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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

English instructor shoots hoops for South squad

English instructor Robert Tinajero plays basketball on South Campus. Tinajero, who teaches Composition II, also found time to play on South’s district-winning intramural basketball team. Photo by Corban La Fon/The Collegian
English instructor Robert Tinajero plays basketball on South Campus. Tinajero, who teaches Composition II, also found time to play on South’s district-winning intramural basketball team. Photo by Corban La Fon/The Collegian

By Troy Bassett/reporter

Why would an English teacher spend his free time running up and down a basketball court with students?

Because playing basketball makes him a better teacher, said Robert Tinajero, a Composition II instructor who also belongs to a South Campus intramural basketball team.

“Playing intramurals teaches me about the students that are out there playing,” Tinajero said. “Sometimes people stereotype the guys out there playing basketball all the time, but the guys that are out there are good guys who are looking to do something they love.”

But basketball is not some sort of gimmick Tinajero uses just to get closer to the students.

Sports have always played a big role in his life from playing tennis in high school and college to playing basketball, softball and golf outside of school now.

Before he played in intramurals, Tinajero frequently would drop in to play basketball with students in the South Campus gym. He decided to sign up for intramurals in spring 2009 and was placed on a team at random.

That team won only one game. Tinajero was not discouraged, though.

“Win or lose, I love playing the sport,” he said.

So, in fall 2009, he returned to the gym playing pick-up games during his lunch break.

It was during these pick-up games that Tinajero met Lee Calton, captain of the team that won the South Campus intramural tournament this year and went on to win the district championship.

Calton’s team was a collection of some of the best basketball players TCC has to offer. After seeing Tinajero play, Calton invited him to join his team.

The invitation had nothing to do with the fact that Tinajero was a teacher. Tinajero is just good, Calton said.

“He knocks down shots,” Calton added. “He’s a Jason Kidd-type with a better shot.”

Fellow teammate Robert Lewis, a South Campus student, also said Tinajero has talent.

“I call him Steve Nash,” Lewis said.

Tinajero loves playing basketball and being one of the guys, but his love of basketball does not compare to his love of teaching.

“Sports are certainly not as important as my teaching,” he said. “I love teaching my students things that will make them better students and more informed people.”

He is funny, laid-back and makes the class material relatable, some of his students said.

“He teaches you how to write better, whether or not you’re an English major,” said Cheyenne Bowers, a current student of Tinajero.

“The class is more real than living in a fantasy world of literature.”

Tinajero said he knows that most of his students will not major in English and that the only way students will get anything out of the class is if they are interested in the subject. The best way to interest a student is to relate the subject to their lives.

“I have to stress that writing is important regardless of major,” he said.

“I need to make it interesting and be able to relate it to life. I’m not here to entertain, but I have to make it interesting.”

According to his students, he does a good job of it.

“He understands our situation,” said student Gilbert Rodriguez. “We can relate more to him than other teachers. He’s not your typical old teacher.”

Tinajero has goals that go beyond impacting students on a daily basis as well.

“Overall, I want to go beyond simply teaching students writing skills. I want to show them how to view the world in new, interesting and intelligent ways,” he said.

Tinajero eventually wants to create his own classes to teach and help English departments design their curriculum.

Tinajero has always known he likes sports, but he did not always know he liked teaching. When he began his undergraduate studies at Austin College in Sherman, he wanted to become a radiologist.

By his sophomore year, his interests had shifted and taken him to English and religious studies.

He attended Southern Methodist University for graduate school to work on a master’s degree in religious studies. From there, he went on to get a master’s in creative writing at the University of Houston.

After his time in Houston, Tinajero returned to his hometown to get his doctorate in rhetoric and writing studies from the University of Texas-El Paso.

Tinajero loves sports.

“They help me stay in shape. They give me joy, help me relieve stress and allow me to be competitive,” he said.

Tinajero played intramural basketball at every college and university he attended and said he has no plans of stopping as a professor.

The satisfaction he gets as a professor, though, goes beyond intramural championships, he said.

“I get great joy from teaching, and I love teaching my students things that will make them better students and more informed people,” he said.

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