Taylor Kelly: Education, Joy-filled.

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.




0:00:42.4 AS: Taylor Kelly is the new Associate Director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame. She brings a wealth of experience from her role as Interim Director for the ACE Advocates at the Alliance for Catholic Education, where she cared for a network of ACE graduates and friends committed to empowering individuals to support, strengthen, and transform Catholic education. Taylor considers it a great privilege to continue to walk alongside this expanding group of friends, together supporting the mission of human flourishing, and helping people see their belovedness to be agents of change in the world. And she does all this with joy in her heart, something we can all feel by spending even a little time together. I'm so glad to have that opportunity today.


0:01:19.0 AS: Hi Taylor, how you doing? 


0:01:20.8 Taylor Kelly: I'm good. How are you, Audrey? 


0:01:23.9 AS: Oh, I'm well, thank you, and welcome to Think. Pair. Share.


0:01:27.8 TK: Thank you so much for having me. It's truly quite an honor.


0:01:29.3 AS: Well, you've always been one of our biggest supporters and fans, so I'm so glad that we've finally been able to get you on the podcast. And there's so much I always wanted to talk to you about, but I know you have some new wonderful missions ahead of you. So, looking forward to talking about all those things. And a slight apology on my part, we were down in Austin filming with Steven and the CSA group last week, just all kinds of wonderful stuff down there. But because I was talking most of the week and doing a lot of interviewing, my voice is a little less than at 100%. So thanks for being patient with my scratchy voice.


0:02:01.6 TK: All good. All good. No, I'm excited to see the videos that come out of that. I'm sure it'll be really wonderful.


0:02:07.1 AS: Thank you. Yeah, I hope so. We're looking forward to doing that. So okay, you know what? The very first part we do is that fun section. And I guess a little bit unfortunately for you as we make our way through the year, I run out of some of the easier Notre Dame trivia questions. But we always try to tailor them a little bit, tailor them a little bit for our guests, Taylor. And there's a one or two that are tougher, but hopefully I worded them in such a way or gave you some multiple choice that they'll be more informative than difficult.


0:02:38.2 TK: Let's hope so.


0:02:40.5 AS: Okay, great. Let's just jump right into that. This now annual event began in 2004 by an entirely student-led club as a test of physical and mental endurance, raising funds for those in need. Its great success has allowed it to become one of the greatest traditions at the University of Notre Dame. Participants take pride not only in training and completing this race, but also in making a difference to South Bend on behalf of the university. What is this event? 


0:03:06.3 TK: I'm going to guess the Holy Half.


0:03:10.5 AS: Woohoo! The Holy Half Marathon. I know you're quite a number of years participant. How many years have you been doing it? 


0:03:14.5 TK: Oh, wow. My first Holy Half was in 2014, my sophomore year here, and I have run in, let me see, four Holy Halfs, and I've trained for five because my senior year the Holy Half got snowed out. It was an April day that ended up having some white out snow conditions in the morning. So, they made the good call to not have us run and anybody get hurt. But I've always really enjoyed the race, whether it's with friends or family that are running. It's just a really great day on campus.


0:03:48.1 AS: Oh my gosh. I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I guess April still is one of those dicey months.


0:03:54.9 TK: You never know what you're going to get in South Bend.


0:04:00.1 AS: Truly a little surprise for us, but okay. Well, and who knows, the next day was probably 70 degrees.


0:04:05.8 TK: I think by that afternoon, it was beautiful. It was just in the morning. So, I think people did end up like going out later in the day and running the course. So still people got their 13.1 in, but yeah.


0:04:17.9 AS: Good. I'm glad. I ran track when I was younger, but I was a sprinter. So the longer races really have never been my strong suit, but I do like to go out and cheer others on, so.


0:04:30.5 TK: Well, and the cheerleaders are always welcome. It's one of my favorite parts of the Holly Half, because of just all the community that comes out to support. And my sister was joking with me this year. She's like, "Do you know everybody?" And she was running with me and she didn't go here for undergrad. I was like, "No, I guess just when you stick around a place for long enough, you get to know a lot of good people." So I was very grateful for everyone who's out cheering.


0:04:51.6 AS: But the truth is you do know everyone, girl.


0:04:55.1 TK: Don't know about that. Yeah, but grateful to have a great community.


0:05:00.2 AS: You know everyone and everyone loves you. So that's the thing. Your poor sister is just going to have to know that and embrace it.


0:05:04.9 TK: Yep. Hopefully she got some of the side effects of the cheering from my friends as well.


0:05:12.5 AS: Any sister of yours is equally showered with the same love, I'm guessing. So I'm so glad that you guys do that together too. What's so fun. All right. Well, we'll look forward to the next one. Okay. And this one, now we're going to go like in the way back machine, but I thought we'd give a little shout out. So I did try to word this in a way that gave you a fighting a chance. Just 'cause I've been having actually a lot of fun just reading about little known facts about Notre Dame sometimes, so. Okay. Which of these is true about Sister Mary of the Heart of Jesus, Sister Mary of Bethlehem, Sister Mary of Calvary and Sister Mary of Nazareth? So far you're like, what are you talking about? Or do you already know what I'm gonna say? 


0:05:56.8 TK: Given a lot of things in my head. Okay.


0:05:58.1 AS: Okay. One second. I'm giving you some multiple choices. Number one, they were the four Holy Cross sisters who arrived from France to help Father Sorin within a year of his founding of Notre Dame. The youngest was only 19. They were instrumental not merely for domestic work, but also for teaching and perhaps too, the establishment of an academy, or four, all of the above.


0:06:25.1 TK: I'm feeling good about the all of the above on this one.


0:06:28.6 AS: I like it. All the money, all the chips.


0:06:30.6 TK: Yes.


