During Catholic Schools Week, we are grateful the many wonderful teachers teaching in the Catholics schools here in Denver, and especially those who were placed here by the ACE program.
The Alliance for Catholic Education, or ACE, is both a master’s degree and alternative teaching licensure program offered through the University of Notre Dame. The program is aimed primarily at students who graduated with a non-education degree but are interested in being teachers. Students interested in pursuing a Master of Education degree are able to sign up for the program, which is an intense two-year process where ACE teachers are sent to one of the country’s many Catholic schools to teach while working simultaneously to obtain their master’s degree.
While most ACE graduates stay in teaching, some have gone on to be lawyers, doctors, or even superintendents of schools, such as Denver’s very own Kevin Kijewski. He was the very first ACE teacher to arrive in Denver in 2005, and is now overseeing the schools he once taught in. Now, some 50 ACE graduates reside in Denver, including at least one school principal and dozens of teachers.
“It’s a cool program, and there’s nothing better than teaching kids,” Kijewski said.
The Archdiocese of Denver currently has five ACE teachers serving within the archdiocesan school system: Thomas Mann at Bishop Machebeuf High School, Mikaela Prego at St. Rose of Lima, Marissa Cirillo at Guardian Angels, Anthony Barrett at St. Pius X, and Kyle MacDonald at St. Therese.
ACE does really well valuing the whole person and meeting the different needs that we have. It’s really unlike any other teaching program. There’s not a lot of programs that have that connection between our Catholic identity and serving in a school.”
“It’s a really great program that provides for our experience as first year and second year teachers30 and gives us a really great skill set to go out into the world of Catholic school teaching,” said Anthony Barrett, who teaches middle school literature and language arts at St. Pius X. “The program has really helped me to grow as a teacher, and as a person.”
In the summers during the two years, ACE teachers engage in summer courses that are “highly practical and demanding.” These courses are designed to prepare the teachers to lead a classroom of their own before their first year of teaching and address any challenges they may have encountered after that first school year.
“It’s a really intense process,” said Kyle MacDonald, who teaches middle school English, literature and religion at St. Therese. “ACE is good at making you not comfortable, and I say that in a positive way. It’s easy, especially in the profession of teaching, to become comfortable, and ACE does a really good job at making you feel uncomfortable and making you feel like there’s always something more to strive for.”
ACE focuses on forming three main pillars of the teacher: their professional life, their communal life, and their spiritual life. ACE teachers live in community with one another, are encouraged to get involved in extracurricular activities at their schools, and are visited regularly by academic and spiritual mentors who push them to grow, MacDonald said.
“ACE does really well valuing the whole person and meeting the different needs that we have,” he said. “It’s really unlike any other teaching program. There’s not a lot of programs that have that connection between our Catholic identity and serving in a school.”
Caption: Denver’s current ACE teachers. From left to right: Marissa Cirillo, Thomas Mann, Kyle MacDonald, Mikaela Prego, Anthony Barrett. (Photo courtesy of Alliance for Catholic Education)