Kati Macaluso: Education, Devoted.
Think. Pair. Share. Podcast Transcript
0:00:09.7 Audrey Scott: Welcome to this Modern Education podcast that explores learning from the everyday exchange of thoughts and ideas to the theories and practices behind entire systems. Think education is cool? So do we. So, we pair two conversations, learn about our guests, then learn from our guests, share your takeaways and come back for more. You're listening to Think.Pair.Share with me, Audrey Scott. Dr. Kati Macaluso is the new academic director for the Alliance for Catholic Education Teaching Fellows Program. She also serves as faculty of supervision and instruction for that master of education program. Her research investigates issues including what it means to prepare teachers to teach English language arts in the 21st century context, focusing on the embodied and spiritual dimensions of literary reading. In her new role, Kati considers it a great privilege to work alongside faculty as teacher educators in service of teachers who in turn are forming students who are witnesses of the good news of the Gospel in what she considers a ministry of hope. It is my pleasure to welcome her to Think-Pair-Share.
0:01:19.4 AS: Hi, Kati, welcome.
0:01:21.0 Kati Macaluso: Thank you so much, Audrey. It's great to be here.
0:01:23.5 AS: Oh, I'm so glad you are here. I always love all our chances to have conversations, but now, I get a dedicated hour of your time selfishly.
0:01:32.4 KM: Right. You got me prisoner in this studio with headphones on [chuckle]
0:01:37.3 AS: Great. Well, welcome, welcome, welcome, and can't wait to dive in. You are super woman, super mom, super leader, super all kinds of things, lots of wonderful things on the horizon. One of them may or may not be this fun section coming up right now, which I know always makes people a tense nervous, but.
0:01:56.4 KM: Oh, yes, I will admit, that's the part I'm most jittery about, Audrey. So, trivia is not my strong suit, just ask my husband and my children [chuckle]
0:02:05.1 AS: Alright. Well, thank you so much for playing along then, so we'll have some fun. And maybe just learn something new. Believe me I'm learning as I'm looking up the trivia questions, so honestly, it's really just a way to find some fun facts about the university, more or less, so thanks for playing along here.
0:02:18.4 KM: Any time. Always happy to play [chuckle]
0:02:20.2 AS: I did try to tailor it a little bit, trying to put a soft ball or two in there, and then some stuff that might be spoiler alert a little bit more tied to areas of campus you might know. First one, is a fill in the blank. The Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes is 1/7th the size of the famed French Shrine where the Virgin Mary appeared to whom on 18 occasions in 1858?
0:02:42.8 KM: St. Bernadette.
0:02:48.6 AS: The crowd goes wild.
0:02:51.2 KM: [chuckle] I got to go there actually when I studied abroad at Notre Dame, so that was a little piece of my past, so.
0:02:56.1 AS: Oh, I'm very envious of that, that's wonderful. That's on a bucket list, I would love to get over there for sure.
0:03:04.0 KM: Absolutely, I hope it happens.
0:03:07.6 AS: Thank you so much. And two fun facts, some people may or may not know, some of the boulders are from the surrounding farms, I guess, most weighing two tons or more which...
0:03:18.2 KM: I did not know that, wow.
0:03:18.3 AS: In fact in 1896, I'm not sure quite how they got them here, a slow, steady process, I guess, but... Yes, very good, that it's sort of built from the land around here in South Bend as well, and a small piece of stone from where you've been, the original Grotto in France is located on the right-hand side of the shrine directly below the Statue of Mary.
0:03:36.8 KM: I didn't know that piece. You see a lot of people leaning up against it to touch it, but.
0:03:40.5 AS: [chuckle] Yes. I figured you might know that, but for any newcomers, feel free to come by and visit our Grotto and it's beautiful and see that stone. Okay. Wonderful. One for one, excellent. [chuckle] Okay. This is a new segment, who am I? Okay, it's kind of like Wordle but not, but not at all and copyright, hopefully this is not copyright infringement. I'll keep giving you a clue as you need them to guess who it is, okay?
0:04:13.6 KM: Okay, perfect. That would mean a lot.
0:04:17.3 AS: Okay, let's try it. The first one, granted, I don't think you might get it from here, unless you've been reading some recent articles, I'm going to be saying it in the voice as this person, my mother was an Olympic swimmer.
0:04:31.8 KM: No, not yet.
0:04:33.6 AS: That seems very fair. Two, my parents are educators, and he said... Oops, and I say I'm trying not to give away that it's a guy, but I just did, so now we've narrowed it down. It seems like, I was really around some really great teachers and communicators, it was such great training.
0:04:54.6 KM: I still don't have it.
0:04:55.5 AS: This one will probably help. Last night, I completed my 23-year run as Notre Dame men's basketball head coach.
0:05:03.3 KM: That is Mike Brey, my backyard neighbor, actually, so...
0:05:09.0 AS: For real?
0:05:11.2 KM: He lives in the neighborhood behind us. So, my children consider that a celebrity's house when we walk back there, but yes, Mike Brey, I did not know that his... The Olympic swimming connection there.
