Pam McNall

Don’t worry about the slow pace of success. Success happens with perseverance.


After 19 years at CNN, Pam McNall developed, an online social emotional learning curriculum program and educator support tool. Utilizing research-based activities, lesson plans, music, poetry, signage, and rewards, Respectful Ways offers 54 modules to help educators teach Compassion, Perseverance, Respect, and Responsibility.

As a veteran journalist, McNall has covered some of the world’s most compelling news stories and is the recipient of seven journalism awards including two Emmys, a DuPont and two Peabodys.

She hosts online webinars and in-person workshops called “The Respectful Sessions” helping students, parents and educators reestablish the ground rules of respectful behavior.

Where did the idea for Respectful Ways come from?

Respectful Ways social emotional learning curriculum came from its sister company, Respectful Signage. I had started a signage company for schools and businesses to advertise their policies respectfully. Schools fell in love with the concept, and I had a # of schools and Rec Centers on board that 1st year. The 2nd year came about and I was ready to sell more signage, and a Principal said to me, “Pam, we love your signs, but we want a program around the messaging, we want curriculum.” Well, I’m an award-winning writer/producer so don’t threaten me with writing! I couldn’t be more thrilled. My wheels were spinning and mind was racing; this was a no-brainer, but I needed a partner to help design the concept, within months we had the foundation planted for, including animated characters, Let’s Chat conversation cards, and original poetry around the signage.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

As my husband likes to joke, “Pam only works 1/2 days now, 9am to 9pm.” There is no exaggeration to that, in fact, it’s more like 8a-10pm, 6 days a week. When you do something you love that has meaning and purpose behind it, it’s not a job, it’s a passion. Every day I suffer through frustrations, sometimes tears, but at the end of the day, I can’t help but to smile. There’s this great sense of satisfaction with completing a long day, hence it doesn’t end until evening. I need to cross all T’s and dot all I’s because tomorrow brings a new day of M, N, O, P Q’s. We’re on deadlines to finish more curriculum, and I’m at the mercy of the education industry’s schedule. You have to be flexible to keep up.

How do you bring ideas to life?

So glad you asked that question! Just this evening, I was on an editorial call with one of our curriculum writers about the module, Enjoy The Journey. Needing research-based activities around project-based learning, we have to be creative. We offer SuperHuman capes for kids to wear when they’ve been super respectful or super compassionate so we’ve wrapped this concept around the activity, where the students one at a time wear the “Confidence Cape” and visualize themselves getting great test score, or making that basket, or hitting that high note. We ask them to always visualize their Confidence Capes on their backs, empowering them during difficult situations. As an entrepreneur, involving the purchase of new merchandise to add to an already touching, relevant module, was a win/win.

What’s one trend that excites you?

