Vinland Teacher: It all Starts with Learning to Love to Read

Stephen Tatum, a 2016 Excellence in Education finalist, has worked for the district for 32 years, 28 of his career at Vinland Elementary School teaching fourth through sixth grade. He teaches fifth grade this year. Vinland vice principal Lisa Benavidez said Tatum has high expectations for students, who grow not only academically in his class but in their improved behavior. "He is a team player and is a father figure to many of our students. Mr. Tatum is influential among our young men on our campus," she said.

What made you decide to be a teacher? I couldn't decide if I wanted to be a counselor, psychologist, custodian, news reporter, police officer, politician, librarian, banker, travel agent, doctor, party planner, decorator, detective, clown, comedian, or preacher, so I became them all by becoming a teacher!

What do you enjoy the most about teaching? I enjoy teaching because I'm working with people. I love the relationships and friendships I develop with students, parents, and other staff members.

What is the most challenging part of your job? The most challenging part of teaching is reaching every student and making a positive difference in their lives.

What strategies do you teach to help students in school now, and for the years to come?
I want to teach my students the importance of becoming life-long learners, and it all begins with the love of reading.

What book are you recommending to others right now?

I'm recommending "Learning by Doing" by Richard DuFour, handbook to assist teachers with their implementation of the accountable communities concept. I find it extremely helpful in moving our work forward.

What's your favorite book for fifth-graders?My favorite book for fifth-graders is "Tuck Everlasting" by Natalie Babbitt. I guarantee that you and your students will enjoy reading it!

Name one thing most people do not know about you. Most people don't know that I'm the product of the Fresno Unified School District. I attended Easterby Elementary, Kings Canyon Middle School, and I graduated from Roosevelt High School. I hope to pay back the Fresno community by serving and inspiring my students the same way I was served and inspired by the many dedicated teachers I had as a student in Fresno Unified.

If you were not a teacher, what career would you choose? I have a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. If I wasn't a teacher, I probably would have chosen a career in accounting or management.

What is your dream vacation? My dream vacation would be a cruise to see the Alaskan wilderness.