by Julie Jeffery Manwarren
Sarah Scranta is an associate professor and the chair for Clarks Summit University’s English and Communications Department. She decided to follow Christ at an early age.
“I knew that I wanted to help people,” Scranta said. “I wanted to be in a helping role and decided to pursue a nursing degree.”
To pay for her education at Duquesne University, Scranta worked as a lifeguard, a nurse’s aide and a forklift operator. Her close friend was a Secondary Education English and Latin major. “It got me thinking, ‘I’ve always loved English. I’ve always loved writing and helping people,’” said Scranta. “It seemed at that point that becoming an English teacher was a really good fit for me. It combined the things that I love to do without the pressures of a 24-hour workday in the medical field.”
Scranta switched majors and graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education, English. She was hired in 2003 as a long-time sub for the Abington Heights School District in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, and she was brought on full-time as an English teacher a year later.
During her first year at Abington Heights High School, Scranta was tasked with developing a speech league. She pioneered the speech and debate program at Abington. The team joined local leagues and participated in regional, state and national competitions. When Scranta left, the school had more than 40 students involved in a nationally recognized speech and debate program. She received the Diamond Coach of Outstanding Distinction from the National Speech and Debate Association.
“My role as a speech and debate coach, pouring into countless students for almost 12 years, wasn’t just a part of my job, but a ministry for me,” said Scranta. “I was there to show the love of Christ and help shape students’ character through a sincere dedication to helping them achieve their dreams and full potential.”
A call on her life to help others realize their full potential was confirmed as Scranta stepped out in faith and pursued not only another degree, but a position in higher education.
In 2006, she received a Master of Education in School Administration from Duquesne University. In 2011, she was certified as a curriculum and instruction supervisor.
Although they didn’t date until after college, she met Bernie, her future husband, in 7th grade band practice. They had their first child together, and she was expecting her second child while she was taking a course at CSU.
The state of Pennsylvania requires that certified teachers take at least two college-level classes every five years for professional development. In 2018, Scranta was working through her courses at CSU and called professor Dr. Janet Hicks. She asked, “What happens if I take a graduate class, and I give birth before the class ends?”
Scranta gave birth and finished her last assignment for the class from her hospital room.
In 2018, Scranta was hired at CSU to be an adjunct professor teaching public speaking. In 2021, she became an associate professor.
“I have a passion to help students realize their full potential for what God has designed them to do,” said Scranta. “I see who they can become, even when they don’t.”
There is a dual focus of purpose for Scranta who believes she is called not only to teach but to coach. Her passion is to encourage and support the next generation.
“I want my students to excel,” she shared. “My desire is not only that they would learn how to do school, how to be successful in school, how to develop strong oral and written communication skills, but also how to be better people and grow as Christ-centered communicators.”
Scranta’s investment in her students goes beyond the classroom. She is the faculty advisor for the university’s “Vantage Magazine,” an award-winning online publication. She oversees students who are chosen to be part of Reclaim Today, a writing and design initiative by Our Daily Bread Ministries. Last year, three of Scranta’s students received contracts to write for the Christian publisher.
Scranta hopes her students gain more than a degree and good speaking, writing and communication skills during their time at CSU. “I want students to know that God has a purpose for them,” said Scranta. “They can use the skills they are developing here at CSU to further that purpose. I want them to know that God’s purpose for them doesn’t start somewhere in the future. It is now. They can encourage and empower others today.”
Ducks in a Row
Scranta found a unique way to encourage students who step out and show courage and initiative.
“There is always a first day for giving speeches. Very few students want to get up and give a speech on that first day,” said Scranta. “I decided that I would incentivize this to encourage students who wanted to participate and show initiative. I purchased a bag of 50 rubber ducks and lined them up. I love object metaphors. I told my students that I had my ducks in a row, and I was going to give out ducks to anyone who will go above and beyond, to anyone who shows initiative, to those who are willing to go first, help others and do things with confidence and with excellence. What began as a small tangible encouragement has grown. To date, I’ve given away hundreds of ducks. I had no idea how this would grow. Students have their ducks in their dorm rooms, all lined up. They will tell me, ‘I have my ducks in a row!’ Students bring them back to school each year. It’s been great, and I’ve been encouraged by it.”
From forklift operator to a university professor who distributes ducks as encouragement, Sarah Scranta finds joy in serving God as she inspires and empowers students at CSU.