0:05:20.0 AS: I didn't either, so I...
0:05:21.4 KM: Learn something new every day.
0:05:22.4 AS: Exactly. His parents were educators, so I think that that's nice and certainly ties into our work here at the Alliance for Catholic Education.
0:05:31.7 KM: Absolutely.
0:05:32.6 AS: And he is the winningest men's basketball coach in school history, so that's wonderful. And my last one was he went to the line backer to celebrate his last... Which was all over the news, and so.
0:05:44.1 KM: I did not see that. I don't think that clue would have helped me there, so I'm glad that I got to the answer before then.
0:05:51.2 AS: Okay. Very good, you were a good sport. I think that those first ones were way too hard, it could have been almost anybody, certainly. Okay, thank you for that. The third one, multiple choice. What was the first residence hall built on campus that was named after a woman? Was it Knott? Was it Lewis? Or was it Walsh?
0:06:13.3 KM: And it was the first residence hall for women? Or...
0:06:17.2 AS: Named after a woman.
0:06:19.4 KM: Okay. I'm gonna say Lewis.
0:06:21.4 AS: Almost. I know, I was like, "Oh, I should put two really old ones because they probably weren't named for a woman." It was actually Knott, named for Marion Burk Knott. I know, it was pretty late in the scheme of things.
0:06:35.9 KM: Yes.
0:06:36.0 AS: Yes, but actually, fun fact, why Lewis is sort of... I'm giving you 50% credit because Lewis although dedicated to Chicago philanthropist Frank Lewis was made possible by Lewis's wife, Julia, who provided the funding for the hall's construction in 1965, so.
0:06:54.8 KM: Wow. Something made possible by a woman, that doesn't seem surprising to me, so.
0:06:58.6 AS: I didn't think it would, so that's wonderful. Yes, it's wonderful, and there probably are many stories about other folks helping along the way on other dorms too, but stay tuned for future episodes to hear the history of all the dorms. Okay, next, which residents hall on campus is the only one to have a hyphen in its name and was once the location of Coach Frank Leahy's office.
0:07:24.5 KM: Is it Breen-Phillips? My old stomping grounds.
0:07:27.0 AS: Yes. Yes.
0:07:29.0 KM: You did that to help me out, didn't you, Audrey? Thank you so much, that is so kind [chuckle]
0:07:31.9 AS: These last ones might be a little bit more geared toward you.
0:07:39.7 KM: Oh phew.
0:07:40.6 AS: I thought the earlier ones were a little bit harder, I think I gave Father Nates some really easy ones, I think, plus he gives tours around campus all the time. And knows all things Notre Dame, I knew that was the dorm that you lived in while you were here at undergrad, so it was a personal note for you. But yeah, apparently, at some point, the hall house, the entire athletic department in its basement, very handy, that was kind of you guys to help them out, and fun fact, it was one of the first women's residence halls after the university began admitting women in 1972. So, very good history there.
0:08:12.9 KM: Very. Good memories, good people.
0:08:14.8 AS: Yes, absolutely. My god-daughter also lived in Breen-Phillips and she graduated during the pandemic, and that will probably be a trivia question at some point, which is the only class that did not walk through on a normal... On the normal time that they were supposed to be walking through. So, it was remote, but then they did give them the opportunity to come back, but she was in that auspicious class, but. Yeah, they all find good ways to celebrate in just a completely unique way, so I suppose that...
0:08:46.7 KM: Absolutely. Pivot and innovate, those I think are the words, right? That we associate with the pandemic, the nicer words that we associate with the pandemic.
0:08:55.3 AS: Absolutely, I will never forget that, everyone was pivoting. Okay. And the last one is a two-parter, first part is true and false. In 1966, Notre Dame Student Senate voted to make the Leprechaun an official mascot of the university?
0:09:10.3 KM: True.
0:09:11.6 AS: True, okay. And second parter, and if you get this, you get all the bonus points. Who is your favorite Leprechaun that ever served?
0:09:23.5 KM: There's only one answer. Mike Macaluso, greatest Leprechaun, greatest Dad, greatest husband, greatest professor of all time.
0:09:34.8 AS: I'm gonna have to get t-shirts with that on it, for sure. He was certainly fabulous as a Leprechaun and no doubt fabulous at all those other things as well, so luckily for you, that is the best segue I can get to moving into our next section, so congratulations, you've finished the "fun part," and you did stellarly, if you got that last one, you got them all right, in my opinion, so.
0:09:54.7 KM: Excellent, excellent.
0:09:57.4 AS: I know it's an enormous question, I certainly can't wrap up your whole path in a few sentences here, but maybe kind of say what led you here to Notre Dame, and then what are some of those high points that have brought you back here, culminating in this... I know you've been in the interim role and serving all these people so well over the past year, but now officially the Academic Director of the ACE Teaching Fellows Program, so congratulations.
