Meet the Staff

Guidance Counselors

Mr. Erik Christensen ’97, MSW, LCSW
Department Director
Entering into his 13th  school year at Marist High School, Mr. Christensen is a proud graduate of the class of 1997.  He received his Masters of Social Work Degree from Dominican University in 2003, and is currently serving as the Director of the Guidance Department.  He has been a licensed clinical social worker since 2007.  Mr. Christensen adheres to a cognitive behavioral approach and also realizes the benefits of psycho-dynamic and system theories to help promote and encourage change in the school community.  In private practice since 2007, some of his areas of clinical focus include:  adolescents, men's issues, mood disorders, family issues, and educational/school issues.  He believes we all have many roles we play in life.  Some of the hats he wears include father, coach, mentor, friend, colleague, counselor and therapist.  These experiences guide his work with the students of Marist.  Some personal interests include sports, humor, reading and spirituality.

Ms. Holly Cox, MA, LCPC, CDC
Ms. Cox graduated from the University of Illinois with a dual degree for Elementary Education and Special Education, and taught a variety of year levels for 13 years before earning her Master's Degree in Counseling from Governor's State University.  She has been a member of the Marist Guidance Department for the past 23 years.  She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, a Certified Dream Coach®, and a Certified Dream Coach Group Leader®.  In additional to her work in the Marist Guidance Department, Ms. Cox is the head coach of the Marist Speech Team and has worked in private practice as a therapist since 1998.  She recently created and trade-marked the Live Like You Are Priceless™ program designed to empower individuals to recognize their own priceless value and begin to "market" it to the world.  She and her team deliver full-day Live Like You Are Priceless™ workshops at various locations on Saturdays throughout the year.

Mr. Patrick Hennessy, MA, NBCC, LPC
Mr. Hennessy is beginning his 41st year at Marist High School.  He holds a BS degree from Quincy College in Psychology and an MA degree from Chicago State University in Secondary Guidance and Counseling.  Mr. Hennessy is also a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Illinois and is Nationally Board Certified.  He holds a Certificate in Grief Recovery and over the years has sponsored numberous support groups for students who have suffered a significant loss in their lives.  He describes the work with these grief groups as "some of the most rewarding of his career."  Mr. Hennessy also coaches boys and girls soccer and loves his time spent with the Kairos Retreat program.

Mrs. Cathaleen Novak, LCSW
Mrs. Novak is entering her first year at Marist High School as a School Social Worker.  She graduated from Chicago State University in 2005 with her Master of Social Work degree.  Mrs. Novak began her social work career in the non-profit sector working as an advocacy counselor for adults and children with epilepsy.  Her interest was piqued in school social work and she returned to Aurora University in 2006 to complete her Illinois Educator’s License with an endorsement in School Social Work.  Mrs. Novak interned in a high school setting but ultimately began working in a public elementary district in 2007 and remained there for eight years.  Mrs. Novak has extensive experience working with students and families with a wide-range of social-emotional and environmental challenges.  She is also very familiar and versed in special education law and programs.  Mrs. Novak enjoys taking a proactive approach with students by implementing programs and groups that encourage and empower healthy adolescent development.  In her free time, Mrs. Novak enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, running, and reading.

Ms. Maggie Reif, MSW, LCSW
Ms. Reif graduated in 2004 with her Masters in Social Work from Dominican University.  Her Post Masters studies were done at Loyola University where she earned her Illinois Educator's License with a School Social Work Endorsement.  She joined the counseling department at Marist High School in 2007.  Ms. Reif is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has a specific certification to counsel military family members and their families.  Ms. Reif is a member of the National Association of Social Workers in good standing.  Her clinical interests include military families and children, and adolescents with a history of trauma.  Currently, Ms. Reif is training to become a Gottman Therapist through The Gottman Institute.  In her free time, Ms. Reif enjoys spending time with her children and family, and she can always be found cheering on the Marist hockey team and players.

