Teachers Cash In On Their Own Expertise

Flickr:Quazie

By Betsy Corcoran

Georgia kindergarten teacher Deanna Jump has been teaching for 15 years, which by most people's math would mean that she has brightened the lives of something like 350 children. But in the past year, that number has gone through the schoolroom roof as Jump has sold the materials  she uses to teach kindergarten via TeachersPayTeachers. The big win: in the past year, Jump has earned more than $200,000 for her work, including a personal record of $53,000 in the month of August alone.

Kindergarten teachers "don't have the kinds of textbooks and materials available for grade-level teachers," Jump says. "So I began creating my own."

At first, Jump shared her materials with friends and other teachers in her school, Quail Run Elementary. Two years ago, a teammate nudged her to try posting some of the materials on TeachersPayTeachers. She made $300 her first year. She started blogging. TPT's founder Paul Edelman, a former New York City public school teacher, liked her materials and featured her on the site. "And then it just snowballed," says Jump, who now has close to 4,000 followers on the site.

Jump knows her audience: Every item in her 60-piece collection is priced at $10 or less. The materials feature cheery art. When the word went out that teachers would have to post copies of the Common Core standards in their rooms -- and be able to explain them all -- Jump was ready with her version of the Common Core.  She rewrote the kindergarten standards in clean terms, sprinkling in bright illustrations. Then she made the collection available for downloading (in five different color schemes!) with helpful hints: "Simply print, laminate, cut out and add Velcro so that you can easily switch them out," she advises teachers.

Her customers are snapping them up and giving her four stars. "Love it! New Hampshire is still up in the air about the CCS but I know we'll eventually end up using them; by posting this in my classroom I'm ahead of the curve! This saved me soooo much time, thank you so much for creating this!" raved a fan.

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All told, teachers made over $2 million this past year via TPT, which is fast becoming a sort of Etsy for educators. Classroom activities, printable worksheets, exams even Powerpoint presentations for grades preK through 12 and across just about all disciplines are available among the thousands of items on the site, which got its start in 2006 but recently got a spiffy makeover. The pricing sweet spot for individual items seems to be around $3.50, Edelman says.  Customers buy in groups, with typical customers spending about $14 per order (about three items).

Jump is a faithful TPT customer, too, and snaps up items from Babbling Abby, Cara Carroll and teammate Kim Adsit. And the money Jump has earned from TPT is heading back into education: Jump has funded a scholarship at the private school her teenager attends and has bought tech gear such as an interactive white board for teachers at the school where she teachers.

By anybody's math, that adds up to huge value.

Betsy Corcoran is cofounder of EdSurge, a free weekly newsletter on educational technology. A similar version of this story appeared on EdSurge.

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