0:10:22.6 KM: Thank you so much. It's a privilege to have the opportunity to serve in that role, I appreciate it. So, to answer your question, what explains my return to Notre Dame in part is what brought me to Notre Dame in the first place as an undergraduate, which really, I think was a reflection of my family's commitment to Catholic education from pre-school through high school, up until that point. And my father and many of his brothers were graduates of Notre Dame. So, I had the privilege of coming here a few times as a child, and I remember just really being so struck by how much like home it felt, because there was this authentic integration of the faith life and spirituality with academic excellence, which I knew having been a product of my parents upbringing, how important that integration was. And so, coming to Notre Dame, it felt in some ways like an extension of home, and I couldn't say no to the opportunity to continue my Catholic education through my undergraduate years, that of course, led to ACE, which I was familiar with because I grew up in an archdiocese that was actually really at the roots of ACE's beginning.
0:11:41.7 KM: So, Mobile, Alabama.
0:11:43.7 AS: Yeah, shout out.
0:11:45.0 KM: Which is where I attended Catholic school, was one of the first sites for the placement of ACE teaching fellows, which are teachers who are part of the Alliance for Catholic Education who commit two years of service to Catholic schools while also engaging in two years of graduate level work that culminates in a master's degree in education. And so, I was familiar with ACE because I went to schools most notably in McGill-Toolen Catholic high school, which was home to ACE teachers, and because of my family's connection to the university, we also would often host the teachers for dinner. So, my childhood was peppered with these visits from the ACE teachers. So, I came to Notre Dame and I did not come to Notre Dame thinking that I would study education or ultimately do ACE. In fact, I thought I would study business of all things, I think I was just really enamored with business attire or something like that, I don't know, it was really superficial. But then, I ended up at a freshman seminar here at Notre Dame that was pretty reading and writing intensive, and my professor actually recommended me for an experience at the university's writing center. So, he said that I should apply to become a Writing Center tutor, and I did that at the end of my freshman year, and actually served as a tutor for three years beyond that. And that's really where I fell in love with teaching.
0:13:13.8 KM: And I shouldn't have been surprised by that. I really, I loved engaging with students about their ideas and really trying to figure out what it is that they were trying to say and help them get to a place where they could say that more clearly, more loudly and more profoundly. And I think that's a part of what it means to be a teacher, is to help students find their voice. And I think it really was in my DNA, I always use to torture my younger siblings and force them to play school, so I'd lock them in the play room and create centers and write stuff on the track board, give them worksheets to do and homework. And then, also my confirmation Saint was Elizabeth Ann Seton, I think I was drawn to her vocation, not only as a mother, but also as really the mother of Catholic education here in the United States, which I said was, I have already mentioned was so important to my family into my upbringing.
0:14:14.9 KM: So, I feel like at Notre Dame, what I discovered is that I couldn't run away from that love, and that's ultimately what propelled me to apply for the ACE Teaching Fellows Program, and actually a number of other teaching programs throughout the country, many of them also faith-based. And when I found out that I got into ACE Teaching Fellows, I said yes to that opportunity. And when I graduated from ACE's Teaching Fellows Program, I didn't have any intention of coming back here more than a decade later, I continued teaching in Catholic schools and married Mike, the greatest Leprechaun. And we had our oldest child, Matthew, he was born a little over a year later, and, well actually, not quite a year later. And that was the point where I think we realized if we were gonna go back to graduate school and pursue a terminal degree, it was the time to do that as life was only going to get fuller.
0:15:17.0 AS: With a newborn, definitely the right time to take on the main stage.
0:15:21.1 KM: Why not, right? Small children, small problems, bigger children, bigger problems.
0:15:27.7 AS: I love it.
0:15:30.2 KM: Also more joy, I guess. So, that sent us on to Michigan State and pursued a path in curriculum instruction and teacher education, which I'm so grateful for, I think if I had gotten into graduate school right after my undergraduate years in Notre Dame, I would have pursued more of a pure English route. And it was really ACE Teaching Fellows that allowed me to fall even more deeply in love with education and the questions of an educator. And so, I really wanted to bring those two disciplines of the humanities and English language arts and the social sciences of education together. And it was at the end of my time at Michigan State that I realized as I was on the job market, which is such, I think a rich and also stressful time of discernment that I really had this itch to return to a place that was mission-oriented and mission-driven, I was not looking at Notre Dame and ACE, but it was really that devotion to students and families, and write that vocation of Catholic education that ultimately brought both Mike and me back here to Notre Dame.
0:16:43.9 KM: And here we are, and I'm happy to answer more questions about what has come of that. So, that's my long winding path.
0:16:52.6 AS: No, that's wonderful, that's perfect. And we are so blessed to have you. Honestly, I want to hear more about serve your hopes and dreams as the new academic director, but I wanna touch base on a couple of things prior to that, maybe if it's okay with you. A, I came into my role here and you were leading ACE advocates, can you tell me about how that role came about for you, and I just know you were so wonderful in that role, is there a way for you to sort of bridge some of those elements in what you're doing now or are those two sort of totally different worlds.
