2021 Tillman Scholar

Erika Neuman

Baylor University

“Growth and service have been the hallmarks of my life. I am a lifelong learner with an unwavering passion for improving education and inspiring others.”

Strengthened by a difficult childhood, Erika Neuman knew she wanted to be a teacher but had no idea how she was going to accomplish that goal. She aspired to bring hope to children growing up like her. Determined to create her own path, Erika became the first person in her family to earn a college degree. Erika joined the Army Reserves to serve this great country one year before graduating college.

Three years after enlisting, Erika deployed to support the Fourth Infantry Division in Tikrit, Iraq as a psychological operations specialist. In Iraq, Erika provided cultural awareness training and cultural intelligence to Fourth Infantry Division Command. Her unit worked to build relationships with the local people, provided school supplies to children, and served as liaisons between the Iraqi people and the U.S. troops in the area. Upon returning from combat her childhood ambition was realized. Erika continued her service in a very different capacity teaching 5th grade.

Erika has taught for 17 years and looks to the future when she can inspire educators to embrace change, empowerment, and innovation, as well as bring about necessary change in education policy and curriculum. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Learning and Organizational Change and teaching a new batch of rambunctious fifth graders. When she is not serving, Erika trains for triathlons and half-marathons, embraces being a boy mom, and takes every opportunity to go exploring with her husband and three sons in their travel trailer.