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Sumac's Eric Tally: a ‘Techno-Geek’ in His Element

The tech-savvy third-grade teacher integrates the fun and education of technology into his classroom.

Eric Tally, a third-grade teacher at is admittedly a "techno-geek." He received his first computer—a Macintosh—as a grad student during his first year teaching 23 years ago.

The school he worked at received a grant, and he was given the opportunity to build a computer lab. “Setting up that lab was trial by fire, and I’ve been hooked on technology from that moment on,” said Tally.

The Westlake Village native went to college at UC Santa Barbara and received his graduate degree in San Diego where he met his wife, Veronica. The couple has two children, Amanda, 22, a senior at UC Davis, and Taylor, 19, who is studying computer science at Moorpark and will be transferring to a four-year university next year.

Tally won the prestigious award of LVUSD Teacher of the Year for the 2009-2010 school year and has been teaching in the Las Virgenes School District for 19 years.

“Eric is a tremendous asset to Sumac. His technological savvy has been instrumental in the development of our L-STEM program,” said Sumac’s principal, Carol Martino. “He has been very supportive to our entire staff and has demonstrated his leadership ability when training them on our new technology.”

Tally said his favorite subjects to teach are science and math, and he loves integrating hands-on projects. This year when teaching his students about measurement, area, and perimeter he gave them an assignment to redesign their classroom. The winning design is now the current layout of his classroom.

 “I have three sons in grades 11, 9, and 7 and all of them had Mr. Tally for third grade,” said parent Ellen Costin. “All of my boys have different personalities and different learning styles, and he seemed to be the perfect teacher for each of my kids. He really knows how to take control of the classroom and engage the children in the joy of learning. I feel very lucky that all of three of my boys were able to have him as their third grade teacher.”

Patch sat down with Tally to discuss his love of teaching and his personal interests.

Patch: Sumac has started an L-STEM program this year. (Language, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) What do you like about this program?

Tally: I like that I get to do a lot more science and math. What I think is great about the program is how it integrates technology into different areas of learning and really gives us an opportunity to do hands-on learning.

For example, we just did a project where we took four corn seeds and watched them go through the germinating process. We put them in water and watched and recorded what happened to them on day two, day three, one week and two week intervals. At each stage we took the corn seed out of the container and put on rubbing alcohol, which freezes the seed, mounted them and looked at the different stages the seed went through before it became a plant. Then the kids took that information and created a graphic design on the computer using a drawing program to record the stages. The project combined science, technology and art.

The kids love projects like this and I’ve already seen an increased enthusiasm in the students.

Patch: We notice that among the computers and technology in this classroom, there is a lot of Oakland Raiders memorabilia. Why the Oakland Raiders?

Tally: (chuckling) In 1970, my older brother played flag football and played on the Raiders. It seemed that in the final minutes of every game, my brother’s team would be losing, but they’d find a way to win. That same year the Oakland Raiders seemed to be experiencing the same thing; in the final minutes of every game they’d find a way to win. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Patch: What do you like to do in your free time?

Tally: I like to stay active. My favorite hobbies are mountain biking and surfing.

Patch: What is your favorite thing about teaching?

Tally: I really enjoy getting the kids enthusiastic about coming to school and learning. I like kids to know that learning can be fun. We work hard in our classroom, but we also laugh a lot. I love it when parents come to me and say their kids love coming to school. That’s really a great feeling.

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