0:17:26.3 KM: No, that's a great question, Audrey. So, to answer your first question about how I came into that. So, when I took my first job here at Notre Dame and the Alliance for Catholic Education, I was hired as a faculty member, and I still obviously carry that role and responsibility. So, my primary charge as a faculty member is to instruct our middle and high school language arts teachers in the methods and assessment practices of English Language Arts at the middle and secondary level. And I also had a directorship, this directorship that you alluded to of ACE advocates, which is our unit in the Alliance for Catholic Education charge with the strategic engagement of alumni and friends of ACE who are committed to continuing to strengthen and transform Catholic schools.
0:18:15.8 KM: And so, I worked in that unit across a number of different domains, including teaching and leadership, as well as research and education policy, which we conceived of as levers by which we could really operationalize the Strategic Engagement of alumni and friends in a way that can move the needle to revitalize and strengthen Catholic schools. And so, one of those domains being teaching, in that sense, there really is overlap to some extent between a piece of the ACE advocates work and what I do now in the ACE Teaching Fellows Program as academic director.
0:18:56.0 KM: And just as one example, if you think back to the pandemic, this was when I was still directing ACE Advocates, but I was also a faculty member in the ACE Teaching Fellows program. And I worked with Sister Gail Myatt, who was academic director at the time, to pair our newest cohort of ACE teaching fellows who were members of the 27th cohort at the time in that infamous summer, right when we had to be almost completely virtual and therefore there was a very limited opportunity for our incoming ACE teachers to get out into schools in the local community for a student teaching experience that we call the practicum.
0:19:36.9 AS: Right.
0:19:38.4 KM: And so to compensate for that, and not to say that it was a replacement, but it was our attempt to really try to provide our ACE teachers with the strongest formation and mentorship possible in a very difficult time. We paired the incoming cohort of ACE teaching Fellows with graduates of the ACE Teaching Fellows program, who were more seasoned veterans in the field of teaching at developmental levels and in subject areas that matched with those of our incoming ACE teachers. And so these graduates in our network served as mentors who met with ACE teachers on a regular basis that summer, and talked about a number of ideas and artifacts from their own classrooms that would allow the ACE teachers to better visualize and understand and really anticipate what they might be facing, you know, in the coming months as they entered into their own classrooms. What was already a very challenging time for teachers even who had been teaching for many years. So that's just one example.
0:20:41.3 AS: Okay, great. And I'll probably pepper those little questions in along the way too, because I think they do touch on, on a number of things that you do do and will do in your current work. So I wanna let folks know sort of what this next big piece is gonna be. So maybe in your own words, can you describe your new role and maybe why you were passionate about being the person to fill that?
0:21:01.8 KM: Great. Yes. So my new role as academic director of the ACE Teaching Fellows Program, or our Masters of Education program is one that I did have the opportunity to fill in an interim role starting last January. So there's been a little bit of water under the bridge since then, and I wasn't looking for this role. Sister Gail Myatt, who was an exceptional leader, of course, was called away by her congregation to lead on new terms there, and so could no longer direct us as a faculty here at Notre Dame. And so it was a little bit of a curve ball, right when I saw the, when this, this one landed in my lap. And I had to spend the year not only figuring out like, what is this job, but also is this something that I'm called to apply for and pursue in more intentional terms? And I think over the course of the year of doing this work, I really discovered that it was taking me back right to that passion that I alluded to earlier about teaching as a vocation.
0:22:06.3 AS: Yeah.
0:22:06.4 KM: And in the same way that I was drawn to teacher education, because I felt it would allow me to work with future teachers who I think set the tone for a classroom, obviously, but also really change the trajectory of young people's lives. I'm convinced of it, and I'll say more about that in a moment if you're open to it.
0:22:30.7 AS: Yeah, absolutely. [laughter] Yeah. Yes, please.
0:22:31.8 KM: But, [laughter] In this role, I get to be really the teacher of teacher educators. So I'm operating on even more macro terms, right. To get, to engage in what I see as a ministry of hope, because ultimately I have the great privilege of working alongside faculty in service to teachers who have said yes to this opportunity to bring students, right, young people in K-12 Catholic schools to wholeness in the image of a God that loved them into being. And that to me is what gets me out of bed in the morning and allows me to come to the office and face whatever challenges we're facing for that day, because I believe so deeply in the hope that resides in this ministry that I share with my faculty and the students that say yes to this opportunity to serve as ACE teachers.
0:23:30.1 AS: I love that you love hope, because that's always our final question. So [laughter], we have a nice wrap up at the end. In my mind when I hear an academic director or what little I knew of what Sister Gail's role was, it feels very regimented.
0:23:44.5 KM: Yes.
0:23:46.5 AS: And I don't see you as a regimented thinker, I guess. And so I'm wondering, I'm so intrigued. Help me a little bit with that disconnect, your predecessor and predecessors, Mike Presley, doc Doyle, sister Gail, Kati Macaluso, you're all doing such wonderful work for so many. I'm wondering how you feel you'll be able to put your personal stamp on it to a certain extent. Not that that's your goal, but you're going to bring your own gifts to it. Do you think that there are elements there that you particularly want to bring to the role?
