring to my classroom.”

Wiedenhoft said she first attended ACE Night when an older teammate from the rowing team invited her.

“[I]t was after hearing the stories of former ACErs that I started considering ACE as an option for me,” she said. “ … I have attended ACE Night since my freshman year, so this year it will be fun to be on the other side of it.”

Senior Emily Okawara, who will also be participating in ACE next year, said in an email she also enjoyed ACE Night when she attended.

“[T]here was one reflection that really clicked,” she said. “ACE Night is so fun and really encompasses the joy that ACE brings.”

Okawara also said she is especially appreciative of the sense of community that exists within ACE.

“Many of my favorite professors and people on campus have been graduates of or involved in ACE,” she said. “I personally loved the aspects of living in intentional Christian community and having ACE pastoral support throughout the year. … Not only is ACE a community in your own cohort, with the staff and pastoral team, and with ACErs in the past, but the community stretches far and wide to students, schools and neighborhoods across the nation.”

Fitzsimmons said he believes the mission of ACE and Notre Dame are closely aligned.

“Our teachers have the opportunity to make God known, loved and served through the enterprise of teaching in Catholic schools,” he said. “Notre Dame students, with their strong work ethic and academic ability, as well as their passion for serving others, are the types of people we’d like to see serving the nation’s Catholic schools.”

Students of all backgrounds and majors can be considered for the ACE program.

“The application process in itself is a great discernment tool,” Okawara said.

Fitzsimmons said any student who has considered service after graduation should consider ACE.

“We have applicants come into ACE with all different motivations and graduates who leave in many different directions as well,” he said.

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About Alexandra Muck

Alexandra Muck is a Notre Dame senior majoring in business and economics. Originally from Dallas, she currently lives in Howard Hall.

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