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Building Up Catholic Educators - ACE & ECHO at PCRHS

Providence Cristo Rey High School partners with two well-known Catholic education programs through the University of Notre Dame. Three of our teachers are part of these programs: Imani Bunn, Kelsey Hayes, and Andrew Jansen. All three were drawn to these programs because of the opportunity to teach in a Catholic school, continue their education, and take advantage of the strong supports each program offers to first-year teachers.

Kelsey Hayes is part of ECHO Teaching Theology, a two-year service-learning program that offers participants the opportunity to earn an M.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame, to serve the Church as a theology teacher, and to live in an intentional faith community with others while engaging in spiritual formation.

Kelsey teaches sophomore and junior Theology.

Kelsey, why did you pick the ECHO program?

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. My mom was one. I started out in undergrad as an elementary and special education major. I took my first Theology class on Thomas Aquinas and declared a Theology minor during my freshman year.

Soon, I realized elementary education wasn’t the best fit. I wanted to be able to go more in depth with my students, and realized that high school is the grade level that fit me best. I went to Italy for a study abroad program. We went on a retreat, and I realized I wanted to dedicate my life to God in a different way. A priest suggested that I teach Theology, and I knew that is what I wanted to do.

I looked at ECHO my junior year of college. It combines everything I love – teaching high schoolers, talking about Theology, and continuing my education.

ECHO participants live in community with each other. How is that experience?

I was excited about communal living, and was drawn to that part of the program. I live with 5 other ECHO members that serve in Indianapolis. If we have a bad day, we can talk to each other. We do night prayer, and eat dinner together three times a week. I don’t think I’d be able to do this if I was by myself. Also, having Imani and Andrew at PCRHS is great.

Imani Bunn and Andrew Jansen are Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Teaching Fellows. This is also a two-year program, and teachers are usually placed in schools with low-income or immigrant populations. ACE Fellows earn a Masters in Education from the University of Notre Dame.

Andrew teaches Geography, Geography Honors, and US History Honors.

Andrew, why did you choose the ACE program?

I think it is a cool model. It helps teachers get their master’s degree and you work in areas of the country that need teachers. Your placement is really wide open, and I am happy to be in Indianapolis. This is the farthest north that I’ve ever lived.

How is living in Indianapolis?

I am from Lexington, Kentucky so I am only three hours from where I grew up. I live with 5 other teachers. Everyone is going through the same experience of being a new teacher, and they keep you grounded. My favorite place to eat in the city is Papa Roux – I love their fried gator.

Imani Bunn teaches Biology and Environmental Science.

Imani, why did you pick the ACE program?

I liked ACE for a number of reasons. They care about forming good teachers, and that was something that was important to me. I like that it is a Catholic program that puts teachers in schools that need them the most. I also knew I would have a lot of support in this program. They know you will not be an excellent teacher at the very start, but that you grow over time. I have a wonderful mentor teacher here, Anna Sluka. I feel very supported and encouraged by her. She goes above and beyond to help me grow as a teacher.

ACE Fellows teach a variety of subjects, and yours is science. Why did you select that area?

I love the sciences. I loved it in high school, and studied it all through college. I love the subject material and love inspiring wonder in students. There are a lot of things that are awe inspiring about nature. I think teaching kids science is so important. You are teaching them about the world, but also about how to reason. You are teaching them how to make a claim and support it correctly. In 5 months they may not remember every detail, but they will remember how to design an experiment and that is really important.

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