Each month, TUNews will highlight a different faculty member in a new feature called “Faculty Focus.” This month, we sat down with Patrick Leytham, PhD and Assistant Professor in the School of Education.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in San Diego, but two months after I was born, we moved and spent about five years in mid-Texas. From there, I spent 10 years in border towns near Mexico, where we used to go water skiing down the river that separated the United States from Mexico. We made the move out to Las Vegas when I was in high school.
Where did you go to college?
I started at CSN before transferring over to UNLV.
How did you get your start in Education?
Both of my parents are educators. My dad was in the Navy, and when I was born he tried to get into the communications world. He had a hard time getting a job in that field, so he decided that he needed to find something else to do. So, he went into education, and then my mom went into education. It’s always been a steady life.
There are current thoughts around the United States that many teachers have to take on second jobs because they can’t live on their income alone. It’s definitely not for the money. We do it to teach the kids.
How long have you been at Touro University, and what makes it such a unique place to work?
I’ve been here since January 2016. I’ve been able to do things that I wasn’t able to do at my last university. It was a great place to work, but I wasn’t able to create different series of coursework that I thought the teachers needed. At Touro it was, “Ok, Pat. You’re in charge. Make it happen.”
That academic freedom to create and do what the degree says I should be able to do has been rewarding. I’m able to bring this broader understanding in trying to help the teachers in this district. It’s really fun to put those things together.
What attracted you to Touro University?
Well, we were trying to get back to Southern Nevada. I have family here and my wife has family here. At the time, my wife’s father was going through cancer treatments, so we really wanted to bring our kids back out here. At the same time, there was an opening at Touro. The cards just lined up and everything worked out the right way.
The other reason was being able to have that freedom. I love Touro’s mission of social justice, serving society and commitment to intellectual inquiry. Being able to add that third component of intellectual pursuit to create these courses has been great. It was an easy fit for me.
Can you describe the research you’ve been working on?
One project I worked on was with a student from my previous university where we worked with a 7-year-old with autism. There’s been a trend occurring where a lot of parents are deciding to home school their kids. We had a parent who was homeschooling this child because he had a negative experience in the school system. We wanted to see if we could change his social skills because if he’s home schooled, how is he going to get that social interaction?
So, we took a program called the SuperHeroes Social Skills program and applied it to the home school setting. We taught the 7-year-old in a group environment, then out to a generalized environment to see if he could utilize those skills he had learned. We found out that he was gaining the skills he needed, but we discovered that the problem was asking the parents to follow through to make sure that if the child demonstrates a particular social skill (i.e., making eye contact, saying hello), then he will be rewarded.
My other research is about the Children’s Adaptive Physical Education Society. I’m working with colleagues from my previous university who created a society for kids 5-to-7 years old with autism and developmental disabilities. The kids are part of a club where they do some land-based motor activities, water-based activities, and work on developing their physical self and social skills. My role in this society is to work with the parents.
Why did you decide to work on these particular topics?
I have different interests. I don’t care for researching and focusing on a single topic for 30 years. I like expanding my research and looking at different areas as they come along. I don’t necessarily go out and look for things to work on, it’s finding out what the needs of the community are.
When you’re not at work, what might we find you doing?
Work. It’s what you always do. I’m always reading, writing and doing outside projects. But aside from work, everything else is family-related. My kids are in karate, swimming and the Boy Scouts. I’m a Scout Master, so dealing with rowdy 12 and 13-year-old boys is what I’m used to. We’re working on knife and ax safety right now, and the kids are learning how to chop wood.
If it were just me, I’d be at the lake every day spearfishing, water skiing and just relaxing.
If you could give your students one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do your homework. Pick the school you want to get your degree from wisely. Don’t just assume that you’re going to go to the local university because it’s close. There are institutions around the country and around the world that do things very well. Choose wisely. Go learn and be willing to move. That’s how we grow.