Liza Sullivan designs in-person and online continuing education programs for adult learners at Erikson. She has more than a decade of personal and professional experience in the field and is a strong advocate for the integration of informal and formal early childhood education.
Sullivan began her professional career in northern California as an elementary education classroom teacher, with an interest in Whole Language, Reading Recovery, differentiated instruction, and parental involvement.
She returned to her native Chicago and joined Chicago Children’s Museum where, for five years, she was manager and director of student and educator programs, designing on-site and off-site programs for both students and area elementary teachers. For three years, she served as the assistant vice president of education, overseeing the museum’s daily operations, as well as internal and community-based programs that reached over a quarter of a million children and educators per year.
As part of her advocacy of “free play” and “nature play,” pedagogical movements gaining popularity throughout the United States, Sullivan has authored several articles and blogs, and has presented at local and national conferences. She is the co-founder of ThroughPlay, an early childhood educational resource, which supports the facilitation of innovative play experiences and the utilization of Chicago’s natural environment to educate young children.
B.A. in elementary education and psychology, University of Iowa
M.A. in learning sciences, Northwestern University
Related Experience and Service
- The Alliance for Early Childhood. Board Member and Co-Chair, Let’s Play Initiative (September 2009–present). Established a new initiative to support parents, educators, and community members in facilitating child-initiated free play in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs.
- Family Action Network of New Trier Township Schools. Early Childhood Chair Board Member (May 2010–present). Assisted in the coordination of educational programs and workshops for parents.
- Children and Nature Gathering of Grassroots Leaders (August 2012). Participated in a gathering of 130 regional leaders to share local, regional, and national strategies for connecting children and nature.
- Erikson Institute, Adjunct Faculty Member (October 2009–April 2011). Led bi-weekly tutorial meetings with assigned students in the Master of Science in Child Development program. Worked collaboratively with the students and internship supervisors to establish and meet required goals for internship experiences.
- KaBOOM! National Park-A-Day Summer Challenge Participant (June–August 2010). With her own children, visited 50 playspaces in 50 days throughout the Chicagoland area. Posted online blogs and photographs to support other caregivers in understanding the value of children’s play and increased time for play. One of six play advocates featured in KaBOOM!’s Family Play, Family Well-Being YouTube video (May 2012).
- North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (November 2009). Participant in a weeklong study group to Reggio Emilia, Italy, to learn about the Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education.
- Northwestern University, Research Analyst for the Distributed Leadership for Middle School Mathematics Education Project (October 2005–March 2006). Assisted with the implementation, data collection, and analysis of a project seeking to make the day-to-day practice of school leadership for instruction more transparent by examining how school leaders work to manage and improve instruction.
- Teach Abroad Program, Assistant Teacher, Auckland, New Zealand (1996). Implemented and directed computer and video use in the classroom. Aided in Reading Recovery Program and conducted Reading Records. Initiated second, third, and fourth grade United States–New Zealand exchange program.
The Benefits of Family Time in Chicago Wilderness and One Family’s Approach to Days in Chicago Wilderness. Guest blog posts for the Chicago Wilderness website published in June 2012.
Nowhere to Go and All Day to Get There Days. Article about the benefits of children’s play for caregivers, published in the Spring–Summer 2012 issue of Early Childhood, the newsletter of The Alliance for Early Childhood.
Children’s Play is for Parents, Too. Article about the benefits of children’s play for caregivers, published in the Fall/Winter 2011–12 issue of Early Childhood, the newsletter of The Alliance for Early Childhood.
My Family’s Park-A-Day Summer Challenge. Article about the benefits of outdoor free play for children, published in the Spring–Summer 2011 issue of Early Childhood, the newsletter of The Alliance for Early Childhood.
“The Benefits of Parenting In Nature.” November 2012. Speaker at Chicago Wilderness’ Congress presenting documentation from two years of visiting over 200 parks, forest preserves, nature centers, beaches, farms, playgrounds, and museums across the Chicago area with her family and providing concrete ideas for promoting nature play-based learning.
“Articulating the Power of Play.” October 2011. Co-facilitator and speaker at Chicago Public Library Early Literacy Training programs for 120 early childhood librarians.
“Where World Leaders & Thinkers Come To Chat.” August 2011. Interviewed by Dr. Alvin Jones on activities in promoting early childhood play in the Chicago area.
“Power Players: Advocating for Play on the Local Level.” February 2011. Speaker at United States Play Coalition Conference on the Value of Play.
“Articulating the Value of Play.” January 2011. Co-facilitator and speaker at Chicago Metropolitan Association for the Education of Young Children Conference.
“Uncovering the Power of Play.” July and August 2010. Continuing education course at Erikson Institute.
2012 U.S. President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Community Leadership Award.
KaBOOM! Playmaker of the Month Award, November 2010.