0:06:32.2 AS: And you'd be right. I just couldn't figure out which fact I didn't want to include, so.


0:06:34.7 TK: Those are such great ones. And what a testament to the sisters and their work in establishing Notre Dame too.


0:06:42.3 AS: Yes, I agree, and I just thought that was interesting. We don't hear maybe as much about some of the brothers and sisters that came over to shore things up and help in all the ways that might be needed. So nice shout out to those all Sister Mary's, but of different things. I think that that's maybe one of the traditions of old, but yeah, but we thank them all.


0:07:00.3 TK: Yes.


0:07:01.5 AS: Number three, presented annually at Notre Dame's commencement to a Catholic whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity, which prestigious award has been bestowed on the likes of John F. Kennedy and Dorothy Day? 


0:07:20.0 TK: I believe that's the Laetare Medal.


0:07:21.9 AS: Yehey woohoo! That's very good. And I took a chance on you knowing that without giving some options because that is what's such a nice award given by Notre Dame every year. And boy, the people, the recipients, each and every one of them, just amazing.


0:07:37.5 TK: Amazing. Yeah, and it's been really special to, I feel like I often will play back those videos of the addresses that they give if I haven't seen them in person, just beautiful witness to what a life of faith looks like and to live that out in really tangible ways.


0:07:50.3 AS: I agree 100%. Yeah, just fascinating people. And actually when I was going through, I'm like, oh, I really have a lot to catch up on. I really need to go back and look at all of them. But they are all of them just wonderful, wonderful people. Now, this one is maybe a little more geared to you. True or false, Father Sorin, who founded Notre Dame in 1842, decided that the new university needed a band. Music lessons began and by 1846, the band played at the first graduation ceremony, making the University of Notre Dame band the oldest university band in continuous existence in the United States. Is that true or false? 


0:08:27.1 TK: It is 100% true. I say that with all the pride in the world. The oldest university marching band, we'll say before every football game and as often as we can say it too. Yeah.


0:08:37.0 AS: That's quite a distinction. And what foresight he had. It sort of seemed like they played at some littler things and then just took off. And maybe in 2014, did you say, had a new member named Taylor Kelly? 


0:08:50.0 TK: 2012 was my freshman year, and that's when I started in the marching band. And actually, I was a clarinet in the marching band, and we, with pride, say that Father Sorin was a clarinet player. So not only did he found the Notre Dame band, but he was a clarinet player. So someone who's near and dear to my heart.


0:09:08.4 AS: Wow. Look at you adding a new game to the trivia.


0:09:13.0 TK: Hopefully your next guest won't have listened to this podcast and you could use that as trivia on the next one.


0:09:18.3 AS: I'm gonna use it. I'm gonna tell them, no listening, no listening in. Spoiler alert. That's awesome. I didn't know that.


0:09:24.1 TK: Yeah. So we, before the first football game, all the clarinets would actually go to Father Sorin's grave in the Holy Cross Cemetery. And just the seniors would get up and share some reflections about their time in the band and how much it meant to them, and the freshmen would get to share a little bit about how they were feeling in that moment, and just an anticipation of that first game. So a lot of great memories, thanks to Father Sorin and hopefully continuing on good work in his honor as well.


0:09:54.6 AS: Yes, absolutely. It's really great. I love that. Thanks for sharing that story.


0:09:58.8 TK: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.


0:10:00.7 AS: I love all those little behind the scenes things that happen that really tie people's hearts to the university in so many different ways. So, thank you.


0:10:08.3 TK: Absolutely.


0:10:08.7 AS: Yeah. And thank you for playing the clarinet so beautifully, and Father Sorin apparently too.


0:10:15.4 TK: You say that not having ever heard me play the clarinet, Audrey, that's a generous statement.


0:10:20.3 AS: I have heard the band during those years and they always sounded fabulous.


0:10:23.6 TK: Thank you. Well, I'll take that as a compliment.


0:10:26.2 AS: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And then Father Sorin, he had nothing else to do. Founding university in another country, all those kinds of things, there's just... Yeah, plus musically talented as well.


0:10:35.2 TK: And clarinet, yeah.


0:10:37.1 AS: Love it. Wonderful. Okay. All right. The last trivia question, you're doing quite well. 100%.


0:10:44.3 TK: Fingers crossed.


0:10:45.0 AS: I'm pretty sure. My money's on you, Taylor.


0:10:48.2 TK: Thanks, Audrey.


0:10:49.3 AS: Originally built as a men's residence hall, this Notre Dame dorm, whose mascot is the Ducks, was the first hall to incorporate Gothic architecture featuring two arches, as well as decorative stone carvings of students, animals, and a saint. Name that hall.


0:11:04.2 TK: That's the one and only Howard Hall. Go Ducks. Go Ducks.


0:11:09.5 AS: I think actually one of my really wonderful friends is, her dad lived in Howard when he was here.


0:11:15.1 TK: Oh my gosh. Wow.


0:11:16.0 AS: Yeah. So I think obviously it was one of those ones that switched over at some point to accommodate our female friends. But yes, Howard Hall, it is. It's a beautiful dorm, actually. I love it.


0:11:26.3 TK: It is. Yeah. We always said, loved being part of that Gold Coast on South Quad and just a really beautiful part of campus and a lot of really great memories in that dorm with all my friends. I lived there all four years here, so spent a lot of hours in that hall.


0:11:42.0 AS: That's great. Yeah, the Gold Coast over there, I love it. I was in Mod Quad, so I was definitely off the Gold Coast, but we were the hipsters.


0:11:51.3 TK: Mod Quad is expanding now though. It just keeps growing and growing. Now it's East Quad.


0:11:55.2 AS: That's true. That's true.


0:11:55.9 TK: Can't keep up.


