Teachers Cash In On Their Own Expertise

| September 7, 2011 | 30 Comments
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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.

Teachers made over $2 million this past year via TPT, which is fast becoming a sort of Etsy for educators.

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.

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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  • Milagrojuan

    Aweswome!  I am an unemployed school teacher and was blessed to hear that a teacher can use his or her knowledge to help other teachers succeed in the classroom and be blessed financially as a result as well.

    Please let me know what I can do as well; I have lots of ideas for teaching Spanish to students; etc; etc!!!

    John M. Benson

    • http://www.edsurge.com Betsy

      Sign up for Teachers Pay Teachers and try putting up some materials or lessons. Good luck!

  • http://twitter.com/LindaAragoni Linda Aragoni

    Teachers need to be careful that they actually own what they sell. By law, any work done as part of one’s job belongs to the employer. The legal term is “work for hire.” A few schools give teachers copyright to works they do for hire, but most do not.

    If the teacher contract does not transfer copyright to the teacher, federal law applies. The federal rules are clearly spelled out in a publication from the US Copyright office. http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf  You will note that it doesn’t matter where the work was done (at home instead of at the employer’s place of business) or whether it was done during vacation. Schools have a real dog-in-the-manger attitude about teacher-created-materials.  I offered to buy the copyright to a book I wrote for an educational service agency. The agency didn’t wish to publish the book (they said no one would be interested in how to teach online) but they also refused to sell the copyright.

    • http://www.takinggrades.com Margaret Whisnant

      By law, if you write it, and no one has specifically asked for and paid for the project, then you own it.  Period.  It doesn’t matter if you are a teacher, an electrician, or a dog walker. The book you wrote “for an educational service agency” is a good example of a work for hire.  What these teachers are selling is their legal,  intellectual property.

      • Dcc2650

        Absolutely right Margaret!  This very issue has already been in the courts.  You can google the court case and ruling.  

      • Kim

        Margaret, I am so glad we have you to keep all of us on the right track!

    • http://twitter.com/teachingfriends teachingfriends

      The teachers who sell materials on TPT are aware of copyright laws. They create their materials from home on their own time. 

  • Mlondon

    If someone truly believes in contributing to education, then why does Ms. Jump keep increasing her prices?  I think $10 for a 2 or 3 week unit is crazy.  If Ms. Jump really wanted to help other educators, then why not reduce the prices or post for free?  I think there is definitely some underlying motive for makin money.

    • Hollygirl73

      Because she spent her precious time creating them and can supplement her low teacher’s pay by selling them!! The way she is helping teachers is by saving them the time of creating them on their own!!!! Wow….

    • Jj

      Are you also asking musicians to give you their songs for free and writers their books? Why should a teacher’s IP be valued any less?

    • deannajump

      Hi, Thanks so much for your question.  First, I would like to ask you if you work for free?  I spend about 25-30 hours per week creating my materials that I sell on Teachers Pay Teachers. A 2 -3 week unit that you would use in your classroom takes me about 3 weeks to complete so that’s a minimum of 75 hours.   I also spend additional time blogging and posting ideas for free.   I am not getting rich by any means.  The IRS gets about 30% of what I make and the rest has been used to bless the lives of others.  I used a portion of the money to purchase a handicap van for my quadriplegic brother and I have done other things with the money to help education.  I was a little selfish and bought myself a new car because mine was about 8 years old.  I work very hard and it really bothers me when people think that just because I’m an educator I should give my work away.  BTW….you obviously have never purchased anything from me or read my feedback. 

      • Kim

        Deanna, Right on! Many teachers in GA have had to go to having  second jobs due to cuts in pay and furlough days! What better way to supplement your income than to spend your time producing great products that not only benenfit other teachers, but also the kiddos you teach! Producing and selling quality products benefits the children in your room to a greater degree than working in the mall or movie theater as many teachers are having to do to make ends meet. As far as giving the products for free…you, as well as others, work very hard, spending weekends and late evenings to create and produce while other teachers are spending their time in other ways. $$$ is the way to even the playing field. Also, you, like other teachers, share freely with colleagues and friends, in the school setting. Why is it that others feel that teachers should not earn extra money for extra work! Also, how you spend the money is your business, not theirs. We all have things we use the money for that benefit our families and communities. It is no ones business, so you spend your money however you want even if it is a new car!

    • Amy

      My daughters are not getting to go to college for free, therefore I cannot work for free.  Teachers have to make a living, too.

    • Margaret Whisnant

      On this planet, teaching is a profession. And on the planet where you live, doctors work for free, lawyers never charge a client, archietects and builders construct houses and give them away, and everybody fills up shopping carts and walks out of WalMart without paying a dime. if you think $10 is too crazy for something that you can use for 2 or 3 weeks, you need some basic economics training.   I sell on TpT, and you better believe the underlying motive is making money.  The first year I taught, I brought home $320 per month.  Don’t you think I deserve a little payback for all those highly-educated, low-income years?  Furthermore, if I can use my experience to help a busy teacher do a good job in the classroom and have some relaxing time left for herself/himself, then I’m going to spend my retirement years writing, writing, writing.  That plan also involves making a little money on TpT.  I applaud Deanna for getting an early start!  I admire anyone who is willing to devote extra hours to teachers and students she has never met while taking care of her own.  As far as her increased prices are concerned–bought a gallon of gas lately? 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZT7R7XEJ73ZAUVSWEH6G3472TY Yoda

      Teachers contribute to education with the countless hours they spend with their students during the school year as well as the long hours they spend without pay preparing, researching, grading, buying materials, etc.  outside of the classroom.  I use money made from selling items on http://www.teacherspayteachers.com to purchase needed materials for my classroom, buy field trip buses, and to get items my students need (winter coats, clothes, etc.).  The districts are out of money and teachers spend a lot of their own money to make up the difference.  Teachers are some of the most generous people I know.  Mlondon–why not volunteer your time or money to assist a needy school in your area!  It is easy to talk, not so easy to do…   You may want to do some research on published teacher resources, they are really expensive!  The prices on TPT are low in comparison and are of a higher quality! 

