ND Journey: Mike Macaluso's Path from Leprechaun Mascot to Associate Teaching Professor at Notre Dame

Author: Jessica Frazier

Professor Michael Macaluso is a “Double Domer,” having earned both his undergraduate degree at Notre Dame and master of education degree through the Alliance for Catholic Education.

During his undergraduate studies, Macaluso pursued political science and English through the College of Arts and Letters. He credits the choice to study these diverse subjects with shaping his education in a unique way.

“It pushed me and propelled me as a thinker and especially as a writer,” Macaluso says. “It made a huge difference in how I was able to express ideas and make arguments. I really value that I had both of those disciplines as my background at Notre Dame.”

Macaluso had a distinct experience serving as the Notre Dame leprechaun mascot for three years. His time as the mascot allowed him to travel with the football team and connect with Notre Dame fans nationwide.

Professor Macaluso as Notre Dame leprechaun mascot.

What started out as something fun soon turned into some of Macaluso’s fondest Notre Dame memories from his undergraduate years. “People would just come up to me and share what they loved about Notre Dame and how they loved it and grew up rooting for the team,” he says. “It was sort of this transcendent experience where I was able to see beyond much more than myself as a mascot of a university, but really be able to hear people’s stories and get to know them on a personal level.”

After five years as a high school English teacher and after earning his Ph.D. in education, Macaluso returned to Notre Dame. Presently, he serves as an associate teaching professor for the Institute for Education Initiatives, teaching a broad range of courses with the education, schooling, and society and Alliance for Catholic Education programs.

Among his favorite courses to teach is Issues of Diversity in Young Adult Literature. The course involves reading contemporary young adult books and contemplating the representation of students’ identities in traditional English classrooms. “It’s a great way of thinking about what is going on in the world today and using young adult literature as a lens to do that,” says Macaluso.

Macaluso’s primary research is focused on critical approaches to English education and the significance of literacy in  middle and high school classrooms.

Resulting from his research, Macaluso established the Alexandria Book Award. This award acknowledges books suitable for incorporation into school classrooms and entails crafting a curriculum based on them to revamp traditional teaching content. Supported by the Institute for Education Initiatives, the Alliance for Catholic Education, and Center for Literacy Education, these books are distributed out to teachers and classrooms nationwide.

Professor Mike Macaluso Alexandria Book Award

In 2022, Macaluso was awarded the Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.  Macaluso’s dedication to teaching and guiding undergraduate students in the teaching profession finds its culmination in his work with the Alliance for Catholic Education program.

“It's really fun to work with these new teachers and help them think about what they want their classroom to look like and what kind of teacher they want to be, and then working with them through their classroom and through their coursework to help them actualize their vision for teaching,” Macaluso says.

Drawing from his experience as a former high school teacher, Macaluso also instructs in the Notre Dame Pre-College program. This program allows high school students to undertake a college-level course on Notre Dame’s campus for a two-week duration.

Macaluso teaches the Summer Scholars course Learning by Design: Visual Design and the Learning Sciences and says he enjoys working with high school students who are challenging themselves while also getting a glimpse of a Notre Dame education.

To learn more about Professor Macaluso’s journey at Notre Dame as both a student and professor, watch the video above.