Cobb Co. teacher wins nat’l award for self-published book
by Hannah Morgan
November 28, 2013 11:55 PM | 5593 views | 4 4 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pope High School English teacher Ryan Lund Neumann was recognized this weekend at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Boston, where he was given the James N. Britton award for his self-published book, ‘What Had Happened.’ <br> Special to the MDJ
Pope High School English teacher Ryan Lund Neumann was recognized this weekend at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Boston, where he was given the James N. Britton award for his self-published book, ‘What Had Happened.’
Special to the MDJ
MARIETTA — When Pope High School English teacher Ryan Lund Neumann has a tough day at work, he goes home and writes about it.

Neumann was recognized this weekend at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Boston, where he was given the James N. Britton award for his self-published book, “What Had Happened.”

Writing as a release

The book is a series of vignettes that chronicles Neumann’s first five years as an English teacher at South Cobb High School in Austell, where he said the job was so hard, he often considered quitting.

Neumann graduated from Pope High School in 2001, and went on to earn a bachelors degree in creative writing at Appalachian State University, and then a masters degree in English education from the University of Georgia.

He returned to Cobb County to teach in 2006 at South Cobb, which he said was a tough experience.

“The whole process of being a new teacher in general is a very eye-opening thing. There is really no way to prepare you for it,” he said.

Neumann expected each year to get easier and better, he said, but just about the opposite happened. He remembers coming home from school every day exhausted and confused, on the verge of quitting.

As a way to cope with his stress, in Januay 2010 Neumann started a blog,, where he came most days after school to hash out his problems and reflect on his students.

“I wrote every school day for 12 weeks, I would share it with my close friends as a New Year’s resolution. It was helping quite a bit,” Neumann said.

The stresses of the classroom eventually caught up with him again, and Neumann dropped off updating the blog, and didn’t write on it again for another year, he said.

Neumann considered quitting teaching again, when in a last-minute effort, he filed for a transfer to go teach at another school, he said.

A spot opened up teaching English at his Alma Mater, Pope High School in east Cobb, and Neumann jumped at the opportunity. The summer before he started at Pope, Neumann decided to write down his experiences from his classroom at South Cobb, as a chance to reflect and prepare for a new school.

He flushed out his memories from different years and with different students, trying to figure out what he was doing in the classroom and why, the memories eventually became a book, Neumann said.

The 228 pages were self-published; all he did was follow the steps outlined on, and with the mere click of a button, Neumann said he published a book, titled “What Had Happened.”

From a student going into labor in his classroom, to advice from veteran teachers and excuses for unfinished homework assignments, Neumann wrote about every aspect of his job.

An excerpt on, where a paperback copy of the book sells for $13.50, reads:

“Not so very long ago, I decided there was a need to clarify my interpretations…ya know, narrow the scope of my hellish colloquial approximations. So, for a while now, I’ve been writing about my observational experiences as a high school English teacher.”

Support from UGA

Neumann sent a copy of his book to Peter Smagorinsky, an former professor of his at the University of Georgia, to get some feedback.

Smagorinsky liked the book so much, he nominated it for a national award through the National Council of Teachers of English, a professional organization of English teachers.

The award is given to teachers who “raise questions about teaching and learning in their own teaching and learning settings,” according to a description on the NCTE website.

Smagorinsky nominated “What Had Happened” for the award in summer of 2012, and Neumann found out he had won earlier this year.

This year, the award was split between Neumann and Scott Silkins, a former teacher from Illinois, Neumann said.

The two were honored at a luncheon in Boston this weekend, at the NCTE national conference, where Neumann gave speech, which he had practiced in front of his students before he left.

“They had me practice what I was going to say; they are brutally honest,” he said.

Support from Pope

Neumann has been teaching at Pope for three years, he said, and the school has been extremely supportive in his writing endeavors, he said.

Pope even paid for his flight up to Boston this weekend, Neumann said.

Writing for reflection

Now that it is published, Neumann has set his eyes on writing another book.

At least two times a week, he updates his blog on new stories and events, and has been consistently writing about his experiences since he arrived at Pope, he said.

“I feel like the experiences and contrast between the two schools,” are varied enough, “that at some point there are people that think it is worth reading,” he said.

Reflecting is a crucial role in his job, Neumann said, and hopes that his book will encourage other teachers to do the same.

He doesn’t think about quitting as often, but Neumann doesn’t see himself staying in the classroom forever.

“I would love to be an author,” he said.

The students at Pope are the reason he continues to show up at school each morning, he said, and although it is cliche, he said they often teach him more than he believes he teaches them.

Neumann strongly encourages all teachers to write. Write about their experiences, their memories and struggles in the classroom, as it has helped him deal with the stresses in his job, he said.

“The act of writing definitely saved me. For me, writing has allowed me to reinvent me to reinvent my career as an English teacher. I would have quit a while ago if I didn’t write,” he said.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Good read
November 29, 2013
Every person should read this book to have a better understanding of what goes on in the classroom. Teachers have the hardest job ever, yet they receive no recognition and get bashed every day. It is beyond my comprehension that a someone who plays sports gets paid millions more than a teacher. What is even more pathetic is that the public will gladly pay $ 100-$200 per a pro game for fun but complain about paying their property taxes for schools. We are a national that is messed up!
November 29, 2013
Nothing like another white teacher teachers at poor urban school for a number of years and then makes money off exploiting stereotypes of poor students only to transfer to a rich white school where the students are "better". Meanwhile, those of us who understand how to teach students from poverty will continue to do the work we were called to do and not try to make money off of children's lives. Be a man - donate you profits to South Cobb HS or at least stop proselytizing about how bad you had it.
Just sayin'
December 02, 2013
Yowch! Jealous much?
December 05, 2013
Let's get a few things straight, shall we? Actually, that's not really a question. So please, disregard the questions mark. By the way, this is for you, Uh-duh (clever name by the way).

First off, let's clarify you're horribly worded first sentence. I think you meant, "Nothing like another white teacher teaches," and not, "white teacher teachers..."

And then there's the whole, "makes money off exploiting stereotypes of poor students only to transfer," and so on and so what. I don't know if this occurred to you while you were typing or if you were just in a frenzied state but, I'm still teaching. Obviously, I'm not making money. #WeAreCobb

Internal Me: What to say next?

Oh! Got it. How about this: Have you even read the book? Have you read excerpts? Or are you just basing your comments on the cursory glance of your own ignorant interpretations?

And by "those of us who understand how to teach students from poverty," to whom are you referring?

Better question, who are you? My name's Ryan Neumann. But wait, you know that already.

Think it's time to flip the script a bit. Be a man, or a woman, whatever - actually, no, be an informed citizen. Think before you speak. And after you've given it some thought, if you'd like to chat, I'd be more than happy to converse.
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