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Lisa Tatum: The inspiring cornerstone of her school

Year: 2020 — Province: Ontario
Certificate of Achievement Recipient

Don Valley Middle School
Science and math, grades 7 and 8
Toronto, Ontario

If there is a way to explore hands on science with her students, rather than simply reading and answering questions from a textbook, Ms. Tatum will find a way to do it on a shoestring budget, and her students will love it.


Her nominator calls Lisa Tatum the cornerstone of their school—the person with boundless energy who gets things done. She shares her organizational strategies with new teachers, helps colleagues roll out differentiated learning, coordinates assemblies and serves as one of the school’s lead teachers.

Teaching approach

Lisa's classroom is an inspiring place. Walls are covered with motivational posters, and class discussions often start with stories about ground-breaking scientists, mathematicians and inventors. She works to build capacity and a positive mindset in all her students.

STEM in the classroom

  • Leverages digital tools: students use Scratch programming to code robots, improve their math scores by playing Prodigy, address real-world problems such as climate change by graphing, measuring and using other math and science skills on the Gizmos platform.
  • Gives students a math or science "problem of the day": students collaborate to solve the problem; learn to share information, express opinions, debate and resolve disagreements in a safe environment.
  • Emphasizes hands-on learning through regular STEM challenges: students design elastic-powered cars, create science foldables, solve escape room-style puzzles, make slime, launch bottle rockets, create videos and test structures.

Outstanding achievements

  • Enables students to compete in regional, provincial and national events: enters students in provincial SKILLS Canada competitions; is the school's lead for FIRST Lego League tournaments; prepares students for the Pascal and Gauss math contests; has students investigate local and global pollution issues to compete in a nation-wide eco-journalism contest.
  • Makes it possible for students to go to local STEM events: coaches the school's team to compete in a local Science Olympics; takes girls to university STEM seminars and workshops; many graduates go on to the STEM high school.
  • Organizes overnight outdoor education trips: gives students the chance to learn about real-world science; makes special efforts to reach out to students who have difficulty attending such events for a variety of personal reasons.
  • Coordinates an annual character development ceremony: students receive certificates for contributing to school life and for demonstrating traits such as kindness and respect.

Get in touch!

Don Valley Middle School
3100 Don Mills Road
Toronto ON  M2J 3C3

Twitter: @TheMsTatum

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