Ambitious Pool Player: Meet Tawanna Ervin Math teacher Tawanna Ervin is known for her excellent skills.


While playing in one of her tournaments, math teacher Tawanna Ervin prepares herself to hit the cue ball to make a shot. “I think I’m more logical than some people and definitely see the angles on the table, even though I always can’t get the ball to go in that direction,” Ervin said. Photo Credit: Tawanna Ervin

Gray Barranco

Stepping back from the pool table and using precision to line up her shot, math teacher Tawanna Ervin shoots for the ball, hitting it into the pocket. By using her math and calculation skills to her advantage, Ervin examines the table, determining what her next shot will be.

Ervin first began playing pool after her friend invited her to a game.

“I’ve been playing for about 12 years, so over the seasons, I’ve made a lot of friends,” Ervin said. “You get to meet different people not on your team. Right now, I’m playing on Thursday and Friday night. You get to meet all the people that are playing and it’s [played] home and away, just like a basketball game.”

Along with making new friends, Ervin met her husband of five years while playing pool in the American Poolplayers Association.

“I played three nights a week and he did too, but he was on different teams than I was,” Ervin said. “I’ve known him for about four years and played against him, and then one summer we were playing four nights a week and I kept running into him. I heard him [talking], his friend said, ‘What did you do last night?’ and he said, ‘I stayed home by myself and cooked myself a steak.’ I walked over and said ‘I liked steak.’ That’s how it all happened.”

When Ervin is not playing in tournaments or the league, she practices for fun and to refine her skills on her own time.

“We have a pool table in our house so I just play with [my husband] to practice,” Ervin said. “But, if I really wanted to be better, I would practice the same shot over and over, which I don’t [tend to]. Mostly, you just learn from watching other people.”

Both with her team and on her own, Ervin has made quite a few accomplishments while playing.

“Our team has won a lot of trophies and we got second place at the regional competition which is a big deal,” Ervin said. “They [also] have this competition every session for the most valuable player, not just for your team but all the teams in the session and I’ve won that a couple of times. Whoever gets the most points is how you get that.”

Ervin has even recruited fellow teachers, like Denise Snow of NVLA, to play with her.

“It is great fun to stay in contact with a SWCTA teacher and stay informed about the school that I miss,” Snow said. “Mrs. Ervin is very competitive and often states while playing pool this shot is a great math lesson.”

Once a year for three days, Ervin has the opportunity to participate in a competition with a variety of different pool players. Her local practice helps enable her to further succeed within the competition.

“They have a [competition] called the Southwest Challenge,” Ervin said. “The teams come from Arizona, California, and Las Vegas and you make your own team of three people. The skill cap has to be 14 [or 15] for 8-ball. You have a low, a middle, and a high player on your team so it’s not the usual team you play with. You don’t always know what skill level you’re going to play against so it’s really fun because of that.”

Balancing being a teacher and playing pool can be difficult for Ervin, but she is still just as passionate and hopes to continue playing.

“On Thursday and Friday, it’s [game] night so we start at seven and play until about midnight both nights, so it’s hard to come to school on Friday after that,” Ervin said. “The nights I play pool, I can’t grade papers. On Fridays I’m tired, but if I want to be better, I would practice more.”

Throughout playing pool, Ervin has been able to learn vital skills that will follow her throughout the rest of her life.

“When you’re playing eight [or nine] ball, your strategy is that you have to think ahead to know what’s going on,” Ervin said. “You always have to think ahead. If you applied that to life, you’d be thinking ahead of what the consequences of your actions are. [Pool also] teaches you good control and patience of not engaging in an argument when someone’s trying to pick a fight with you.”