0:24:26.0 KM: Yes. I... So part of my discernment process in deciding whether this was something that my family and I were really willing to pursue in more formal terms and officially apply and interview for the position really stemmed from this place of trying to figure out where and how could my gifts intersect with the needs of the position. You know, that exercise in discernment is something that we really take quite seriously in the realm of ACE advocates as well. So that's another way that my ACE advocates directorship and my role now with the academic directorship really intersect with one another. And what I really came to discover through that discernment process is that I care so deeply about the future of Catholic schools in the United States, which have undergone right this precipitous decline. We're working against a very challenging backdrop of religious disaffiliation of students who have academic needs that are, I think, more profound than they were before covid...
0:25:34.7 KM: And social emotional needs that are more profound and pronounced than they were before covid. And we're also doing this work against a backdrop of inflation and economic fragility which is not ideal when you're working with an education system that is based on tuition payments. So I care so deeply right, that these schools are there and offering the highest quality education possible for students for generations to come. And so my hope right, is that in my role as academic director, I'm able to bring vision and innovation that allows us to move forward as a program in a way that is responsive to these challenges that we're facing. And in that sense, you know, the academic directorship, it seems like something that's highly procedural. You know, making sure that our curriculum meets a set of standards and that there's an academic calendar that accounts for the number of instructional minutes that we have to fulfill, ensuring that our students' GPA is where it needs to be to remain in good standing with the graduate school. And those things are things that I have to do and they do matter. But I also feel like my job is to pass a vision that will allow us to be nimble and responsive to the needs of students' families in the church as we look towards the next decade and beyond.
0:27:05.8 AS: I'm already excited about what you bring to this, and I would love for you to tell folks a little bit more about what that could look like.
0:27:12.8 KM: Absolutely. Well, okay. So I'm happy to, to speak about this for a little bit. So I would say that before I get into what I see as a three-part vision, I think it's really important that I'm clear that everything that I do as academic director in service to the formation of teachers, stems from this conviction that on the other side of teaching right? Is learning and students. And so what we do as a program to form our teachers is always in service to students that we are called as faculty, as staff, right. To bring to wholeness, to bring fully to life in communion with Christ the teacher. And so our job as teacher educators is to form teachers who in turn are forming students who are witnesses of the good news of the gospel, right? They're so filled with this joy that they are loved so deeply by a God who created them, that they can't help but point others to that reality and invite them into that same gospel message.
0:28:17.9 KM: We form scholars who are not just memorizing facts, but are really cultivating curiosity so that they're wired for lifelong learning in pursuit of questions that are really oriented towards grasping truth. And finally, we are forming as teachers, students who are servant leaders, which really goes back to our connections at Notre Dame, to the congregation of Holy Cross and Basil Moreau, right? Who talked about the art of Christian education, that we're forming not only minds, but also hearts. And ultimately as we are working to form students who are both gospel witnesses and scholars, what we're trying to do is get these students to really get in touch with the gifts that have been given to them by God that the world so desperately needs for them to enact in order to create a better world, a better church. So that is really always my north star.
0:29:18.0 KM: Right? And, both what it is that at the end of the day, we're working as teacher educators to form, right? These teachers who are forming these students who are witnesses, scholars and servant leaders, and also Christ the teacher himself, right? So, one of my favorite philosophers of education, Charles Bingham, he writes about just the role and responsibility of a teacher. And I thought, especially in the days of virtual schooling made some pretty compelling points even before virtual schooling was a thing. He talked about how the teacher has this role as the one who creates the circumstances for belonging and meaningfulness in a classroom. And he would argue that without the teacher, the school is just like any other a myriad of places where people can learn. So, you know, we might as well just be, you know, a hundred students lined up in a room with a laptop in front of them doing IXL or something like that.
0:30:22.6 KM: But the teacher, when a teacher walks into that room Bingham argued that the school becomes a community and the classroom becomes a community. And so if you think about that, right? The teacher is as the one in the classroom who has the crucial role of drawing people together. And my first point, like the teacher being the one who is bringing students fully to life, right? Bringing students to wholeness in the image of this God who loved them into being the teacher in many ways, then is really carrying on the legacy of Jesus Christ himself. So in the ACE Teaching Fellows program, we look so often to Christ the teacher as our sort of orienting guide. And so it's that idea of Christ the teacher and who and what it is that we're trying to form. That really, for me, motivates this three-part vision that I'm bringing to the table as academic director. And that three-part vision is to commit as a faculty and a program to fully integrating faith formation with the disciplines. So we're not just teaching the faith in the context of a theology classroom, or when we're at mass together as a class or as a school. We are teaching the faith and deepening students' spiritual formation in the math classroom, in the social studies classroom, in the science classroom, in the language arts classroom.
0:32:00.3 AS: Yeah.
