By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Four young Notre Dame teaching fellows who are serving in the Archdiocese of Louisville say Catholic education formed them — mind, body and spirit — and inspired them to give back to Catholic schools.
Thomas Bergan, Madeleine Corcoran, Maddy Schreiter and Joseph Kelley — new graduates of Catholic colleges — are the first group of teachers from the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance of Catholic Education (ACE) program to serve in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Bergan teaches fifth-grade at St. Nicholas Academy, Corcoran teaches math at Presentation Academy and Kelley and Schreiter teach at Holy Cross High School.
The foursome recently discussed Catholic education and their new roles during an interview at their home in south Louisville.
Kelley, a native of South Bend, Ind., is a graduate of Notre Dame, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and theology.
Kelley said he always wanted to be a teacher.
“I felt called to give back to Catholic education,” he said, noting that he attended Catholic schools through college.
“Catholic education forms the whole person. I can see it in myself, my siblings and my friends. There’s a commitment to our faith and a lifetime of catechesis that comes from going to Catholic school,” he said.
Kelley said he’s noticed that there are “elements of community” that are easier to find in Catholic schools.
He experienced it during his time as a student and now as a teacher, he said.
“I’m experiencing it right now at Holy Cross High School. The thing that makes Holy Cross what it is is the community there,” said Kelley.
Schreiter, who is also serving at Holy Cross High School, is a graduate of Gonzaga University where she went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to become Catholic. Schreiter said her father has been a teacher for more than three decades and she wanted to follow in his footsteps.
“I loved the relationships he made with his students,” she said. In college she became “passionate” about teaching history, especially U.S. history. “It’s important to understand our nation’s history and how we’re a part of it.”
She believes in Catholic schools because they “educate the whole person,” she said.
“At the end of Mass we’re told to go forth and be disciples and bring about the kingdom of God. In Catholic schools students are formed to go out and do that work.”
Bergan, who is serving at St. Nicholas Academy, agrees that Catholic schools are unique in what they offer.
“Catholic education allows for discussions of a greater nature than would be allowed in public schools,” said Bergan, a graduate of St. Louis University.
Bergan said he attended public school through eighth-grade, but had the benefit of being formed by Benedictines in high school and by Jesuits during his college years.
“Catholic schools are necessary because they allow for the discussion of God and religion,” said Bergan. “To be able to talk unapologetically about the life of Jesus Christ or the Beatitudes is something special.”
This can be beneficial even for students who are not Catholic, he added.
Corcoran is teaching mathematics at Presentation Academy. Corcoran said she is the “product” of Catholic education and that her teachers inspired her to seek a career in the classroom. They also helped shape her into the person she is today, she said.
“Catholic schools teach you beyond what a textbook or a standard curriculum can teach. It’s the education of the whole self,” said Corcoran. “And being able to bring your faith and values into the classroom every day was a huge draw for me.”
She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from St. Mary’s College, an all women’s college in Notre Dame, Ind. Corcoran noted that the “community aspect” of Catholic schools are also important.
“I’ve been a part of great Catholic communities all my life. It’s helped to foster me as a student, a community member and in all aspects of my life,” she said. She’s noticed that same strong community at Presentation Academy, she said.
The new teachers said they are enjoying getting to know their students and the community. They attend Mass at St. Lawrence Church.
The ACE program was developed in 1994 by Congregation of Holy Cross Priest Father Timothy Scully with the mission of recruiting “talented” college graduates to teach in “under-resourced” Catholic schools, according to the University of Notre Dame’s website.
The four young people will work towards a master’s degree in education as they serve in the archdiocese over the next two years, they said. ACE provides a network of professors who help guide them through the program as well as priests who provide spiritual guidance. They are also connected to teachers who have gone through from the ACE program.
ACE has 180 teachers serving about 13,500 students in 120 Catholic schools across the nation, according to the website.