0:11:56.0 AS: I can't really keep track. But actually, so Howard Hall was the first building also to be named after a layperson, they say, which you are nodding, so you probably already knew that. And also after a layperson, Notre Dame law professor, poet, Civil War soldier, historian, first Laetare Medal winner, Indiana State Senator, and Indiana Supreme Court Justice Timothy Edward Howard. And then the Statue of the Saint, because I looked at it, I was like, well, what Saint was it? Saint Timothy.


0:12:24.6 TK: Oh my goodness.


0:12:24.7 AS: Because Timothy being the first name of Howard, namesake of the hall.


0:12:29.2 TK: I love it. That tied together so nicely with the Laetare Medal and Howard all in one.


0:12:33.8 AS: Yeah. Hey, all things tie back to Taylor Kelly.


0:12:37.1 TK: Oh, no.


0:12:38.8 AS: But wonderful, wonderful stuff there. My goodness, what quite a list from Mr. Hall there. Mr. Howard. Why do you keep saying Hall for Mr. Howard.


0:12:47.7 TK: It would be funny if there was a Hall Hall one day.


0:12:50.6 AS: Hey, that could very well be.


0:12:53.6 TK: Maybe one of the new dorms that's going to get built on South Quad will be Hall Hall.


0:12:57.0 AS: That would be funny. Fun. All right. Thank you very much. You did extremely well, obviously, 100%. Never a doubt.


0:13:04.9 TK: Thank you for setting me up for success there. I appreciate it, Audrey.


0:13:08.8 AS: No problem. It was fun to learn all those things, too. So thanks for playing along.


0:13:14.9 TK: Absolutely.


0:13:15.0 AS: Okay. So, this is the part where I usually ask your path to and through and in Notre Dame to a certain extent, but a little bit interesting, I believe you went to public school before coming to Notre Dame, if my little fact finders are correct. Can you tell me how that may have impacted you? 


0:13:32.7 TK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, your sources are correct. I did grow up going to public school. It was actually a big decision for my parents. My mom had gone to Catholic school all the way through, and my dad had gone to public school all the way through. So when I was born, I'm the oldest in my family, it was a big decision of what they were going to do with me. And when I was going to kindergarten, the Catholic school in my hometown had just opened a year prior, and I was really fortunate to grow up in a hometown that had some amazing public schools. And so I think for my parents, just the surety of knowing that the public schools were well known and had a great reputation, was why I ended up there.


0:14:10.9 TK: And it was a conversation that came up again when I was going to high school if Catholic school made sense. And we were just a little bit further away from my mom's alma mater and some of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Cleveland, so it made sense to continue on at that public school. So always was a consideration for my family, but never was something that I actually got to attend a Catholic school growing up. And it's interesting because I think in coming to Notre Dame, people will ask, oh, well, was it because it was Catholic that you ended up here? And I don't think 17-year-old Taylor would have said that. I really didn't know where I wanted to go to college. No one in my family went to Notre Dame.


0:14:46.0 TK: So, in looking at colleges, my mom was very kind and set up visits at big schools, small schools, in-state, out of state, private, public, the whole thing. And my only restriction was that I wanted to be kind of within a four-hour radius of home, and so Notre Dame was within that radius. And she was like, "You know, I think this could be a really good fit for you. Like let's go take a look at it." And in classic fashion, I came and fell in love. And then it was really a question of just like, okay, I hope I can get into this school. I remember the day like very distinctly because it was kind of one of those gray, cloudy days that often happen in the spring in South Bend, the perma cloud kind of hanging over.


0:15:24.4 AS: And a snowstorm.


0:15:25.4 TK: Yes, and a potential snowstorm. Who knows? And we were on campus, I just remember just how bright I think the dome even shines on those days against that backdrop and how striking that was. And so I think 17 or 16-year-old Taylor couldn't have said that it was a Catholic identity necessarily of Notre Dame that made it distinct. But I think what I was recognizing in my visit here, after each visit, I would have a notebook where I'd write down like what I enjoyed about the school and what I had questions about still, and did this for each school I visited. And in writing about things down about Notre Dame, I just, I really noticed the sense of community here, how I could tell that students were here to support one another.


0:16:08.5 TK: I really loved that there was a sense of spirit and the way that it balances those Division 1 athletics with really strong academics. And so I think I was picking up on the things of like that integrated life that we talk about in ACE of how it pulls all of our areas of our life together and how Notre Dame does that well because of its Catholic identity. I certainly, I think I've stayed here for many years because of that and because I've really fallen in love with that. But at the time, didn't know exactly what I was stepping into.


0:16:40.2 AS: That makes perfect sense. I mean, I probably wouldn't have been able to say that too, but without maybe stating it, it always feels like it's part of something, but maybe that's just that intangible element sometimes.


0:16:52.5 TK: Yes. Yeah. Kind of like the root that is underneath everything that happens here, I think.


0:16:57.1 AS: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, for sure. The only reason I say that is because now you've been in Catholic school education for so long that that was kind of interesting that you did not go to Catholic school yourself, but continue, please tell us, and once you were here.


0:17:10.6 TK: Yeah. So started as a student here and I was a pre-med and psychology major in undergrad. So, really both my parents are dentists and had aspirations after graduation to likely go to dental school and continue on in their footsteps. But as the story goes, my freshman year seminar was actually a class with Dr. Mark Behrens called Contemporary Education Issues. And I picked this class because I was like, well, I'm not really going to get to study education at any other time. And I find it really interesting if you had asked me when I was little, what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said, be a teacher. I'm a big school person. I think, many kids come home from school and their parents ask, "How was your day?" And they say, "Fine."


