Erica Collins standing outside

May 15, 2019

Juggling the roles of Army National Guardsman, military spouse and mother while pursuing an education has been a challenge for Erica Collins. But her years of hard work paid off when she walked across the stage to receive her Master of Arts in Teaching hood.

“Life kept us on the move and made completing this even more challenging,” Collins said. “It took hard work, dedication and a long time to achieve, but I did it and my family couldn't be prouder. I’m proud to be a female, minority, combat veteran, mother, military spouse, first-generation college graduate and soon-to-be teacher!”

Her path to a degree wasn’t easy. Collins almost failed out of high school because she felt disconnected, she said. She focused more on ways to fit into social groups rather than academics.

“When I attended community college my first classes were all non-credit courses, which was very discouraging,” she continued. “However, despite life’s early obstacles, I was able to persevere.”

She also had the support of her husband, Timothy, whom she described as her hero. Collins served in the Army National Guard for nine years and was honorably discharged in 2010 with the rank of sergeant. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University and began a career in social work. Collins decided to leave the field after the birth of her first child.

“I quickly realized how much I loved teaching my son and watching him grow,” she said. “This was the building block that sparked my love for teaching and, ultimately, what led me to shift my career path and eventually pursue my master’s degree in education.”

Collins plans to work part-time in the Onslow County schools district for a few years before seeking a full-time job. “I have a second grader, a kindergartner and a three-year-old. I’d still like to have a flexible schedule while they are young,” she explained.

Collins loves witnessing students’ curiosity and listening to them talk about things that are important to them, she said. “Finding ways to make teaching relevant and meaningful to students makes all the difference in a classroom.”

- Venita Jenkins