PBIS exploding nationwide. Positive Behaviors Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a 30-year-old federal policy that continues to grow and expand. PBIS mandates that character education be taught, but does not offer social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum. We are that missing “in-class” link to the ever-growing demand of teaching children social skills and emotional intelligence. This PBIS trend was even mentioned earlier this week by Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. If the feds are promoting SEL, we’re here to help schools implement curriculum.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Writing lists. I love a good list. The longer the better. And yes, I said, “write.” Of course there are times a Google calendar is in order, but there’s nothing like a good handwritten list. I learned this from my father, a successful small businessman from CT. Every evening I’d watch him pull his small pile of lists out on scrap pieces of paper, and he’d throw sheets of paper away one at a time after reviewing the content, tossing what he accomplished, the others, slipped back in his front pocket. “What a good feeling,” I thought as a teenager. I was right. It IS a good feeling to finish a list of obligations. The only difference between my dad and I? I keep my calendars and daily planners so someday when I’m retired, I can look back at everything and smile. Flipping through those old pages will spawn some great memories; and you can’t do that on google.calendar.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep the faith. Don’t worry about the slow pace of success. Success happens with perseverance. Don’t listen to unrealistic accomplishments on SharkTank where a young company makes one million their first year in existence. That’s a needle in a haystack situation and don’t measure yourself up against it. Enjoy The Journey as Respectful Ways teaches! It’s YOUR journey. We’re all on our own journeys, and yours is happening at the pace it needs to go. Fretting about unrealistic expectations is doing you no favor. Be your own best friend, and believe in the power of perseverance.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Our curriculum is a national brand. From sea to shining sea. It speaks to white kids, black kids, hispanic kids and every kid in between. Whether you’re a wealthy child with a silver spoon, or a child whose parents are incarcerated, Respectful Ways speaks to you. “How can that be?” some say. Read the curriculum. We of course give ideas and suggestions to expand the material, but every kid needs to learn how to, Let Your Love Light Shine. Every kids needs to know how to Be Strong & Take It On. We all need to know how to, Do The Right Thing. I know in my heart that this curriculum speaks to all humans, hence our slogan – “HumanKIND Curriculum to Educate the Human Heart.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Finish your day’s work. Stay at your desk and finish up all your emails, because guess what? The world hasn’t stopped while you’re sleeping. You’re going to wake up dozens more. Stay on top of it. Also, if your project has a lot of balls in the air, make excel spreadsheets to organize your duties, and color code them with stage one = blue, stage two = orange, complete = yellow, etc. It helps!

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I stay plugged into entrepreneurial groups, I continue to work with mentors, I carry my business cards with me at all times, and share what I’m doing with whomever will listen. “You never know who you know, knows,” was a saying my grandmother often said. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but if you believe in your product and you believe that what you’re doing will help others, there is no need to hesitate. Don’t listen to your ego telling you, “enough already.” — It’s never enough. Even millionaires still hit the pavement running. Keep advocating on your own behalf and your company’s behalf. Don’t assume others will do it for you.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In 2010, I had designed a different web-based business that needed approximately $200,000 to launch. I spent a good year designing it, learning business plan development, financial plan development, competitive analysis, etc. At the time, angel investors held their wallets tight, and investment was scarce for start-ups. I worked hard to push it forward. But alas, it never got off the ground. It was a tough pill to swallow to give up on a dream you worked so hard to design, but I realized that without this experience, I would not know business plan development, financial plan development, and competitive analysis. What a blessing! It was actually my training ground for and Who knew?!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Okay, how about an information sharing network, vetted by Journalists. Everyone has expertise in something. Share with the world your best data, and chat with like-minded people on subjects you chose to follow. Hire a team of Journalists who investigate subjects and fact-check material. It may cost you around $200,000 to launch.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

If you add a few more hundred to the price, I’d have to vote, my new office chair. For the amount of time entrepreneurs are at their desks, comfort is key. If you reduce the price by $60, I’d have to say, my new Lavalier microphone that plugs into my mobile device. Entrepreneurs need to shoot videos for social media and marketing, and good audio can make or break the user experience.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Storyline360 from It’s a great e-learning application system that’s helped us build our digital curriculum. keeps us on task. It’s a fantastic organizational tool to help all staff know where things stand.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Launch“, by Scott Duffy. It’s a great step-by-step, “how to launch a business” advice book. From gathering up good staff, to a ‘pre-launch’ checklist, it’s been helpful when I’ve needed it. In fact, thanks for reminding me. I’ll curl up with it again tonight. Simple reminders on how to move forward are always helpful.

What is your favorite quote?

Be your own best friend.” Hook yourself up by finishing your day’s work or making that last sales call. Be there for yourself. Hire that massage therapist for your sore muscles.

Key Learnings:

  • Cross all T’s and dot all I’s because tomorrow brings a new day of M, N, O, P Q’s. You have to be flexible to keep up.
  • Keep advocating on your own behalf and your company’s behalf. Don’t assume others will do it for you.
  • Write lists and stay organized to accomplish tasks.
  • Success happens with perseverance. Don’t listen to unrealistic accomplishments on SharkTank where a young company makes a million their first year. That’s a needle in a haystack situation and don’t measure yourself up against it.


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