0:17:55.0 TK: And I was the kid who came home from school and my parents are like, "How was your day?" And I was like, "Well, in first period we did this. And then in second period in calculus, we learned this. And then in third period," and they probably got really annoyed with the rundown every single day, but I really just love going to school and getting to share what I was learning with them.


0:18:12.4 AS: That's so sweet.


0:18:12.7 TK: So I was excited to take this class with Mark. Yeah, it's amazing now that however many years later, Mark is now my supervisor, my boss, and very grateful to him. But he, in this class, brought in some different folks to speak to us on various contemporary education issues, one of which was school choice and education policy. So John Schoenig, who we know very well here, came in and spoke one day. And then Amy Seaman, who at the time was the director of ACE Teaching Fellows, also came in to speak. So from my very first semester freshman year, I learned about ACE and the mission of ACE Teaching Fellows. And so, it was something that was then always in the back of my mind, even though the coursework I was taking was working towards going to dental school after graduation.


0:18:57.9 TK: Yeah, so I guess continued on here over the next four years. And it just felt like there were more and more instances where I was interacting with people who were connected to the ACE Teaching Fellows program, and it didn't feel like a coincidence. And I like to call those God winks in my life, of that he, I think, was pointing me in a particular direction, even if it wasn't the one I had initially envisioned for myself. I took classes with Dr. Dan Lapsley, Dr. Nicole McNeil, I worked in her research lab in undergrad, classes with Andrea Christensen. And so, really got to know a lot of people who hold this mission near and dear to their heart very well, and it just felt like something that I needed to pay attention to. And so, after a lot of thinking and kind of back and forth, and having taken the dental school exam, but also really wanting to think about this teaching option for after graduation, decided to apply to ACE Teaching Fellows, and gratefully was accepted.


0:19:54.0 TK: And then was a middle school science teacher at All Saints Catholic School in Richmond, Virginia for my two years in ACE. So, that was a great blessing in my life, and very grateful for the path that led me there, although it might have been a little bit winding, but one that I think, looking back, it makes a lot of sense of not only the people that I encountered, all those people that I named, but I think the things that I was involved into were pointing towards that, just different opportunities to be a mentor for women in my dorm who were also STEM majors, to teach a local student how to play the clarinet at a local Catholic school, different leadership opportunities I had. I just felt like those were the moments that I felt most like myself, and I think it was just drawing me towards something that I hadn't initially pictured, but was grateful that there was an opportunity to do so after graduation.


0:20:43.6 AS: And the clarinet comes back into it.




0:20:48.6 TK: It always comes back around.




0:20:52.3 AS: Well, a couple of questions if I could. May I ask, what was your parents' reaction to dentist, and they probably thought you were going to become one? 


0:21:03.5 TK: No, they had a lot of questions for sure, but have always been so supportive of me. And so, initially, my parents and I thought that ACE was going to be a two-year gap year. I had my dental school scores. I could still use those, would likely apply during my second year of ACE and then go to dental school after that, and that was my plan and my intention in entering into ACE. So I think they were a little surprised because that pathway wasn't one that they had taken after graduating from college, but I think we were seeing it to become more and more common and thought that the experience would only aid my application and only aid my ability to be a great dentist one day. And then down the road, as it became more clear to me that education was something that I wanted to really consider as a long-term career opportunity, the conversation definitely came back up again.


0:21:51.8 TK: And again, great questions, and I think always from a place of just helping me to discern well what I was thinking and processing and feeling and just very grateful to my parents for trusting that... I don't know, I think they've always had a really deep trust in the education that I've received. They trusted Notre Dame to finish the job that they started and they came to trust ACE Teaching Fellows as well as to finish another job that had been started. And since, have just really been so grateful for the community that I have here and the community that ACE provided for me in those two years and continues to provide for me well beyond those two years as well. So, nothing but support from them and I'm very grateful to still have them both as my dentist, so.


0:22:36.3 AS: There you go. Well, perfect. Nice. You still have dentists in the family. That's a bonus. They don't have to worry about that. Is your sister becoming a dentist? 


0:22:46.1 TK: She is not. She actually just finished physical therapy school and just this week started her first PT job. So I am actually the only non-doctor in my family, which they won't let me forget, but they're still very proud of the education that I've received. So we got a lot of Dr. Kelly's in the family and one Master Kelly, I guess.


0:23:02.6 AS: Master Kelly has a nice ring to it.


0:23:05.5 TK: It does. [chuckle]


0:23:07.7 AS: Hey, and there's still time for you to become a doctor, you think? 


0:23:11.0 TK: Exactly. Who knows? 


0:23:13.8 AS: You mentioned the mission. For you personally, what do you see as the mission of ACE? 


0:23:15.9 TK: I really think about, and I think this is probably drawn from a lot of the classes that I took in undergrad and then in ACE, thinking about education as an opportunity for human flourishing. And I think in ACE Teaching Fellows most directly, that's focused on the students that we serve and providing them with that opportunity to really flourish in whatever ways that means to them, whether that's academically in the classroom, personally in extracurriculars. In my classroom, I think how I kind of embodied this was, before my first day of school, I went and was cutting out all these letters, learning how to use all the machines in my school. And the letters that went up across the front of my classroom for my students to see every day said, "We are all beloved children of God called to radiate his joy to all."


0:24:03.8 TK: And I think for me, that really captures the heart of what it means to me to be an educator, to really recognize the belovedness in others and help them to recognize that in themselves and come to know that. And then also that call to action of where do we go from there, of knowing who we are as beloved children, and I think that call to then radiate and share that with others. And for me, joy is a big thing and wanting to share that with others, but to share that out in any way that we can in whatever form that looks like for us, whether we're in seventh grade or adults, those ideas of like belovedness and radiance are things that have always stuck with me in terms of what a mission to educate looks like.


0:24:45.8 AS: That's very nice.


