In 2006, Tatum's school district was unable to find a Chinese language instructor to hire. Her principal, Jeff Geihs, expressed his concern about the premature cancellation of the new Chinese language courses. Without any prior Chinese language experience, Tatum volunteered to become the new Chinese instructor and take on the dual challenge of both learning and teaching the new language. Tatum recollected, "Most people did not believe that I, a Polish American who did not know a word of Chinese, would be teaching students this difficult language." Needing comprehensive training, Tatum embarked on a six-week, Chinese language immersion program in Chengdu, China, which would be the first of many rigorous language programs.
Since 2006, Tatum has studied Chinese at institutions across the U.S. and China. In 2011, she was one of only 18 Chinese teachers selected nationwide for the ISLI program. During her summer studies with ISLI, a program administered by the American Councils for International Education, Tatum focused on perfecting her verbal and written language skills.
American Councils' Manager of China Programs, Dr. Anthony Kane recounted, "As an ISLI participant, Ms. Tatum thrived on the opportunity to polish her language and teaching skills in a unique and rigorous immersion environment. Her story serves as a wonderful example of the extraordinary efforts U.S. teachers are putting into the field of Chinese language instruction. American Councils is proud to have supported Ms. Tatum in her studies."
Since its inception in 2008, the ISLI Program has provided fully funded fellowships for U.S. teachers to spend six weeks overseas studying intermediate and advanced level Chinese and Arabic. The ISLI Program is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, and implemented by American Councils for International Education.
Tatum achieved professional fluency in Chinese, enabling her to spearhead the first K-12 Chinese course in the state of Nevada. She subsequently initiated a high school Chinese language program, which now serves nearly 100 students. Tatum currently teaches at Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada, where she is establishing the school's pilot Advanced Placement Chinese language program.
Click here for more information on the ISLI Program.