Northeast Woman: Teen Educator Gives Youth Tools To Navigate Life
Patty McLain landed her dream job. Then, she left it.
For more than a decade, the Spring Brook Twp. resident worked as a teacher, a job she loved to go to every day, until she felt a different path call to her. She went on to pursue a career that fulfilled her generous spirit and let her pay it forward in ways she never could have imagined.
McLain works as a teen educator for the Women’s Resource Center, which serves abuse survivors and others in crisis throughout Lackawanna and Susquehanna counties. WRC also helps the community through outreach programs, which is where McLain comes in. The role makes for the perfect position for McLain, whose journey into education started with her own time as a student.
“I wanted to become a teacher because there were so many teachers who saw the best in me and guided me through,” McLain said during a recent afternoon at WRC. “I wanted to pay it forward and be that for someone else.”
As a high school English teacher, McLain imparted lessons to students in the Poconos before expanding her role to instructional coaching, administrator training, extracurricular advising and curriculum development. Her work led her to teach and spend time with students of all different skill levels regarding specifics of their academics. But she noticed the students also struggled socially and emotionally. And as time went, McLain started to feel her mission to give students the tools for success wasn’t aligning with the rigors of curriculum, including standardized testing. She started to feel the focus had shifted away from the students.
“My goal was to always let them know what they are capable of and remind them they matter,” McLain said. “It wasn’t easy, because I loved my students and the district, but, at some point, I made that decision (to leave).”
After she left teaching, McLain happened upon a Women’s Resource Center job posting for a teen educator. The posting specifically noted the person would work to empower students, and McLain knew it was for her.
In that position, McLain works with the center on community initiatives, including the Safe Dates program in schools. Safe Dates is an evidence-based program that targets attitudes and behaviors associated with dating abuse and violence. McLain has worked with students from grades seven through 12 throughout Riverside, Abington Heights and Scranton school districts as well as NEPA Youth Shelter Teen Drop-In Shelter. Over the course of 10 sessions, the students learn to define a healthy relationship and how to spot signs of abuse and other red flags. They receive lessons on consent, date rape and sexual assault. They also go over guidelines on how to help someone who is abused and how to help those who are abusive.
McLain works with students to lay the groundwork for healthy communication in relationships, romantic or otherwise.
“What a lot of relationships boil down to is communication, and we really go over how to effectively and clearly communicate in those interpersonal relationships,” she said. “We talk about mindfulness and taking a second to breathe and think before we react. Then, ask questions and figure out feelings before trying to find solutions.”
Giving young people the confidence and tools to succeed remains a staple in McLain’s life. Outside of WRC, she is a public speaker and published author who has written books on empowering teens. She also stays involved with global nonprofits to empower teens, including her role as school programming and student empowerment adviser for Everyone Matters. Locally, she has worked with NEPA Youth Shelter and NEPA Rainbow Alliance. She is an ordained holistic minister, and as a teen wellness and empowerment specialist at Pathways to Inner Healing in Moscow, McLain works with teenagers to explore wellness of mind, body and spirit through a variety of tools, including mindfulness, positive psychology and more.
“It’s really about empowering them and giving them the tools to success by teaching them to take care of themselves in all facets,” she said. “There are so many local organizations that want to support youth.”
McLain initially sought to become a teacher thanks to the educators she had growing up. She refers to herself as a public education success story and the “American Dream.” As a kid, she fell in love with learning and relished being at school. Her hard work in class opened up opportunities she never could have dreamed of, including being the first person in her family to go to college and pursuing degrees in post-graduate education.
McLain believes the caring and encouraging teachers who taught her that she mattered and that she could make a difference in the world paved her path to success.
“There are so many teachers I had that really made such a difference in my life,” she said. “I think that’s the best gift you can give someone. I love what I do. I want to pay that forward.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT on Twitter
Meet Patty McLain
At home: Lives in Spring Brook Twp. with her husband, Jason, and their son, Ian, 7. They like to spend time outside, play games, read Harry Potter books and laugh at everything.
At work: Teen educator for Women’s Resource Center; school programming and student empowerment adviser for the global Everyone Matters campaign and its “Film Your Issue” project; teen wellness and empowerment specialist at Pathways to Inner Healing, Moscow; Aroma Freedom technique practitioner; and network marketing professional with Young Living Essential Oils
Inspirations: Her students; anyone willing to be vulnerable and authentic; Tony Robbins; Dr. Wayne Dyer; her former teachers, Betty Zapp, Tomm Evans, Nora Riley and Dr. Agnes Cardoni; and her “tribe of incredible friends, colleagues and loved ones”
Aspirations: To use teaching, writing and speaking as a means to empower the next generation with tools to thrive so they can “be the change we all wish to see in the world.”
Diversions: Going on adventures, taking too many pictures and adding long captions to them on Instagram, synchronicity, traveling, reading and music
Aversions: Spicy food, condescension and people who choose hatred and meanness instead of love and kindness
Quote: “I believe the children are our future/Teach them well and let them lead the way/Show them all the beauty they possess inside/Give them a sense of pride to make it easier/Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be. ... Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” — Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All”