0:24:46.7 TK: And I ended all of my classes with, all of my slideshows for my classes, there was a slide that said, "Go spread some joy today." And so my students knew, at the end of any class with Ms. Kelly, that I was going to say, for example, like, "Fifth grade, what are we going to do today?" And they would all have to respond, "Go spread some joy today." And I think they thought it was kind of hokey sometimes, but I also know that they also appreciated it, that there were days where like, I wasn't really feeling the joy. I was maybe off a little bit in my classroom and they would say like, "Ms. Kelly, like we didn't say it." And I was like, "Oh, okay, we'll do it. What are we going to do today?"


0:25:18.6 TK: And so. They did a great job of reminding me too, of my own call to radiate joy in all that I do. And it's a slide that I still, anytime that I use this particular slide deck when I'm teaching a class typically now, still have it as the last slide. And I don't make my college students say it typically, but it's a good reminder to me of where the mission all started for me in my middle school classroom with my students and how that continues to animate hopefully the work that I'm doing here now.


0:25:50.0 AS: Well, I know you as one of the most joyful people I know, so.


0:25:54.0 TK: I'm grateful that that's something that people see in me, and I hope it's something that I can share with others as well.


0:26:00.7 AS: When I started here a few years ago, you did radiate joy and I realized that you have ups and downs yourself, but you do bring about that feeling for folks that a sense of gratitude and a sense of joy that we should all be continuing to look for. You are an inspiration for that for sure. So thank you, Taylor.


0:26:16.2 TK: Thank you, Audrey.


0:26:17.5 AS: Ms. Kelly, from the fifth graders. Boy, that middle school is, I would think that's a tough age. What did you think when you got middle school? Was that something you were hoping for? 


0:26:28.6 TK: So I'm one of the crazy people who actually did select middle school science as my top placement choice, which I know is not always common for ACE teachers to do. And that actually does credit back to Dr. Andrea Christensen. One of the classes I had taken with her was on motivation, and there's a lot of research that shows that middle school is a really critical time in continuing the motivation of students. And so if they lose motivation for school, then it's hard to get it back. But if they can maintain it through middle school, they often will be successful beyond there. And I think for me, that was a really motivating factor in wanting to teach middle school. I really saw it as a critical time to get to work with students. And hopefully, especially in science, I think I was really grateful that in middle school, science wasn't a subject that most of my students looked at as hard yet, or that they weren't a science person. I think that often can come more so in high school.


0:27:22.0 TK: And my goal was always just to make science something that my students felt was really engaging and something they were excited about and built on curiosities that they had about the world. And I hoped that just that I could instill that in them so that when they saw things again in high school, that they weren't so intimidating, but that they really felt like they could engage with the material and still be excited and curious about it even at that higher level. So that was kind of I felt like my task as their middle school science teacher, was just to inspire some inquisitiveness in my students.


0:27:53.5 AS: Challenge accepted. And I'm sure you did do that. That's a really good way to look at it, actually. Okay. You were in Virginia as an ACE Teaching Fellow. And after those two years, what did you decide to do? 


0:28:03.1 TK: Yeah. So after I finished ACE, I had an opportunity to come back here and work on the ACE team, which I think was a big decision for me. And like I alluded to earlier, wasn't the initial pathway that I had even entered into when I had started ACE, but really felt like over those two years, I had fallen in love with education and wanted to spend more time just understanding the world of education and what it looked like. And I knew that I had done a pretty hard 180-pivot from what I had studied in undergrad into my time in ACE, and so, when the opportunity presented itself to come back and work on the ACE team here, I thought it was a really great chance to get a broader look at what higher education looks like, what working for the program looks like, and some of those program administration details.


0:28:52.2 TK: In particular, I had the opportunity to come back and serve on our ACE advocates team. So helping to support our graduate network and friends of ACE, all folks who are interested in supporting the mission of the Alliance for Catholic Education and also Catholic schools all across the country. So it was a great adventure, jumping into a world that I felt unqualified, to be leading this in some ways because I myself had not spent much time in a Catholic school besides my two years as an ACE teaching fellow. But if anything, my years working with ACE advocates deepened my appreciation for Catholic education, for the students that we serve through Catholic schools, all of the educators who are part of Catholic education. It allowed me to grow in that appreciation through the people who do that work every single day.


0:29:43.1 AS: I've never seen anything quite like the support that's in place for the teaching fellows and for the ACE advocates. Does that resonate with you? 


0:29:50.2 TK: Yeah, absolutely. In my own time as an ACE teacher, I had come to appreciate how much support we did receive. And Richmond is not one of the biggest cities where we have ACE grads or even a lot of Notre Dame connections, but we had a really generous and just thoughtful couple from the Notre Dame club who they had identified themselves as ACE advocates. And they aren't graduates of any of our ACE programs, but both graduates of Notre Dame and very involved in the Notre Dame club there. And the Buckleys, Kevin and Amanda, just were so kind and welcoming to us and would have us, me and my housemates over for dinners. And Amanda actually came and volunteered in my room once a week with my eighth grade students. And she was just always so complimentary of me as a teacher, especially on days when I didn't feel like I was being a great teacher, and was such a help in so many activities I had going on in my classroom.


0:30:39.9 TK: I think she was there on the day that we dissected frogs. Like she just really jumped in on it all and was just such a great presence there. And so I think having had that experience with the Buckleys and many others who welcomed us and opened their arms to us, I also wanted to hopefully play a small part in providing that support to future ACE teachers, future Remick Leaders, Catholic schools just more broadly, and hopefully, even if it wasn't me being able to support all those people individually, like help be part of the network that was going to do that for the next generation of educators. So I definitely think of the Buckleys a lot when I think of my work of ACE advocates, because I think for me, they are exemplar advocates, even not having been graduates of our programs themselves. Yeah.