0:32:00.9 KM: The second part of my vision and my commitment has to do with increasing academic rigor for all students in K-12 context. And really working with teachers, obviously because this is a teacher formation program, to ensure that they are committed to cultivating that academic rigor but in a way that is supportive of students who are at the margins. Whether those are the margins of needing additional support or the margins of needing additional challenge.
0:32:34.2 KM: The third commitment or prong of my vision has to do with deepening clinical partnerships. So here we are at Notre Dame, right? Doing this work as an ACE Teaching Fellows program, but we are part of the Alliance for Catholic Education. And that alliance piece is really so very much at the heart of what we do in the ACE Teaching Fellows program because our ACE teachers, they're here at Notre Dame for two summers. The rest of their time they are out in schools, right. Serving as instructor of record in their classroom in which they've been placed. And we rely heavily on the principals and mentor teachers at that school to participate with us as faculty members and staff pastoral administrators in the formation of our teachers on the ground in the context of the classrooms and schools where they're serving. So thinking even more intentionally about how we engage our clinical partners and form them and allow them to form and inform us, I think is crucial as we look towards the future of the ACE Teaching Fellows program.
0:33:42.1 AS: That's fabulous. I'd love to circle back on everything that you're saying because it's all very exciting, Kati. But one thing that did stand out was sort of the teacher's impact on their trajectory of the students. I know a lot of elements go into that, but can you tell me a little bit more about that?
0:34:02.3 KM: Yes. So it's probably, probably best to point to a story or two here, Audrey, to illustrate what I'm talking about here.
0:34:07.8 AS: Sounds good, I love a story.
0:34:10.5 KM: [laughter] because, I mean, it can sound cliché to say teachers change students' lives, but I have proof that that's true. And it's not just a cliché. So if you think about my own thinking and narration of how I ended up back here at Notre Dame, one of the milestones along that journey was my freshman seminar. And the professor who in response to papers that I had written in his class, said, you know, you really should consider serving as a tutor at the writing center. I'm going to put your name for it, and I'd love to see you apply. So he not only recognized something that I brought to the table, but he also extended an invitation to me which I think is so important in the roles and responsibilities of a teacher. We're not only instructing, but we're inviting. And that moment that I got to in that freshman seminar in many ways could also be traced back to previous teachers of my own Mary Sullivan, my eighth grade language arts teacher at St. Ignatius in Mobile, Alabama.
0:35:06.6 KM: Nancy Fortner, a few years later, my junior AP literature teacher at McGill-Toolen in Mobile, Alabama. Both of those teachers, I would say were absolutely instrumental in teaching me how to write and in setting very high standards for writing and communication, which goes back to one of my points in kind of my three-part vision of academic rigor. Academic rigor, it matters because it shows students their potential and it helps them to achieve that potential. And ultimately it's through that experience that we do change trajectories of students' lives. Right. That eighth grade and junior year writing experience in connection with my freshman seminar at Notre Dame, as I mentioned earlier, is one of the reasons that I'm here back at Notre Dame, serving in the role that I'm serving.
0:36:01.6 AS: I love that concept that you're forming teachers to help students find their voice. And I truly believe that you and everyone working with this program truly believes that. I don't think that I knew that as a student that my teachers were maybe trying to help me find my voice. They probably were.
0:36:17.8 KM: Yeah.
0:36:19.0 AS: It's so woven in your whole plan here and integrating the faith formation with academics. I think that, that sort of ties things together and really gives this foundation. Can you tell me more about how you see that?
0:36:31.7 KM: Yes, yes. So that's the, that's, you know, that one of the first tenets that I talked about in my vision, and it's really coming from this place of challenge, right? Of increasing religious disaffiliation in the United States, and the reality that the seven hours that teachers have with students in schools are probably like prime time for evangelization and deepening students' faith lives. And so we can't just relegate it to the theology classroom or to all school mass, whatever the case may be. And so I definitely see the language arts classroom, the science classroom, the math classroom, et cetera, as being a space that all the time is an opportunity to deepen students' faith lives. And that can happen through the curriculum that we elect to teach. It's a little bit more straightforward, right? In a language arts classroom, when we can think about, for example, the way that we frame a unit.
0:37:28.5 KM: So if you're thinking about Lois Lowry's the Giver, you could teach that novel strictly to help students understand a dystopian world. But you could also help students understand the characteristics of dystopian literature while exploring much deeper questions around, you know, what meaning, lies in suffering, right? Which is a very Christian concept. So the way that you frame a unit can be an opportunity to go deeper into the faith. But the opportunities for faith formation, I think also lie a lot in sort of the fabric of relationships that exist within a classroom. So I'm thinking about my own children and one in particular, I have a second grader at St. Joseph Grade school.
0:38:17.2 KM: And her second grade teacher, I just think, is an exemplar of what it means to really blend the classroom experience with faith formation, and the way that she will work, for example, with a set of second grade girls, my daughter included, who sometimes are engaging in girl drama, to think about what it means to relate to one another in more loving terms, and I'll never forget, a few months ago, Grace coming home and talking about how her teacher, Mrs. Manspeaker, explained that love is really wanting what's best for others, and so we can't really try to hog everybody's time on the playground; if somebody wants to play with someone else, then we have to be okay with that because that's what's good for that person in that moment.
