The goals for Maggie Schmid’s students are straightforward: college and heaven.

It’s a motto written on a poster above the white board at the front of Schmid’s classroom at School of Our Lady in Santa Ana, serving as a daily reminder of the priorities that her third-grade students must work toward.

“We incorporate the heart and mind,” Schmid said. “We want our students to be aware of college and have higher education goals, but we also want to help them understand who they are as people. That comes before any academic goal. There’s only kindness in my classroom.”

Schmid, a 2016 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, is part of the university’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program. She’s in her second year teaching at School of Our Lady.

ACE places recent graduates in classrooms of Catholic schools across the U.S. The new teachers spend the academic year in the classroom and take graduate-level education courses during the summer. After completing the program in two years, they earn a master’s degree in education.

In Schmid’s classroom, students learn both individually and in small groups. They rotate through different subjects and activities – spelling, religious studies, math and English – often all in the same morning. Although Schmid uses traditional classroom teaching methods, she emphasizes technology as a foundation for learning. Schmid incorporates ST Math, a program used across Diocese of Orange schools that empowers students to learn at their own pace, through adaptive math programs. All students are issued an iPad or Chromebook laptop with customizable learning programs.

“Technology gives us the ability to access resources our students often don’t have at home,” Schmid said. “It also allows me to differentiate between different learning levels, allowing me to tailor instruction to each individual student. Technology keeps students engaged.”

Schmid, who grew up in South Bend, Ind., majored in psychology, but always wanted to pursue teaching, especially in schools serving Hispanic populations. She said her experience teaching in an economically diverse area like Santa Ana has been rewarding, and she’s developed a newfound gratitude for education.

“The moment you step into a teaching position you earn a gratitude for every teacher you’ve ever had,” Schmid said. “Teaching is a heavy-input profession – there’s a lot that goes into it. I’ve learned so much every day. I’ve learned that God has a plan. And it’s awesome.”


To learn more about the ACE program, visit