Cienega's Tatham pushes students to go beyond the assignment - Tucson News Now

Cienega's Tatham pushes students to go beyond the assignment

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Today we introduce you to an outstanding Freshman Honors English teacher at Cienega High School, Eric Tatham.

After visiting the campus in Vail, we learned the "C" in Cienega stands for "Connection."

Tatham has brought the school's motto full circle in his classroom.

Tatham's no fool. He knows every year the majority of the students on his roll sheet are going to dread coming to Honors English – at first.

"When kids first come to class, typically you hear, ‘I don't like English or I'm not good at English,' and when they leave I get exactly the opposite," Tatham said. "'This is the best English class I've had. I really enjoyed that book.'"

So what's his secret to not just getting kids to read, but enjoy reading?

Teamwork. Feeding off of each other.

"It actually encourages them to have partnerships, and in the business world I believe that they're going to need to have those skills, so it helps at a young age," Tatham said.

One of Tatham's students said, "I like how he calls on you and he hears from everybody, so he gets everybody's input. And that also helps other people … connect it who didn't understand it before."

Another said, "He just motivates us to actually do what he wants us to do and reach his expectations."

An example in this day's lesson: Students are assigned to pick meaningful quotes from the book they're reading.

Tatham, who also runs the yearbook staff and coaches varsity softball, is constantly pushing his students to go beyond the assignment, to really think about what they're doing and not just go through the motions.

For Honors student Elyse, once she dropped the bad habits, the work became much easier.

"If you just find a quote that you don't like it's going to be harder to respond to it," she said. "When you find one that really means something to you, it's easier to respond to and think about it and relate to the book."

That attitude is the reason Tatham has been showing up to class for 16 years.

"I've been working a long time trying to help kids … and it just validates why you go to school, it validates why you're here, it makes life worth it," Tatham said.

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