0:39:06.9 KM: So really, to be able to work with a seven-year-old to understand playground dynamics as loving dynamics that are ultimately willing the good of the other is... That's pretty theologically profound, I would argue. And then just as one more example, Audrey, I've talked in this podcast about my love of language arts and writing and literature, and I think about what it means to be a good writer. And the kind of virtue that teachers can cultivate in teaching something like writing, which ultimately, if it's good writing, we're talking about re-writing, and kind of going back to the drawing board and realizing, "Oh goodness, I can say this better, I can say this more clearly, let me go back and try this again", which requires what we would call diligence, and that's a virtue, it's a virtue that we put into practice in a classroom, whether it's language arts or social studies, whatever the case may be. We're writing all the time, and so I think the cultivation of virtue through the different practices of the discipline is also something that can allow us to blend academics with faith formation and a deepening of spirituality.
0:40:17.9 AS: Very interesting, and I would never have thought about it in those terms, but playground dynamics.
0:40:24.7 KM: That's great. It's all part of the teaching package, it's not just the curriculum, it's the playground at lunch duty and extracurriculars too.
0:40:33.6 AS: Yes, God bless 'em. I know that you've been involved in a number of things before taking on this new role, one of them being TutorND and one of them being a book club you started with Mike, the best leprechaun ever.
0:40:45.0 KM: Yes!
0:40:49.8 AS: I would love to hear if those can be transferred or used in some of the work going forward as well?
0:40:54.4 KM: Absolutely, I always feel like our lives are a tapestry, right? And then if you look on the back, it looks like a bunch of messy threads, but when you turn the tapestry over, there is this picture and all the threads are connected...
0:41:05.5 AS: It's beautiful. Yes.
0:41:07.5 KM: So I do try to really make the many things that I do that can seem disconnected, connect, and... So the book club is one example of that. It ties in quite neatly to my work as a teacher educator, who is charged with preparing our middle and high school language arts teachers, because we're working with those teachers all the time to curate texts that they can bring into their classroom that are gonna be relevant to their students, and also consistent with gospel values and the tenets of the Catholic faith that they're charged with teaching in a Catholic school. So that book club, I really have to give my husband credit for that, I really think that was really more of his brain child, and I was just lucky enough to tag along, but...
0:41:55.9 AS: Good thing, better together, remember? Better together...
0:41:57.8 KM: Better together. Absolutely. And so one of the books that we used in that book club was last year's Alexandria Award winner. The Alexandria Award is an award that was started here at Notre Dame that is meant to identify young adult middle grade novels that are consistent with gospel values and really model young people, young characters doing great work in the world. And so last year's winner was When Stars Are Scattered, a graphic novel about two refugees in a camp in Kenya. And that book and many of the others that we use in that book club, was just a great example of the kind of curriculum that would allow you to integrate faith with the disciplines. And it was also a great model, too, I think, of the ways that growing as a professional and community intersect with one another, because one of the real assets of that book club was the club itself. This group of teachers that came together, speaking of better together and generated ideas in concert with one another, in dialogue with one another, that resulted in new curricular opportunities and academic tasks for students throughout the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese. So that definitely connects.
0:43:13.0 AS: And you've also worked with TutorND, at least at its inception, right?
0:43:16.3 KM: Yes, at its inception, and still do a little bit of work now... Yeah, I actually think... Oh gosh, there's so many ways that TutorND intersects with ACE and ACE Teaching Fellows, and I'll just list a couple right now, so as I mentioned earlier, academic rigor matters a great deal to me, and it's academic rigor for all students. So thinking about setting high standards, but also about scaffolding students towards meeting those high standards and really supporting them along the way. And TutorND, I just think is a marvelous example of research practice partnerships done really well here at the Institute for Educational Initiatives because it relies on evidence-based practices in reading instruction. We use a program called Sound Partners that has the evidence to show that it's effective in growing student achievement in reading, and we also use a lot of Nicole McNeil's work from the CLAD Lab here at Notre Dame, her cognition and learning lab, and the work that she's done around equivalence and mathematics education for young learners.
0:44:26.1 KM: So we use that for our math curriculum and TutorND, and those practices, of course, are practices that be translated into a classroom context. And in fact, many of our ACE teachers have had the privilege and experience over the last few years before they joined ACE of serving as TutorND tutors, and so they get to experience first-hand what these evidence-based practices look like in reading instruction and math instruction, so that when they move into a classroom space, they're able to import a lot of those strategies and practices to support students in meeting their reading and math achievement goals. And so we're not only growing a pipeline of teachers through something like TutorND but we're also allowing those future teachers to engage in professional development that serves them very well in their classroom settings and service to student learning.
0:45:29.8 AS: That's great. Thank you. Clarify for me if you could, TutorND serves...