0:31:25.8 AS: Yeah. Well, that really says something about you guys and them, obviously their hearts, but it speaks to the quality of the entire program and all the individuals that make it. That's so glad that you had them and that support network of ACE advocates, whoever they may be, is just an invaluable piece, I would imagine.


0:31:44.3 TK: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, and I think to get to then be part of that and think about ways that we could better support the ACE Teaching Fellows and our Remick Leaders and all of our program participants, it was always kind of a fun puzzle of like, what are the needs right now, and then how can we best meet those needs? But then also welcoming people back to campus whenever we could. And one big way that we always get to do that is through our tailgates that we host on football Saturdays and then after the games to have mass afterwards. And so, it's kind of funny because I, in college, had never like been a sacrosanct for mass or I would sometimes be a lector, but it was not something that I spent a lot of time doing. I loved going to mass, but was not necessarily involved in like the logistics of making it happen. And it just so happened that part of this role was to be kind of the point person on those post-game masses.


0:32:34.8 TK: And in retrospect, I'm so grateful that it was, because I think that was really an entry point for me to fall in love with getting to share the faith and share that moment of spiritual nourishment with other people, and welcoming them back into a place that felt familiar, and maybe even for some people, as a place that they're a visitor to, but to make it feel welcoming and inviting. And then I think that some people must have seen some gifts in me in that, and so leading to getting to plan things like our missioning mass or our commencement masses in the Basilica, and coming to really appreciate what it means to meaningfully invite people into those spaces and to invite people into prayer and into celebration as well of big moments in their lives, of weekends spent with family or friends, of graduations, those kinds of things, and kind of where that's led me from from here.


0:33:24.1 TK: So, great thanks to Kati Macaluso for trusting that I could figure that out and ask the right people some questions to make that happen, because I think it certainly has led me down a pathway that I'm so grateful for to be a huge part of the work that I do now.


0:33:37.7 AS: And that's so excellent, because I'm guessing that that's when you were able to sort of team with Father Louis DelFra. How would you describe that part of your role and why that means so much to you? 


0:33:46.2 TK: I think there's always been a really close connection between Father Louis and ACE Advocates. He used to work much more formally with ACE Advocates, and even now in his work as Director of Spiritual Life, he's just someone that I think all of our program participants come to love. And people say anytime they can get a Father Louis homily is a great day.


0:34:04.8 AS: Amen. Yeah.


0:34:05.7 TK: And so, I think that as much as possible trying to continue to find ways for him to engage with our graduates, and I think it brings him a lot of joy and fills him up. And so, a lot of that work started maybe most formally with discernment work that we do with our second year ACE teachers. So as they're thinking about what comes next after they graduate from ACE, Father Louis...


0:34:28.0 AS: Dental school. I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding.


0:34:29.2 TK: Exactly. Right.


0:34:30.9 AS: I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Sorry.


0:34:31.6 TK: Exactly. And we have grads who have done it, so I can point them in that direction if they need to.


0:34:37.9 AS: Sorry. No, stay in education.


0:34:44.1 TK: But so with our second-year ACE teachers and that discernment work, really at the December retreat, Father Louis takes up a lot of the spiritual questions that come up in discernment of what brings me joy? What am I good at? Where can I use my gifts and talents to best serve others? And ACE Advocates as a team, I think, really tried to pair that then with practical resources based on the answers to those questions, or as you're trying to think about those questions, what can I turn towards in terms of graduates who have gone on to a particular school that I'm interested in, or a pathway that I'm interested in, or ways that I can think about connecting to a certain city where there might be a lot of ACE graduates, or things about updating my resume or LinkedIn profile.


0:35:24.6 TK: And so, a lot of the work that I did with Father Louis started kind of in that discernment realm. And it became one that kind of jokingly, I think people sometimes say like, "Oh, Taylor, you must be an expert in discernment if you're leading our ACE teachers through this." And I like to remind these teachers when I'm talking to them that I am very much discerning in my life as much as they are. And I think I was at my own second year December retreat that Christian Dallavis was leading my small group and I remember him saying to us that everyone in his ACE house all made a decision of what they were going to do after they graduated from ACE, and all of them had since moved on to at least one other thing, if not multiple other things.


0:36:03.7 TK: And I think it was a good reminder to me that we're going to always be constantly making decisions in our life. And so it's not a matter of, is this the last decision I ever make? But really, like, is this just the next best move for me? And kind of building that as a skill set of being able to discern well and to listen to the movements of the Holy Spirit in our life, to be able to listen to just where God is leading us and to take that next right step, even if the whole pathway isn't clear. And then I think I just really enjoy working with Father Louis, and I hope he feels the same way too.


0:36:35.5 AS: I know he does.


0:36:35.8 TK: But we've found a lot of opportunities then to get to collaborate and work together. The ACE Vocations Pilgrimage, each summer we'll take some current teachers and graduates who are considering a religious vocation on a pilgrimage. And so to get to engage kind of similarly, but in a deeper way and on a specific topic in those questions of discernment of where is my life leading, kind of where is God calling me to, and getting to enter into that with them. So just this summer, we went to Rome and Assisi together. And I say to people, it was such an incredible experience just in and of itself to get to be in Rome and Assisi and just some really powerful and prayerful places. But with the particular group of people that we were with too, I think I wouldn't have gotten as much out of being there if it wasn't for the ACE teachers and grads that I was there with. They just brought an incredible lens of faith to everything that we were encountering and to every small moment that we had.


0:37:38.4 AS: That sounds like such a beautiful trip, and I'm so glad that you guys were all able to be there together and be present in those moments. I know that maybe part of it, I guess I don't know, I'm going to ask you, is that you may have been discerning possibly another step for yourself. I know that you are now taking on a new role, Associate Director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives under the Director, Dr. Mark Behrens, who you mentioned earlier, so full circle to a certain extent. But help us to understand those steps in that new role.


