Ryleigh Tatum Builds Confidence Beyond Books.

by | Dec 2023

TEACHERS ARE the backbone of any community, and a shining example of Lynchburg City Schools’ hard-working staff is kindergarten teacher Ryleigh Tatum. Tatum is in her third year at Robert S. Payne Elementary School, having taught second grade for two years before moving to kindergarten. Tatum said her goals aren’t necessarily academic. She has worked hard to build a better foundation for her kids and create a space where they are comfortable and confident enough to learn well. 

“How am I creating a space for kids to feel safe, loved, and nurtured so they can get their academic foundation?” Tatum said. “I felt really passionate about moving down just because the foundation is so critical.” 

Despite her love of teaching now, Tatum wasn’t always on the education pathway. She moved to Lynchburg in 2019 after graduating with a theatre degree, only looking into education during COVID and earning her master’s in education in 2021. 

“In the midst of COVID, I felt really convinced that I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing, and I started a master’s degree in education two weeks later,” Tatum said. “That’s where I felt led.” 

Aside from her work in the classroom, Tatum said she has goals to expand her leadership in the school and become a mentor for other new teachers. Her first year as a teacher was the first year many students had been in the classroom since kindergarten, and Tatum said her own mentors were integral to her success in that challenging environment. She said she has grown in flexibility, empathy, and communication since that first year. 

“Taking on new projects or being able to help other teachers to grow — that’s something that I’d like to work toward — being in a position where I feel capable of doing that,” Tatum said. “I know that my mentors my first couple of years were so critical to me and my ability to do what I was doing.” 

Teaching is one of many serving roles Tatum has jumped into. She also became a registered foster parent under much the same circumstances. Tatum said she felt convicted that she had extra and wasn’t using it, and some weeks later, she was in classes. 

“Knowing that there’s so much need for that and knowing that I have the extra to do it, I was just really called into that,” Tatum said. “It wasn’t something I could necessarily say no to.” 

As a teacher and the oldest of four, Tatum knew she had a gift for supporting children. She jumped right in as she had the space in her life for fostering. She said it’s not worth acting out of fear or anxiety when you have the chance to do good. 

“I’m of the personal belief that if you are hearing from the Lord and you’re feeling an impulse to do something, you’re obligated to do it and do it with enthusiasm and quickly,” Tatum said. “If we ignore our impulses to do good, and we ignore our impulses to connect with other people, then no one will grow, and no one will benefit.” 

Tatum said her impulsiveness has caused some pain in her life, but ultimately, she considers it a gift. After all, if everyone ignored their impulses to do good, no one would benefit. 

“Whether you go to church, or whether you believe in the Lord or not, when you’re feeling an impulse to do something helpful and to do something good and to do something that can show love to someone else in a really impactful way, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” Tatum said. 

While the world has a lot of brokenness, Tatum said she wants people to look at it and figure out how to restore it together. 

“The hope is unity of the city. The hope is that we can be a city of good neighbors and people who help each other,” Tatum said. “How do we all unite together to be supportive of one another, love one another, and be good neighbors despite our differences and our situation.” GN 

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