    • http://twitter.com/teachingfriends teachingfriends

      You’ve just pinpointed the problem with society’s view of education. Teaching is NOT a volunteer job, and NO, not anyone can teach. It is highly specialized and requires a higher education. Are you a teacher? Have you ever bought a book from Scholastic? What is the difference between a teacher writing a book for a major publisher like Scholastic who earns a very small percentage, and a teacher who self-publishes on TPT and earns a higher percentage? Both teachers are paid, but one makes more money. The first teacher deserves more for their work. Ten dollars is not unreasonable for a three week unit. If you are a teacher and you do not want to pay $10 for a unit then you are more than welcome to make your own. If you are not a teacher -what are YOU doing to contribute to education?

      • Liz

        May I add that a three-week unit takes @ three hours to plan/supply/print? Let’s divide $10.00 by three hours…oh, let’s not!!!!!

  • Denise Boehm

    Selling on TeachersPayTeachers has actually made me a better teacher. Like Deanna, I spend hours upon hours creating quality materials to sell and also ones to share for free. I also maintain a blog and have a large Facebook following where I share many ideas freely. Along with selling or sharing things I create,  I use them in my classroom to enhance my students’ experiences. I’m finding that I’m constantly being inspired to create more and more knowing that I am helping other teachers find quality materials at much more reasonable prices than a publishing company or teacher store. 
    We also purchase clipart and licensing, web hosting and other incidentals that have to be paid for as well. I refuse to be treated as a martyr because I became a teacher. How many accountants do you know who do taxes for their friends for free? Do plumbers make random housecalls offering their services for free? You can’t even make a phone call to a lawyer without paying for it – and if he has to mail you something you even pay for the stamp!
    Teachers have been forced to supplement their income because of ruthless budget cuts. I can either spend time creating quality materials for my classroom that keeps me inspired and enthusiastic about teaching or I can spend my time at a second job that will do nothing but contribute to my burnout. I’m guessing the parents of my students are grateful I chose the former and not the latter.

  • http://www.hungergameslessons.com Tracee Orman

    Teachers are called upon–and expected–to play numerous roles in and out of the classroom: instructors, caregivers, assessors, mediators, counselors, coaches, and, of course, writers. We have one of the most important jobs in a child’s life (other than the job of parents), yet are paid less than their daycare providers.

    The fact that we teachers are being criticized for finally demanding a little respect and compensation for authoring our own materials makes me sick. Are we supposed to idly stand by as the big businesses make millions of dollars on test materials and text books that may not even meet the needs of our students? People should be praising the teachers who create their own materials or buy them on TeachersPayTeachers.com for saving their districts thousands of dollars each year. Every penny we save our districts is helping everyone–the taxpayers, the children, the school administrators, etc.. Even you, Mlondon.

    Denise is right – we cannot add martyr to our list of ever-growing roles we play if we want to keep people in this profession and gain respect for the amount of work we do.

    • Eric LeGros

      I agree with you, Tracee.  One slight correction, though:  the big publishing and testing businesses you refer to actually make Billions in profit.  What a huge waste of taxpayer money!

  • Charlenetess

    After teaching for 34 years, I can tell you that the materials you can buy on TeachersPayTeachers are far superior to most published workbooks you can find at book stores. Deanna Jump’s materials are classroom tested and her prices are more than reasonable. You are paying for her knowledge and for her experience. 

  • Samsayres

    With the major cuts that have come down on teachers in the recent years, many of us are looking for other avenues to help support our families.  Great teachers, like Deanna Jump, are willing to share their expertise for what is actually considered a small price in the education world, and help their families make up for what their paycheck may lack.  Have you ever been to an teacher store and seen the prices they charge?? What people like Deanna Jump and myself are charging on TPT is very minimal in comparison.  People need to start realizing that while we would love to just give all of our hard earned work away for free, it is just not possible. We all have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Stop the hate, and start supporting educators who are trying to make a difference and put a little more money in their pocket.

  • supporter

    Wow! Thank you so much for writing such a positive article.  I love Teachers Pay Teachers and it is the first place I go to if I need a resource.  I was a little confused about the strong comments that I was reading until I scrolled down and read the comment from MLONDON.  Then all of the comments made sense.  Shame on you mlondon,. 

  • Dcc2650
  • http://twitter.com/teacherrogers Sandra A. Rogers

    Sign me up!!!

  • Eric LeGros

    Good for her. 

    I have to ask about administrators’ thinking, though.  Why on earth would they require a kindergarten teacher to post the common core standards on her wall in the first place?  Do you think the children will be able to read them?   Or even understand them if they could read them?  These babies are just learning the ABCs and very simple sight words. 

    • jason Elliott

      The article states that “Jump” rewrote the standards with clean terms, sprinkling in bright illustrations.  In otherwords – so they can understand them.

  • Sgrinstead

    Congrats Deanna! You deserve every cent you made. I love your products, they make life a little easier…

    • deannajump

      Thank you so much!  I appreciate your sweet comments.  I’m so glad you like my units.  :)  Deanna

  • Gloloja

    I want to use chapter books to create worksheets to sell.  Is their any copyright issues I should be aware of?