0:38:07.3 TK: Yeah, so I'm so grateful and very fortunate that I will get to keep a lot of things that I've loved about my work with ACE and the Institute so far in this new role. And so the spirituality piece is going to be a big part of the new role and continuing to get to work on different retreats. So whether those are the Remick retreats that happen during the school year in the summer, the superintendents retreat that we host, the vocations pilgrimage that I mentioned, but also hopefully then getting to support some broader level strategic initiatives in the Institute. So, we've gone through a strategic planning process in the last couple of years here. And so now in my new role, joining a team that's hopefully helping to implement that strategic plan and make sure that all those areas of focus and goals that we have are happening and turning into objectives and key results.


0:39:00.2 TK: Just excited, I think, for the things that I am familiar with, to deepen my commitment to those things and continue to grow in especially those spiritual areas. But also really excited for new opportunities to kind of push myself and stretch myself in my own skills and in my own knowledge of, like I mentioned earlier, kind of coming to know the world of education better and the world of higher education and getting to do that with a team that I think I will get to learn a lot from too and has great experience and a lot of wisdom. And so hopefully just getting to learn from them and be a thought partner with them in the work.


0:39:36.2 AS: We are blessed to have you in that new role. So we're excited. Within the Institute for Educational Initiatives, there are a number of, well, initiatives and programs, for lack of a better word. I wonder if, in order to ground things for our listeners, can you help clarify how the Institute and ACE are connected and where they live within the university? I know that's kind of a big question, but...


0:40:02.0 TK: It's a good test for me in the new job of if I got it down right or not. So we're going to try our best here. So ACE was founded first, the Alliance for Catholic Education, and particularly our ACE Teaching Fellows Program, which people are most familiar with. But as that grew and as we wanted to have other degree programs like the Remick Leadership Program and other certificate programs and just more programs in general, it made sense to have a institute where those things could all live at Notre Dame. I think most things at a university live within colleges or institutes or centers. And so, we are an institute that can house a lot of different programs and initiatives here.


0:40:43.6 TK: So ACE is probably a really large part of the umbrella that comes underneath the Institute, and then the many programs that serve our Catholic schools that all fit underneath ACE. But then the Institute also includes some other initiatives as well, like our Center for STEM Education, our Center for Literacy Education, the ESS Program, our Education, Schooling and Society Program. So, I think it allowed us, hopefully, to be able to broaden our reach to more schools, and really within, I think, the university, the Institute is a place that is doing work in K-12 schools with a particular focus on Catholic schools always because of our deep commitment to our ACE programs. But I think it's really special because there's no other place on campus that has that kind of focus on K-12 education like the Institute does.


0:41:36.4 TK: And I think it, to me, again, speaks to that mission of human flourishing, of helping people to see their belovedness. I think getting to work with students at those ages is such a special thing and something that I am very proud as an Notre Dame grad to know that is a deep commitment here, that it's not just about the education that happened on this campus, but that is happening across the country and in schools that are serving students of all kinds of different needs, and hopefully in that way, getting to serve local communities as best we can with the knowledge that is being generated at Notre Dame.


0:42:13.1 AS: Thank you. I also work for the Institute for Educational Initiatives, so I'm under that, the housing of that. It can seem unwieldy to a certain extent. There's so much goodness going on on so many different levels. Can you help us understand a little bit more about why that's such a big focus for Notre Dame in the realm of education? 


0:42:33.0 TK: Yeah, I think it's really interesting, and maybe not everybody knows this, is Notre Dame doesn't have a college of education or a school of education. And so the work that the Institute is doing is the only work really across the university that's happening at that K-12 education level. And so, I mean, it's so important that that work is happening here. I think Notre Dame, in its mission to be a force for good in the world, education is a key way that we can do that. It's a marker that can move so many things forward for people in their lives. And I think to be able to be involved in that work in local communities across the country because of the programs that we have is just so important. And as someone who graduated from Notre Dame and believes very deeply in that mission of being a force for good, and as someone who believes very deeply in education, it makes me really proud to see what a commitment we have to education through the work of the Institute, one that I think if it didn't exist, it would be a huge missing piece of the puzzle of what Notre Dame does.


0:43:32.5 AS: It's sort of astounding, actually, how many things are actually happening within the Institute and then all the programs that are under the Alliance for Catholic Education. People say, hey, what do you do for work? It's so hard to kind of try to explain it all. It's just too much goodness. It's just too much goodness.


0:43:50.1 TK: Yes.


0:43:51.2 AS: But if somebody did say, or if your parents had to describe what you do for a living, what would you say? 


0:43:57.0 TK: Wow. I should ask my parents sometime how they would answer that question. I think that...


0:44:03.6 AS: They would just say, she's a dentist. Just kidding. Just kidding.


0:44:08.7 TK: No, no. Yeah, I think they often will refer back to my work as an ACE teacher, and then kind of continuing on from there. And I think I've always viewed my work, whether it's with ACE Advocates or in this new role with the Institute, as an opportunity to support educators. And so I think, in ACE Advocates, that was in a particular way our graduates, our former program participants, and kind of through them, then getting to support our current program participants, our current students and classrooms that they serve in across the country. And I think now, maybe I've taken even a little bit step further back, but again, like in a supportive role, hopefully to allow the work that we're doing within the Institute to be shared broadly, to be really meaningful, to be distinct in its Catholic character, and to then hopefully then share that out within the university, out within the local community, out within the United States, out even globally with the work that our Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child does.


