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Fun Loving. Persistent. Encouraging

About Donna

Donna lives in Midway, Kentucky with her husband Dean and their daughters, Bailey and McKenzie.

Hi, I am Donna and I’d like to share part of my journey with you. I have been a French teacher for more than 30 years and I still love it. I love it so much that in 2017, I decided to return to the classroom full time. I ultimately gave in to my passion for training teachers and teaching French.

Ten or so years into my career as a French teacher, I felt discouraged. My students knew all the rooms in a house and all the fruits and vegetables at the market but they simply couldn’t string together sentences the way I wanted them to. For some reason, learning French was not as easy for them as it had been for me. Then in 1999, I walked into a Blaine Ray workshop and realized that I could transform my classroom with comprehensible input delivered through TPR Storytelling (Teaching Proficiency with Reading and Storytelling). Day by day I set out, learning and experimenting with TPRS with ever-growing confidence and I have never looked back.

Learning how to use TPRS, and by extension CI, transformed my teaching and changed my life. Not only could my students speak in sentences and respond to personal questions, but they could also perform well on national tests. In the spring of 2000, after only one year of using TPRS, 8 of my students placed nationally on the National French Contest and over 40% in the state. The following year, 100% of the students in my French IV class passed the AP test as juniors and went on to take AP French Literature as seniors. And the success has not stopped there. Yearly, five or more students consistently rank in the nation while many others rank in the state on the National French Contest.

Several years ago, I had the good fortune to meet Carol Gaab and continued my TCI (teaching with comprehensible input) journey. While I still loved and used TPRS, I realized that I needed to broaden my repertoire to include many comprehension-based strategies to add some much needed variety and punch to my lessons. With Carol’s guidance and excellent teaching, I found a much better balance that my students benefit from each day they come to class.

When a fellow teacher comes up to you and says, “You helped me stay in the classroom.” It is very rewarding.

Donna Tatum-JohnsMaking Language Come Alive

In My Classroom

Collaboration. Creativity. Compassion.

When you walk through the door of my classroom, you might be a bit surprised by what you see and what you don’t see because the traditional classroom desk setup is missing. Going “deskless” over the last year has dramatically influenced my students’ ability to see language as communication...not as lists of vocabulary and grammar rules to be studied. Language in my classroom is now a natural process that I facilitate through engaging with students, reading the children’s story books that can be found on the book ledge shelves all around the room and asking real-life questions in a new language. I allow for collaboration and creativity in my classroom. I am compassionate and strive to make my students feel safe. I strive to create a positive atmosphere filled with laughter and smiles in hopes that my students forget they’re even learning French.

Career Highlights

31 years as a classroom teacher at a variety of levels (elementary to adults)

14 years as a teacher trainer in TPRS® (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) and TCI (Teaching with Comprehensible Input)

12 years as a lead presenter at NTPRS (National TPRS® Conference)

6 years as a session presenter / language lab teacher at iFLT (International Forum on Language Teaching): 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017

One-on-one training with Blaine Ray, inventor of TPRS®, in his classroom in 1999

Awarded three Fortnight Award Grants for work in Haiti

5 successful teacher-training workshops in Haiti for ELL teachers and teacher interns

2 closing-address presentations at NTPRS (2012 and 2015)

Co-presenter of a three hour webinar for Fluency Matters (2016)

2 “Best of Kentucky” session awards at Kentucky World Language Association with co-presenter, Sarah Moran (TPRS® student demo in 2002 and MovieTalk in 2015)

Adapted two novellas (Les Aventures d’Isabelle & Où est passé Martin?) and the teacher’s guide for Les nuits mystérieuses à Lyon for publication.

Major contributor in French department at KCD in designing curriculum when we transitioned from using a textbook to TCI

Teaching Experience

Teach French I & II (high school) and 5th grade Introduction to French

Organize two service days each year at 30 local organization for 350 students and faculty. Oversee weekly all-school assemblies. Created and continue to supervise two student-run stores which have allocated over $30,000 in students grants to date.

Assistant Director of Upper School/French Teacher (Kentucky Country Day School, 2003 - 2010)

Taught French I & II (high school)

Implemented school discipline for grades 9-12. Supported academically at-risk students in the 10th grade.

Participated in discussions of policy and procedure related to the overall running of the high school.

Middle/High School French Teacher (Kentucky Country Day School, 1997 - 2003)

Taught all levels of French, 5th grade through AP French Literature.

After working with Blaine Ray in 1999, I was instrumental in bringing TPRS® to my French department.

After one year of implementing TPRS in my classes, 40% of my students ranked in the state and eight students ranked in the nation on the National French Contest.

After two years of using this new method, 100% of my French IV students passed the AP exam a year early and went on to take AP French Literature their senior year.

French Teacher (Ockerman and Conner Middle School, 1995 - 1997)

Hired to develop a French program from scratch at Connor Middle School.

Taught 6th, 7th and 8th grade French.

French Teacher (Henry Clay High School, 1993 - 1995)

Taught French II, III and IV

French Teacher (University of Kentucky, 1991 - 1993)

Taught French 101, 102, 106, 201, 202 and 203. 203 is an entry-level course for all majors and minors.

French Teacher (The Lexington School, 1987 - 1990)

Taught French and Drama in grades 7-9.


TPRS and TCI Training Workshops

Since 1999, I have attended dozens of TPRS and TCI workshops and training sessions as I continue to hone my teaching skills. Topics have included, but are not limited, to the following: classroom management, MovieTalk, reading activators, music in a CI classroom, reading novels, ACTFL proficiency guidelines, personalization, FVR and much more.

MA French Literature (University of Kentucky, 1991 – 1993)

BA Teaching French (Transylvania University, 1983 – 1987)

Centre des études françaises (1986)

To complete my degree, I studied French history, art, drama and culture at the Centre des Etudes Françaises in Avignon, France, with professors from the local Faculté de Lettres, while living with French families.

While in Avignon, I taught English at a local middle and high school as an “assistante.”

I just wanted to thank you for being such an amazing and genuine teacher and thanks for making French one of my favorite classes for the past 2 years. I’m gonna miss being in your class next year but I’ll make sure to utilize my French skills when I go to Paris summer!


I want to thank you for all your hard work in the past three days. I have enjoyed your workshop so much. I have to say that it is a career lifetime benefit.


I wanted to write you a more thoughtful email rather than scramble my comments on the paper survey at the end of last week's workshop. First and foremost I wanted to thank you for such an amazing 3 days. Your teaching (both french & workshop) captivated my full attention. I already knew enough about TPRS to be sold on it...not to mention my business is built on finding non-grammar and non-academic ways of teaching Spanish to families, so we're very much on the same track. However, seeing TPRS in action was *so* interesting. The way you taught the workshop also mirrored a lot of the techniques you used to teach French, so I was constantly making mental notes of how you present in order to captivate everyone’s attention.


Thank you for a rich several days of learning!! 🙂


Donna made me feel relaxed and comfortable trying something very difficult for me. Thank you!


Donna is the best! She was so knowledgeable, so encouraging and so helpful. I learned so much and am looking so forward to trying TPRS in my classroom!


Donna is very knowledgeable, clear and relates well to her audience.


Donna is so personable and dedicated to us becoming better teachers. Awesome experience!


She not only is an expert, she knows how to coach teachers. This workshop far surpassed my expectations!


A fantastic experience - the best teacher training I’ve ever received!


Very positive and welcoming. A real authority. This is such an important and much needed opportunity to learn a new approach. A great paradigm shift.


Thank you so much for all the time that you spent to train us. Time way from your home and families. I am so grateful!!!! <3


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