Mrs. Tatum on BMX, Buddhism and Life After Teaching


Ellie Keller

Sunshine and jolly ranchers. That’s what you’ll experience anytime you walk into Mrs. Dawn Tatum’s classroom. Those who have been lucky enough to have her class before she moves on from teaching know that she is constantly full of energy and motivation, and that her classroom is always welcoming. But Mrs. Tatum isn’t only a teacher. She was quite the daredevil as a kid.

When she was 15, Tatum began competing in BMX races. After going to all of her younger brother’s races, she decided that it looked like something she could do. Her dad got her a bike, and she started racing. At the time though, there weren’t very many girls who were encouraged to do sports.

“Where I grew up in Victoria, there were only three girls that raced, and we were all the same age, so inevitably we would compete with the boys. We were really competitive, not so much against each other, but with the guys, and we were always interested in taking them down,” Tatum said.

Wanting to prove themselves also meant that they had to train harder and have better bikes to offset the advantage that the boys had. Being lighter also helped them gain speed on some of the jumps.

Doing jumps developed from the bumps that the racers had to go over at a certain point in the track, and if they slowed down, they would lose speed, so developing the skill to jump was important.

“I never got into the trick piece that came after that. My goal was to always be as fast as I could and do the best jumps to get ahead,” Tatum said.

There is also a lot of strategy involved in BMX racing.

“You would ride low, and then somebody would have to ride high, and you gain speed, and then you come up off of that curve. Well, then they have no place to go but over. It’s not illegal. It’s just a strategy,” Tatum said.

Tatum’s father always made sure she had the best sprockets to maximize her performance and help her get an advantage. She would also go on 10-15 mile bike rides with her brother to help her gain endurance and be the fastest she could be. Tatum ended up in the top 50 in the nation, and while she never pursued racing after high school, her brother went onto nationals several times.

After retirement, Tatum would like to travel as much as possible. She and her husband plan to purchase and renovate a minibus and explore on this continent for the first few years. After that, she hopes to go on some bigger trips. Tatum is very excited for this new chapter in her life, and hopes that….. “When I go, y’all will continue to be sunshines.”