0:45:34.1 KM: TutorND, it has a number of components to it. Right, the curriculum that we use, we employ tutors here through Notre Dame, many of them are Notre Dame undergraduates, we also have actually some ACE graduates who serve as tutors and a number of retired teachers who serve as tutors or instructional coaches. And then who we serve, that kind of runs the gamut. So there's a certain subset of the people that we serve are actually children of Notre Dame faculty and staff, and that's how TutorND started actually, it was begun by the provost office who wanted to provide this service back in the wake of the pandemic for the students of Notre Dame faculty and staff who needed that academic boost after a stretch of time when children were not in the classroom.
0:46:23.2 KM: But then we've broadened since then to include services to our local South Bend School Corporation schools. Actually, we have a site set up at St. Joseph Grade School here in South Bend, that's actually serviced... Many of those tutors are Saint Joe High students in the community, which is really neat, that's a new pilot that we're doing. And then we also serve, because we're able to conduct these tutoring sessions virtually when needed, we serve many students who attend the schools where ACE Teaching Fellows serve throughout the country. So we have about 40 students right now across seven different Catholic schools in our network that are receiving the services of TutorND free of charge, so that's a really lovely additional connection between the ACE Teaching Fellows Program and TutorND.
0:47:14.5 AS: That's great.
0:47:16.1 KM: So they're all around the country, working on many different time zones, to meet the tutoring needs of students in Granville, Texas, all the way out to the west coast, up in Philadelphia, so that is... They're part of the Notre Dame family too, so we have included them in this opportunity in the past several years.
0:47:35.1 AS: I have heard nothing but wonderful things about that program as well, but that's no surprise that you had a hand in that and working with all those other lovely folks too. And Nicole was a guest here, she just got such a committed and passionate heart for that work as well so.
0:47:49.0 KM: And she really deserves all the credit for that program, it's her vision and so much of her work that's incorporated in it, so there would be no TutorND without Nicole McNeil.
0:48:00.6 AS: Well it takes a village. I'm sure she would say that. But yes, she does wonderful work with that. Well, I could talk to you all day. Unfortunately, I know many other people, much like your playground, I have to let you go play with other people.
0:48:14.0 KM: Look at you, willing the good of the other, Audrey, that's so good.
0:48:17.8 AS: I can still learn. In kind of wrapping up, to me, you have been on this journey at every level as student and ACE teacher, grad student, parent, and I think that your heart is tied to all of those pieces and all those roles, all that tapestry that you mentioned. You talked about a mission of hope. Are you hopeful?
0:48:39.5 KM: I am deeply hopeful, Audrey, and I say that knowing that right now, even as we're speaking, our pastoral team is in a room placing the 30th cohort of ACE Teaching Fellows.
0:48:57.3 AS: Oh exciting!
0:48:57.4 KM: That means that there are 90 plus people who are gonna be admitted into this program and sent throughout the United States to continue to serve in Catholic schools. And I think that my role as ACE advocates director, in combination now with this academic directorship, probably fills me with hope all the more because I have had the privilege of seeing the footprints of ACE Teaching Fellows beyond their point of graduation in our program. And I know that they go on to remain in Catholic schools and continue to serve, or for those that don't remain in Catholic schools, they continue to serve Catholic schools in this mission in their own way, shape and form, and it's just one sort of snapshot of hope for people listening. I just want everyone to imagine St. Mary of Carmel, a Catholic school on the west side of Dallas, that is currently led by Kaitlyn Aguilar, who was placed in the ACE Teaching Fellows program, I believe in 2009, and I don't think ever entered into that program thinking that she would become the principal of St. Mary of Carmel one day, but nonetheless, she stayed at that school after ACE and continued to serve as a kindergarten teacher until I think in 2014, she became principal and then enrolled in ACE's Remick leadership program, our Catholic principal formation program.
0:50:25.6 KM: And now she serves at that school as principal, alongside a first year ACE teacher and a number of ACE graduates who themselves have elected to remain at that school. So we have a multi-generational presence at a school that is serving students to become witnesses, scholars and servant leaders. And so let that be sort of a snapshot of the future of Catholic schools, and I think if we have more Kaitlyn Aguilars, we're gonna be in great hands in Catholic education, looking forward.
0:50:56.1 AS: See where ACE takes you.
0:50:57.4 KM: That's right.
0:51:00.1 AS: A world full of hope, for sure.
0:51:01.8 KM: Absolutely. Thanks for keeping me grounded in the hope and allowing me to talk about it and share it with others, I really am grateful for the time.
0:51:07.9 AS: Oh, you're welcome. And honestly, the program and everyone associated is extremely blessed to have you in this new role. Thank you again so much for being here.
0:51:16.4 KM: Thank you, Audrey. Have a great rest of your day. Okay? Bye.
0:51:20.2 AS: You too, take care. Bye bye.
0:51:23.0 AS: Thank you all for joining us for Think.Pair.Share. If you enjoyed this episode, head on over to Apple Podcasts to subscribe rate and leave a review. It's very much appreciated. Check out our website at iei.nd.edu/media for this and other goodies. Thanks for listening. And for now, off we go.