Mary Childers named COD Outstanding Collegewide Adjunct Faculty Member
English instructor Mary Childers has been named the College of DuPage Collegewide Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Member for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Representing the Liberal Arts Division, Childers shares a lifelong love of writing and literature with her students. Her parents supported this passion from an early age, and she had a role model in her mom, who was a special education teacher for an elementary school.
"For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be like her," Childers said. "She began taking me with her to the teacher supply store when I was around 6, and when she bought supplies and grade books, she would buy duplicates for me. I then would pretend I had students.
"My parents encouraged me to explore the world through literature, and these became safe places for me to explore as a little girl. Writing was also essential to my own identity. I wanted to understand how words came together to create different meanings for different people. I started writing notes to my family all the time, and in the third grade that turned into poetry. I am now working on my first poetry collection and enjoy writing about the experiences I go through. I'm not good at writing fiction because I would rather make sense of my own life."
As a young adult, school was hard for Childers and she couldn't find her footing. She attended her local community college and transferred to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, where she met teachers who made an impact on her.
"I thought about the difference this would have made had I met teachers like them during my formative years," she said.
"I realized I wanted to be in a position to help students like they were in to help me."
After finishing her undergraduate degree, Childers moved to Chicago and fell in love with the city but returned to North Carolina for her master's degree. During her undergraduate and graduate work at UNC Wilmington, she applied for and received the Wentworth Travel Fellowship three times to explore the relationship between an artist and a specific place. She first came to Chicago to study Ernest Hemingway, then to New York City for Joan Didion.
The third was to East Sussex, England, for her master's thesis. Childers initially wanted to focus on Hemingway but decided to make a change to Winnie the Pooh at the last minute.
"My biggest interest in academics is origin stories. When you explore what the writer was like before the text became alive, you can get a deeper meaning of what it is," she said. "My parents read me Winnie-the-Pooh when I was a girl and I loved it. In Sussex, I went hiking in Ashdown Forest, which was the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood in A.A.
Milne's stories. I was in the middle of the forest when I had this moment of realization: We create places of escapism based on our experiences and then go to those places. Winnie-the-Pooh emerged after the losses of World War I. I took a leap with my thesis and am most proud of this work, because I did it entirely for myself."
In 2017, as a second-year graduate student, Childers was a speaker on the Hemingway panel at the MLA (Modern Language Association) Conference. She participated in order to return to Chicago, where the conference was held, and first learned about COD.
"I sat next to Michelle Moore, who I found to be incredibly inspiring and composed," she said. "I later found out she was a professor at College of DuPage, so after I graduated, the only job I applied for was here.
"When I attended community college, I initially didn't want to be there. Coming to COD was like coming back to the place where I started and realizing it was a return to who I've always been."
Childers enjoys getting to know her students and helping them with their next steps, whether it is offering advice, writing a letter of recommendation or just listening to their dreams. She is appreciative of the outstanding faculty recognition as a validation of her work.
"Everything I do here is for the students. I believe in them so much and am just honored to be part of the COD English program."
Learn more about the English program at College of DuPage at cod.edu/academics/programs/english/index.aspx