Wednesday, April 7, 2010


We're very excited to have Pat McCarthy, a High School English and Creative Writing teacher from Woodstock, Virginia, this week as our Featured Sweetheart. On Sweetheart PJ Hoover's recent visit to Virginia, she visited with Pat's Creative Writing class.

Here's his bio:

Patrick is in his 15th year of teaching high school English at Central High School in Woodstock, VA. He is married to his beautiful wife Sharon McCarthy (a published author). He has two children and a dog that is going for the world record for longevity. Patrick is currently working on his MA in English and is a proud teacher consultant of the National Writing Project.


TXS: It's been a while since I've been in high school. Can you tell us a little about what it's like to teach high school English these days?

PM: It's probably in some ways much like you remember it. In fact some of your teachers from high school are probably still teaching. It's still a fun place, albeit very difficult at times, to work.

TXS: In addition to English, you also teach a Creative writing class. What is the structure of your class like, and what are your visions for the kids? Also how did you come to teaching the class?

PM: Creative writing class is a creative person's dream. Whatever you think up you can try in the classroom. I want my students to be exposed to as many different styles and genres of writing as possible, but within that I want them to find a genre and/or style that works best for them. I want them to feel like they are writers. Ultimately, I want the class to feel like a community of writers, writers that want to improve their craft.

I took over the position three years ago when a wonderful teacher stepped down for retirement. I had big shoes to fill, but I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to give it a go. I have to admit it was a little scary at first.

TXS: What is the biggest surprise you've had since you started teaching English and Creative Writing?

PM: The biggest surprise to me was seeing so much concentrated talent in one place. Moreover, I was and am still surprised by how willing the students are to try new things. There is very little coaxing necessary. Most students are on board from day one. And at this point the students realize that they are in a pretty special place. I know I do.

TXS: How do you think writing for kids has changed over the years? People talk so much about kids needing to share their attention with texting, TV, and video games. Is the challenge greater now for getting kids interested in writing and is writing more popular?

PM: Teenagers are definitely using writing in some unorthodox ways, but the allure of writing is still very strong. The fact that Twilight and Harry Potter have been so popular with teen and preteens has kept a large segment of the teen population interested in recreational reading. And obviously reading for fun can be a great steppingstone for students who want to step out into writing. Given the opportunity to explore the different possibilities of writing and to find some success is still a large part of the process. Peter Elbow, an extremely important voice in the teaching of writing, has a book entitled Everyone Can Write. I really believe this to be true.

TXS: If you could make a wish for kids and writing in the future, what would it be?

PM: My wish would be for every student to have the opportunity to write at least one thing that they are proud of and share it with someone else. Each day I have the opportunity to show students that they are writers and that they have something valuable to say. I would like to ask a question to end my comments. Who was the first person that told you that you were a writer? If you have never had someone tell you this, let me be the one.

TXS: Thank you, Pat! We are thrilled to feature you!


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.


  1. Hi there!

    Just came back from a 2 day trip with the family so am commenting now on your post.

    Pat - I really enjoyed what you have to say. I've been an English Teacher in Greece for about 20 years so I know the joy of being with young people and trying to encourage them. Personally, I try to use humour to create positive energy in the classroom - roleplaying and then a follow-up subject for composition ALWAYS seems to work well, too.
    I love the way you ask your students to write about something they are proud of. That's a fabulous way to encourage self esteem and creativity!

  2. I really enjoyed what Pat had to say as well! Your approach sounds phenomenal, Ann Marie!