Mr. Patrick Ryan ’01, MA, MS
Mr. Ryan, a 2001 graduate, is in his 8th year at Marist High School.  He earned a Master's Degree in Higher Education Administration from Illinois State University in 2007.  After serving as a discipline case manager and a residence hall coordinator at I.S.U. for three years, Mr. Ryan worked as a college counselor at Marist for 6 years.  During this time he earned another Master's Degree in School Counseling from St. Xavier University and became an Illinois licensed school counselor.  As of  July 2014 he shifted roles from college counselor to the role of guidance counselor.  Outside of Marist he teaches graduate level courses in crisis counseling, counseling theories and techniques, multicultural counseling and school counseling at St. Xavier University.  In his spare time he enjoys living on the north side of Chicago, volunteering with the Night Ministry performing outreach work to homeless youth, and spending time with his family who continue to live in St. Linus parish. 

College Counselors

Mrs. Nicki Peterson, MA
(Last Names A-L)
Mrs. Peterson is beginning her second year at Marist High School.  She has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a Master of Arts degree in School Counseling from St. Xavier University.  She has previously worked as a Guidance Counselor in both a Functional/Life Skills Program and a Credit Recovery Program in District 228.  She specialized in working with students with intellectual disabilities, students on the autism spectrum, and at-risk upperclassmen who were credit deficient.  She also assisted students and their families in transition planning, specifically devising plans for making successful transitions into adulthood.  She is a member of the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling.

Mrs. Kim Myers, MA
(Last Names M-Z)
Mrs. Myers is beginning her 17th year as College Counselor at Marist High School.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Quincy University and a Masters of Arts in Education from Saint Xavier University.  Before joining the Guidance Department at Marist, she worked in College Admissions for 21 years; the last few as Director of Admissions at SXU.  She is a member of the Illinois Association of College Admission Counseling and the National Association of College Admission Counseling.  She has served on the Admission Advisory Boards of Marist College, Northern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She currently holds a seat on the Advisory Board of the University of Illinois at Chicago.  This past winter Mrs. Myers was on the evaluation team of St. Joseph's Academy in Texas.  She has been a presenter/resource for Hope Hospital Pediatric Cancer students, as well as presenting over the years at her state organization.  Mrs. Myers is a proud parent of a Marist alum.

Learning Specialists

Mrs. Margie Sweeney, BS
Learning Resource Program Director

Mrs. Sweeney graduated in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Special and Regular Education from Illinois State University.  In the eyes of the State of Illinois, she is considered a "Highly Qualified" Learning Behavior Specialist.  She was employed in School District 123 Oak Lawn - Hometown from 1989-2000.  In 2000 she chose to stay home with her three small children.  After conquering cancer in 2004 she joined The Beverly Breast Cancer Walk Committee, where she remains an active member.  In the spring of 2009, she joined the Marist faculty and worked with the talents of Mrs. Barb Duffy and Brother Vito Aresto.  Currently, she is the Learning Resource Program Director and the Director of the Marcellin Program.  She enjoys working with the struggling student, offering them strategies and teaching them how to advocate for themselves.  She has been a member of The Council of Exceptional Children for 25 years.  In her free time Mrs. Sweeney enjoys spending time with her husband and children, traveling and gardening.

Mrs. Erin Kelly, MA
Learning Resource Program Assistant Director

Mrs. Kelly is beginning her 13th school year at Marist High School.  Prior to joining the Learning Resources team in 2013, she taught in the Marcellin Program for 10 years.  She earned a BA in Liberal Arts from Marquette University and an MA from St. Xavier University in Reading.  She also holds a Type 9 Certificate in Secondary Education grades 6-12, and a Type 10 Certificate in Special Education with a Reading Specialist License.  Mrs. Kelly is also trained in the Wilson Reading System.  She is an active member in the Learning and the Brain Professional Organization, as well as a member of the International Reading Association.  In addition, Mrs. Kelly directs the Marist High School Choir and is Co-Director of the Marist Theatre Guild.  She is a proud parent of seven current and future Marist alums.

Administrative Support

Mrs. Sharon Gainer
Mrs. Gainer  has served as the Registrar and Secretary to the Guidance Department for the past nine years.  A graduate of Illinois State University, she received a Bachelor of Social Work degree and worked for several years in various capacities in social services.  A profession change to "Customer Service" resulted in a 15 year career in Corporate Training and Development.  The adjustment to a school environment took no time at all.  Mrs. Gainer loves the relaxed "family" atmosphere at Marist.  Her favorite part of her job is interacting with the students, whom she describes as always very respectful, friendly and a lot of fun.