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Billiken Teacher Corps Celebrates Five Years of Serving Local Catholic Schools


Guided by the Jesuit emphasis on academic rigor and service to others, SLU's Billiken Teacher Corps is celebrating its fifth anniversary and its latest cohort of new student teachers working in local Catholic schools.

Billiken Teacher Corps

The Billiken Teacher Corps is celebrating five years. Here, a past cohort prays together. Photo by Jay Fram

Developed by staff and faculty members in the School of Education during the 2014-2015 school year, the corps pursues the University's mission by placing new SLU graduates in teaching roles in under-resourced local Catholic schools.

Since the corps's founding, about six new students are placed in schools each year as teachers.

The Billiken Teacher Corps is based on the Alliance for Catholic Education at Notre Dame, and programs like the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and Teach for America. Billiken Teacher Corps members live together in an intentional faith community housed on the grounds of St. John the Baptist parish in south St. Louis. As part of the program, Billiken Teacher Corps members earn a Master of Arts in Teaching degree with full tuition remission from the University.

Billiken Teacher Corps 2017
Members of the 2017 cohort of the Billiken Teacher Corps pray to start their year. Submitted photo

The program began in June 2015. The corps's most recent cohort of first and second-year teachers began their school years in Catholic schools in both Missouri and Illinois.

In its first five years, three cohorts have graduated from the program and many have gone on to teach in Catholic schools.

"Anyone who has ever taught knows that teachers learn from their students," Ronny O'Dwyer, S.J., director of the Billiken Teacher Corps, told Universitas, SLU's alumni magazine in fall 2016. "So to the students, too, we say teach me — teach me how to be Christ for you."

The program's members have also served students beyond their classrooms, hosting the Catholic School Olympics on SLU's campus in January 2019 among other service activities. The Olympics brought hundreds of grade and high school students from across the Archdiocese of St. Louis to campus for a day of contests and activities including  sports, trivia contests and dance lessons. Younger students made rosaries, played winter-themed games and decorated cookies with SLU student volunteers.

Catholic School Olympics 2019

Students from local Catholic schools join members of the Billiken Teacher Corps and other SLU volunteers from organizations including the Institute for Catholic Education, Billiken Teacher Corps Alumni Chapter, the School of Education, the University’s Catholic Studies Program, the SLU Children’s Miracle Network Dance Marathon, Alpha Delta Gamma fraternity, the University’s Cheer and Dance Team and SLUnatics to learn dance moves at the Simon Recreation Center as part of the Catholic School Olympics in January 2019. Submitted photo

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.