FRESNO, California (KSEE) – As the country pauses to honor the late Dr. Martin Lurther King Jr., a Fresno Unified teacher has dedicated her career to students attending the school that bears his name.
In Mona Tatum’s first grade class at King Elementary School in southwest Fresno, the way the treats her students has made her legendary throughout the school district.
“Many of our students have experienced a lot of trauma and this is real sensitive to me,” said Tatum.
Even the district’s superintendent is in awe of Tatum’s work.
“The community of King is built up around her and her efforts there and how much she loves and cares for all those little kids that are in her stewardship,” said Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson.
Tatum also started a dance club for girls, not only to keep them busy after school but teach them about their culture.
“I teach them to keep a smile because you are representing a people, African American people, you are representing yourself and your representing your community.”
Mona Tatum started her teaching career late in life. She was married with three children before deciding to go back to college to become a teacher. She joined her husband, Kevin Tatum at Martin Luther King Elementary, 24 years ago.
Their work in the classroom and commitment to the neighborhood where they grew up has had a huge impact on their three children – who all chose to become educators too.
“We got to see the passion that our parents have,” said Kevin Tatum, Jr. “It’s more than just grading papers but seeing kids on the streets and stores happy to see my parents saying oh that’s Mrs. Tatum, that’s Mr. Tatum, so that really influenced us to see how much of an impact they had on all the kids over the years.”
Kevin Tatum Jr. is a guidance learning advisor at Tenaya Middle School, and sisters Latoya Tatum is a vice-principal at Kirk Elementary, and Tamika is a teacher at Thomas Elementary.
“As being a teacher’s kid you’re almost like being a pastor’s kid where people expect you to be this perfect person or have high expectations of you,” said Tamika.
“It’s been great because I can go places in the district and people have wonderful things to say about my Mom and my Dad.”