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ACE fellows discuss plans for postgraduate service

| Friday, May 13, 2022

Although many students decide to enter the workforce or pursue advanced degrees after graduation, some Notre Dame graduates choose to spend their next two years in service.

For Nora Maus, a senior joining the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program this summer, there is no better time to dedicate herself to giving back.

Maus is one of the 38 graduating seniors from Notre Dame and Holy Cross who will join the 29th cohort of ACE Teaching Fellows. ACE is a two-year fellowship program in which graduates teach in under-resourced Catholic schools across the country while earning a master’s degree in education from Notre Dame.

After receiving her degree in neuroscience and behavior, Maus will teach 2nd grade at St. Mary’s Academy in New Orleans. She described being excited for “displacement” with her ACE teaching location.

“One of the main reasons I was excited about ACE was that I didn’t know where I was gonna go, and it wasn’t really up to me,” Maus said. “It’s up to the program and wherever they think I’ll best serve the community.”

ACE interns or seniors applying on the fall timeline commit to joining the program without knowing their placement location, said senior Julia French. The pastoral team at ACE, which is responsible for the personal and spiritual well-being of fellows, intentionally places students based on how they will fit with the school.

French, who studied philosophy and education, schooling and society with a minor in theology, served as an intern for ACE. Interns work with the ACE team and help with internal planning and logistics.

French has long held a passion for teaching and applied to be an intern after realizing that she wanted to pursue teaching after graduation. 

“I think teaching is particularly what I’m gifted in and what I enjoy doing,” French said. “It’s the most effective and beautiful way that I’m called to give back to someone else.”

Similarly, mechanical engineering major Patrick Ryan, also an ACE intern, discussed the process of choosing to teach instead of joining the industry.

“I knew I would regret it if I didn’t try teaching,” he said. “The idea of giving yourself in an act of service to a community that needs you is something I find very appealing, very humbling.”

ACE fellows spend their summers in community as a cohort. For the first half of the summer, fellows take classes for their master’s of education, learning classroom management strategies and how to write lesson plans. For the second half of the summer, fellows work in South Bend public schools with another South Bend teacher. This is part of a practicum to give them experience before moving to their placement location.

“[The placement locations] are all communities that need teachers, and more importantly, they need great teachers,” Ryan said. “ACE does a good job of preparing you to teach and showing you the work that you need to put in to teach well.”

The summer programming also provides fellows an opportunity to get to know their cohort members. Once the next semester begins, fellows live and teach in groups of five or six in their placement location.

Ryan described the excitement surrounding the first retreat for the 29th cohort of ACE.

“It was really a wonderful moment realizing that these [people] are my family for the next two years,” he said. “ACE really promotes community and promotes intentional time spent with good people.”

Not all ACE fellows continue to teach after the completion of their two-year program. For example, ACE intern Rory Jasper, who majored in political science with a minor in gender studies, plans to pursue a career in education policy after completing the ACE program.

“ACE’s mission is not for you to be a teacher for the next 30 years,” he said. “It’s kind of a pilot program where they elevate you for that next endeavor in your life.”

Jasper applied to ACE so that he can have classroom experience to inform his work in politics. He will be teaching middle school social studies and religion at the Academy of St. Benedict the African in Chicago.

Like many ACE fellows, Jasper was inspired by his former teachers. 

“I thought me going to school was just a number for the government until I had a teacher that stood in the trenches with me to ensure that I was given the best opportunities,” he said. 

Jasper said his seventh-grade teacher, a Notre Dame graduate who participated in the ACE program, motivated him to pursue teaching.

“Having a teacher that wasn’t just a teacher but someone that stood in solidarity and kinship with me . . . really crystallized the ACE program for me,” Jasper said. 

“I’m excited to help my students live up to their God-given potential,” he added.

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