Children First: Fresno Unified teacher taking learning to the next level

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- For Tamika Tatum - teaching runs in the family.

"I actually come from a family of educators," she said. "My mother and father are teachers. That was kind of the draw for me to come into education."

Tatum is a first-grade teacher at Thomas Elementary and is currently responsible for 16 little learners.

"I think the best part about teaching is watching the kids grow every year," she said. "Every year, we have a new group of students, they come with such great things already and it's always great to just see how they're going to grow."

Born and raised in the Valley, it was her years spent as a Fresno Unified and then Fresno State student that sparked an interest in teaching.

"Each year, the kids, they just touch my heart in such a way every year with how they smile, their good mornings, how was your day," she said.

Serving Fresno Unified for nine years, Tatum was one of the first teachers in A-4, also known as the African American Academic Acceleration. She helped bring the program to Thomas Elementary.

"I didn't have an African American teacher growing up through elementary," she said. "It probably wasn't until college, so having the opportunity to work with students that look like me, I look like them, was just a great opportunity to be a part of."

When the time came, she quickly pivoted to distance learning, finding ways to instruct Fresno Unified's youngest students virtually.

"She not only took it on but if you walk in there, you'd see her camera, you'd think she was doing a live podcast every day," says Thomas Elementary Principal Matthew Phanco. "She's the one that will come with a solution and not a problem or if she does come with a problem, she comes with a solution alongside it."

Now back in the classroom, she's determined to make up for any learning lost.

Tatum became nationally board certified in 2019 in order to better serve her students.

"I think for me, it's much more than just their letter and readings," she said. "I really want them to grow up to be wonderful human beings and grow up and give back to their communities."

"That's what Miss Tatum is good at -- the art of teaching," Phanco said. "When you see it, you don't know how it happens. It just does."
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