Faculty Stories: Mary Clare Sullivan

Faculty Stories: Mary Clare Sullivan

Mary Clare Sullivan
Department: Continuing Education/

High School Equivalency/ICAPS

After earning bachelor’s degrees in both Finance and Accounting from DePaul University, Mary Clare Sullivan spent 10 years in the financial industry, first as a government regulator and then as Director of Compliance for two different brokerage firms, managing more than 50 branch offices nationwide.

She discovered teaching during her 12 years as a volunteer head coach in track and field and cross country at a middle school in Elmhurst.

“I saw many undeveloped, untrained, self-conscious pre-teens transform into successful and confident student athletes ready to continue their success in high school,” she said. “Many of my runners went on to York High School, where they became part of the top seven runners for the legendary cross-country coach Joe Newton. I seemed to have a knack of motivating even the most reluctant participant, and we all enjoyed each other, the process of training, and most definitely the successful competition.

“As my program grew in size and reputation, parents encouraged me to continue to teach and motivate students in the classroom. That is how I decided to become a teacher.”

Sullivan earned her Master of Art in Teaching and began a second career teaching American government/civics, U.S. history, AP human geography, business and computer concepts at both Addison Trail High School and York High School in Elmhurst.

Sullivan discovered how fulfilling it was to teach adult learners when she began teaching economics for Continuing Education at College of DuPage and. She was asked to join the ABE/GED/ESL department to teach both GED Review and Math, and she contributed to the development of the Integrated Career and Academic Preparation System (ICAPS) program, in which students can work on their GED while earning a COD certificate in information technology or welding. Because of her background in performing academic audits of Cisco Systems Networking courses and conducting independent research on the Cisco Networking Academy, she helped plan the ICAPS CCNA Certification and GED Preparation program.

“Co-teaching the courses has been an enormously fulfilling experience,” she said. “My first cohort of students passed all four content areas of the GED examination and all five college courses in the certification sequence, earning 14 college credit hours. All but one passed the industry examinations earning both the CCENT and CCNA certificates. Additionally, I helped get the CompTIA+ cohort started by teaching math, science and co-teaching CIT 1100.

“I want to provide my students with the encouragement, support, training, soft skills and self-confidence needed to be successful in life. Many of my students face all manner of challenges. I want them to know that I care about them and understand how their various health, home and work situations affect their daily lives and classroom performance. By providing my students with the tools to overcome and manage these challenges and by showing compassion and support, I believe that they will begin to believe in themselves and confidently move forward to reach their educational and career goals.”

In return, Sullivan is inspired by her students.

“Each time a student looks up at me in wonder at their good test score, passes a certification exam, completes a successful job interview or gets a job offer, I am thrilled. Seeing their newly found self-confidence, I know that I have had a positive influence and may be partially responsible in helping them change their life.”

More about the High School Equivalency program

More about the ICAPS program