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You're the Reason: The Billiken Teacher Corps Thrives

You're the reason Saint Louis University students have the tools to make a difference through service organizations, experience innovative learning opportunities and so much more.

One of those special learning opportunities, the Billiken Teacher Corps (BTC), is what drew graduate student Megan Kelly (GRAD ED '23) to St. Louis from her native California, where she grew up in a small agricultural town and went on to earn undergraduate degrees in child studies, history and Spanish studies at Santa Clara University.

SLU graduate students participating in the Billiken Teacher Corps gather around a play school bus.

Donors are the reason SLU is able to offer unique service-learning opportunities like the Billiken Teacher Corps, which benefits both SLU students and the wider community.  File photo.

A unique program for faith-driven college graduates, BTC aims to form the next generation of Catholic educators through service, learning and spiritual growth in community. Participants teach full-time in under-resourced Catholic schools in the St. Louis area while earning their Master of Arts in Teaching degree at SLU with full tuition remission. The 12 to 14 educators in each cohort come from a variety of undergraduate degree programs, including math, history, religion and more. They live together in an intentional faith community during their two years in the program. 

“I knew I wanted an intentional community; I knew I wanted to be able to serve a population that really needed teachers who could dedicate everything they have in the moment," said Kelly, who teaches fourth grade full time at St. Frances Cabrini Academy in St. Louis. “It checked off a bunch of things off my list and gave me a little bit of sense of adventure and trying to live somewhere new.”

The BTC comes with a long list of benefits for both its members and the schools where they teach. 

Megan Kelly, wearing a blue dress, stands in front of a row of dark green lockers in an elementary school hallway.
SLU graduate student and member of the Billiken Teacher Corps Megan Kelly (Grad Ed '23) teaches fourth grade at St. Frances Cabrini Academy in St. Louis.

“Not only are we getting to learn the best practices that the grad school has to offer — so we have all the newest and latest information about teaching, which our schools really value — I also work in a school that serves a population of immigrants and refugees,” Kelly said. “We have students from 15 different countries, so I get a really cool opportunity to learn about all the different cultures and languages and religions that my students have. I get to learn about different family dynamics that I didn’t necessarily grow up with.”

BTC members also receive high levels of teaching and spiritual support, including a summer orientation, two retreats each school year, one-on-one instructional coaching, bi-monthly spirituality nights and workshops led by expert faculty with more than 30 years of experience in high-needs schools. Donor support makes much of this possible; the generosity of SLU alumni and friends also enables the program’s scholarships, technical teaching support workshops and community-building opportunities.

Kelly’s after-school activities depend on the day, but they usually revolve around community activities with her fellow BTC members.

“Mondays we have prayer days," Kelly said. "Sometime during the week, we’ll go to a sporting event of another school just to kind of support each other. 

Some members coach sports or tutor after school, and on Thursdays, the group has class from 4 to 7 p.m. Then, of course, there’s lesson planning and homework.

While being a BTC member makes for a busy schedule, Kelly said it’s been a huge time of progress and learning.

“I can take what I’m learning from the grad school courses and use it the very next day in my lesson, so it’s a really cool opportunity to integrate things straight away,” she said. “And then in the next class, I can go talk about what worked and what didn’t.”

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the BTC continues to make a difference for its students and the wider community.

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