0:45:11.7 TK: And so, I think the work to support education and kind of going back to what I said earlier, I think all of us have that call towards helping others to see their gifts and talents and their belovedness and radiate. And in a particular way in my classroom in Richmond, that was to help my students to see that. And I think now, in my work with Advocates, it was then to help our graduates to see that, and maybe even now is to help our colleagues to see that and through them then get back down to the students that we hold so near and dear to our hearts.


0:45:44.7 AS: I'm excited for that, to see how that manifests itself. Do you have some ideas how you might try to do that in your new role? How do you keep people engaged in this mission? What are you excited about doing? 


0:45:56.4 TK: It's a great question, and I think you've been picking up on this thread, Audrey, of the work of spirituality being something that's so near and dear to my heart. And it's something that I'm really excited to have as kind of a more formal part of my job description now, to really give some time and thought to how internally we can be nourishing our team spiritually and how externally we can continue to do that. While I think it's something that makes our programs really distinct, it's something that I think even within Notre Dame, we have a very deep commitment to here at ACE that is different than other places on campus and within the Institute is different than places on campus.


0:46:36.1 TK: And I think a lot of people who come to our various programs notice that distinct element and notice that there's something different here just because of the way that I think we approach our programs in a very integrated fashion that like I don't want to just give you professional development, but I know that in order for you to even take in any of this development for yourself as a person, as a teacher, as an educator in any form that you first have to be like nourished in your personal life, too, and in that spiritual way. And so, just continuing to find ways to engage people in the questions that are on their mind and the longings and desires of their heart, and to name and acknowledge those things, and to not just brush past them and get right to whatever objective that we have in mind, but really to be able to sit and walk with people and accompany them in those joys and in those challenges. And I'm hopeful that we will continue to find ways to take what makes us distinct and make it all the better and ultimately all for the greater good of the students that we serve.


0:47:37.4 AS: Thank you. Very beautiful. Sometimes it's fun to look back and be like, "Oh, wow, I made this sort of circuitous journey." Were there any signs that, yeah, I'm on the right path? 


0:47:47.9 TK: Yeah. I have a memory of coming for my interview to work on the ACE Advocates team, and one of my interviews was actually in Visitation Hall. And so there's a really beautiful stained glass window in that building of the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth. And I at the time didn't realize that that is where the source of this front of a prayer card that all of ACE teachers get during their April retreat when they're starting out on the ACE program came from. I knew the prayer card very well. It was one that I had in my car and still have in my car to this day. The lamination is getting a little worn on it, but it's still there. But it's one that I would pray every morning as I was walking into school, actually inspired by one of my ACE classmates who mentioned this ritual that he had gotten into.


0:48:37.0 TK: And there's a beautiful statue of Mary outside of my school, All Saints. And so I would stop there and say this prayer, just asking for God to bless the day and bless my students and everyone working in the ACE movement. And my coworkers kind of knew like, "Oh, Taylor's going to stop here. We'll just keep walking into the building, but this is going to be her moment of prayer." So when I came for my interview, I was just really struck by getting to see that stained glass window in person that I had seen on the back of my prayer card for so long, and it certainly felt like it was, I don't know, a sign or another God wink, but just a moment that felt like that this was something that I was in the right place at the right time.


0:49:15.8 TK: And how special now my office actually just this summer moved to Visitation Hall. So I get to walk by that stained glass window every day and think about that encounter between Mary and Elizabeth and kind of the image of accompaniment that it embodies and the way that I think it is a continued inspiration for me and wanting to accompany the people here that I work with and then the people that they serve, the educators that they serve, the students that they serve, kind of acts of accompaniment all the way through.


0:49:45.0 AS: Oh, that's wonderful. That's one of my favorites too. It's so beautiful. Well, that's such a nice story. You have a lot of God winks, and so thanks for sharing that with us.


0:49:54.1 TK: Absolutely.


0:49:55.0 AS: As you may know, we'd like to see if you're hopeful for the work that you're doing. I don't know. It just became a tradition a bit. I think it's because we work with so many hopeful people. Are you hopeful, Taylor? 


0:50:05.2 TK: I am. Yeah, it's definitely a resounding yes for me. There's so many reasons to have hope, whether that's the people that we work with, the students that we serve, the mission that underlies all of that. I think often of, especially in the work related to spiritually nourishing our graduates and now hopefully going to do that on a broader scale with our programs and within our institute community, I think often to moments in the Dillon Hall Chapel during a summer and just getting to see that space so full of people who are just alive with their faith, with this mission, with the community, with one another, knowing that now all those people and many more that weren't in that room on that particular night are all across the country doing amazing things to make sure that students know that they're loved, to help them flourish. And it just gives it gives me a lot of hope to know that they're out there and that we're doing our small part to support them in that important work of making God known, loved and served, as we like to say around here.


0:51:13.1 AS: Absolutely. Yes, making God known, loved and served. And we are so grateful for all your joyful dedication to that. And I thank you personally for taking some time out and chatting with me 'cause those are always bonus minutes for me. And truly, you have been one of the kindest people I've met here, and I'm so glad our listeners get to hear where you've come from and where you're going to be helping to take us. So, thank you so much for being here today, Taylor, for all you do.


0:51:38.4 TK: No, thank you, Audrey. Thanks for featuring the voices of our community and just continuing to support the great work of our programs.


0:51:47.0 AS: It's my pleasure. I just do have one more question for you, though. What are we going to do today? 


0:51:52.7 TK: We're gonna go spread some joy today. Woo-hoo! 


0:51:56.3 AS: Thank you, Taylor. Thank you so much.


0:51:57.8 TK: Thanks, Audrey.


0:51:58.6 AS: Okay. We'll talk to you soon. Bye-bye.


0:52:00.0 TK: Bye-bye.




0:52:01.7 AS: And 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.