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Book helps fuel student scholarship

  |   Kristen B. Morales   |   Permalink   |   Spotlight

Ryan Neumann's book started as a challenge to himself. Now, it's a challenge for others.

Neumann, (MEd '06), self-published "What Had Happened: A Work of Friction," in the summer of 2011. This semi-autobiographical account of his first five years teaching high school English at South Cobb High School north of Atlanta is an account of the strange, frustrating and wonderful that takes place within the halls of high school.

But the book is also part of Neumann's bucket list.

That's because, along with the lofty goal of "get my book on the New York Times Best-Seller List," he also had written down:

7: Pay for a student's entire college tuition

34: Affect and effect positive change in the world of education

That's when it hit him: Perhaps he could do all of those things with "What Had Happened." An idea was born: The "What Had Happened" Scholarship.

For every book Neumann sells on, he gets $5.42. If he sells 6,258 books, he'll raise more than $31,292, or the amount of four years of in-state tuition at a college in Georgia.

Neumann admits his years of teaching were rough. The book was written partly as an outlet during his first years as a teacher, emerging wide-eyed from graduate school to the real world of a suburban school. "I was just exhausted and felt more socially inept than normal, so it was me trying to figure out what my deal was," he says. "It was reflective and investigative, but more internally, I was trying to figure out why I seemingly could not hack it."

Looking back, Neumann says he was probably too hard on himself. But he also saw colleagues who stopped caring and accepting responsibility, and knew he didn't want to be one of those people.

The book, he says, was a way for him to keep track of where he was, and where he was going. This fall, Neumann took a step in a new direction, working as online content specialist for the Cobb County Virtual Academy, part of the Cobb County School District. He now works with teachers across the district to implement new technology in to their lesson plans, keeping in mind the needs of both teachers and their students. He's able to pull from his experiences in the classroom, and says he feels like he's making a difference.

The book, he says, is definitely an account of one stop along his life's journey.

"For peers of mine who may be going into education, it's definitely a one-sided experience. I would hate for someone to finish reading my book, if they decide to pick it up, and they decide there's no way they would want to go into teaching," he says. "More than anything else, what this book did for me was the act of writing. For me, writing really provided a lot of clarity — who I would like to be, what direction I would prefer to get myself going in."

© University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602