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Faculty Focus: November 2018

November 1, 2018

Get to know history buff, baseball coach, Western Springs native and Social Studies Teacher Steve Sulak.

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Mr. Sulak grew up in Western Springs, IL, and attended St. John of the Cross Grade School (and Lyons Township High School). He also is an Assistant Coach for the Friars' sophomore baseball team.

What is your educational background?

SS: I received my Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University, where I double-majored in History and Journalism, as well as a Master of Education degree in Secondary History Education from DePaul University.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

SS: Before going into teaching I put my journalism degree to use working for the Suburban Life and their group of local newspapers. Prior to teaching at Fenwick I taught at Loyola Academy and Deerfield High School.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

SS: Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore. I started it over the summer before my trip to Israel, but haven’t finished yet – there’s a lot to read about such an important and old city!

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

SS: In my free time I love listening to music, reading, watching as much baseball as possible, cooking and traveling as much as I can.

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

SS: I played basketball and was part of the Latin and Conservation clubs.

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

SS: I’m an assistant coach on the sophomore baseball team.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

SS: I truly enjoy how thoughtful and reflective Fenwick students are. They want to learn and achieve at a high level, which makes my job as a teacher much easier. They also have a great sense of community, which is something that sets Fenwick apart from other institutions and can be seen in the amount of alumni that come back to visit, and even work at, the school. [Sulak, a Western Springs, IL native, is an alumnus of Lyons Township H.S. For grade school he attended St. John of the Cross.]

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

SS: I always loved history; it was always my favorite subject in school, which is why I majored in it at Syracuse. After graduating and spending some time in the journalism world, I decided it was time to go back to my original interest and passion. I love talking about all sorts of historical and cultural topics. Being able to do that on a daily basis is fantastic, but being able to help others understand the world around them is even better.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?

SS: I think most people would say I’m pretty enthusiastic, and that it comes through in the classroom.  If you enjoy what you’re doing it will show, and everyone around you will be better for it.

What are your favorite classes to teach?

SS: I currently teach Western and World Civilizations, and U.S. History. I enjoy each for different reasons. U.S. History is great because we’re so much more connected to it. But with world history there is so much to know, and it is fulfilling to see students learn and be interested in something they previously had no idea existed.

What is your philosophy of education?

SS: I want students to see how things that happened in the past have an impact on today’s world. Everything that happened in our past helped created the world we live in, and I want students to see those connections. In class I often ask, “How does this relate to us today?” I also want students to interact with the material on a personal level so they can be informed, worldly participants with their own interpretations and viewpoints.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

SS: I like seeing students develop over the course of a school year. It’s wonderful to see students develop in ways that will suit them for the future, such as writing, analysis and reasoning.

What challenges face students today?

SS: Expectations. It’s wonderful that Fenwick students want to achieve at such a high level, but I think they can put too much pressure on themselves. In conjunction with this, colleges and our culture expect high school students to do so much -- and these expectations [can] become a tremendous burden. This has resulted in students becoming overworked and over-stressed.

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