ACE Teaching Fellows moving on, but leave a lasting impression on two schools

Laughing at remarks being made by Randy Simmons, principal of Peoria Notre Dame High School, during the end-of-year luncheon, Madeline Basil (left), Luke Janicki and Patty Yoritomo were honored for their work as the first Alliance for Catholic Education Teaching Fellows placed in the diocese by the University of Notre Dame. Basil and Janicki taught at St. Mark School in Peoria, while Yoritomo taught at Peoria Notre Dame. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

With the end of the school year come master’s degrees in education from the University of Notre Dame for three teaching fellows who have been serving at St. Mark School and Notre Dame High School, both in Peoria. Madeline Basil, Luke Janicki and Patty Yoritomo were honored for their work and received gifts from the Office of Catholic Schools as they prepared to bid farewell to their students.

“It’s bittersweet for me because they have definitely left a place in my heart,” said Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Peoria. “Maddie and Luke and Patty have set the stage for many, many more years of having teachers from the Alliance for Catholic Education.”

As ACE Teaching Fellows, the three committed themselves to two years of work in the classroom while continuing their studies at the University of Notre Dame. Basil, who hails from Apple Valley, Minnesota, taught fifth grade at St. Mark, and Janicki, who is from Bellevue, Washington, taught Spanish in grades four through eight and sixth grade language arts and literature.

Physics and engineering were Yoritomo’s subjects at Peoria Notre Dame. She is from Montgomery Village, Maryland, and will be teaching high school physics at an all-girls Catholic school in northern Virginia this fall. She is getting married July 1.


Basil will move to Chicago and work as the executive assistant to the executive director of a network of charter schools that is planning to expand.

Janicki is returning to the Seattle area and will be teaching high school English and English as a Foreign Language at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington. He said being part of the ACE program has helped him gain perspective on how to treat students with respect and help them develop their gifts and talents.

“I’ve learned so much from developing relationships with my students . . . and learning to interact with them on a professional level,” he said. “That’s something I’ve never done before and as a teacher that’s the most important thing, to have a good relationship with your students.”

Basil said the ACE program helped her grow more as a person than she would have in any other role.

“This program really tested me, and forced me to face my weaknesses and improve them — like confidence with public speaking and flexibility,” she said. “The ACE program was so beneficial in tough times because of the incredible support system they provide to us as beginning teachers. I am so grateful for their careful attention to personal development through reflection and discussion, as well.”

“Through ACE, I have a solid foundation in the theories of education and best practices,” Yoritomo told The Catholic Post. “My time in Peoria has allowed me to put theory into practice and learn how to be a caring, effective teacher in the classroom.

“I have also received exceptional spiritual formation in ACE and feel as if I have grown more in my faith,” she said.


That spiritual component was noticed at Peoria Notre Dame, according to Randy Simmons, principal.

“She helped bring that into the forefront of her instruction and I thought that was not only professional but well done,” he said. “That’s what all teachers should do in Catholic schools. I thought she was a great Christian and a great Catholic inspiration and example to our kids.”

Dr. Noreen Dillon, principal at St. Mark, said the ACE program brought two very talented, committed and faith-filled teachers to the school, who helped to make a difference in the lives of the students and the parish.

“The ACE program provided not only our ACE teachers with great support, but also our school,” she said. “The pastoral and academic support is outstanding.”

That will continue at St. Mark, which will receive one of four new ACE Teaching Fellows in August.

Weiss announced on May 25 that Erin McNally will be teaching Spanish at St. Mark School, and Maria Wnorowski will be teaching freshman and junior science at Peoria Notre Dame. Brandon Early and Kyle VanOverbeke will work at Holy Family School in Peoria, teaching middle school science and fourth grade, respectively.

Set to stay for two years, they will be featured in The Catholic Post this fall.

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