October 12, 2012
Teachers Make Money Selling School Materials Online
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Many teachers spend the last few weeks of summer getting ready for the new school year by creating new curriculum materials for their classes.
Some teachers, like Kristine Nannini of Seattle, spend all summer creating wall charts and data sheets not only for their classes, but to sell to other teachers as well. For Nannini's part, selling her fifth grade school materials at teacherspayteachers.com has earned her a nice little profit of $24,000.
Sites like teacherspayteachers.com are providing alternatives to more traditional — and typically more expensive — curriculum materials for teachers who are strapped for cash and have limited time. Teachers, districts and parents are saying sites like teacherspayteachers.com save teachers time and money. Such sites are also giving teachers a way to make extra money, which is always needed, especially in today's economy.
While Nannini's haul is impressive, it's a far cry from the top selling teacher found at the teacherspayteachers website.
Deanna Jump, a first grade teacher at Central Fellowship Christian Academy in Macon, Georgia, has, in the past two years, made over $1 million in sales. Jump believes the site has been successful because educators are always looking for new ways to engage their students, the materials move beyond textbooks, and are relatively inexpensive.
"I want kids to be so excited about what they're learning that they can't wait to tell mom and dad," Jump told the Associated Press.
Teacherspayteacher.com is not the only curriculum site for teachers; there are dozens. It is the largest, however. Started by a teacher from New York in 2006, teacherspayteachers.com grew quickly.
Other sites, like sharemylesson.com, run by the second largest teacher's union (American Federation of Teachers), followed quickly and offer free resources, ideas and materials. Teacherspayteachers.com has approximately 50,000 free items and 300,000 items for sale currently.
Some teachers are getting pushback from administrators for selling materials online. Seattle Public Schools' recently revised its ethics policy to prohibit teachers from selling anything they develop on district time or using district resources.
"Anything created on their own time could also cross a gray line, depending on the item and how closely tied it is to classroom work," said Teresa Wippel, Seattle district representative.
So far, more than 1 million teachers have bought or sold curriculum materials on teacherspayteachers.com since the site opened. For just the months of August and September this year, teachers had $5 million in sales. Since the site was founded in 2006, teachers have collectively earned more than $14 million after paying the site fees.
Quality varies across the websites. According to Jump, teachers and students are only interested in professional-looking materials that offer quality instruction and information that they need. Teacherspayteachers.com allows teachers to rate items, which gives others some idea of quality before they buy.
Although teachers are given a few hundred dollars a year by their districts for curriculum materials, they often spend their own money to make up the difference. These sites are becoming more popular because a teacher's funds go farther than at traditional school supply stores.
"I guess I've created something that everyone really needs," said Nannini.
Jump, who makes most of her money selling science curriculum for the early grades, splits her earnings between her family, charity and her school. She recently bought a smart board for one classroom.
Steven Wakefield, a spokesperson for ASCD, a prominent teacher training organization that maintains a blog illuminating ways teachers can find help online, says that no national organizations approve or rate the online curricula available online. However, many of them do maintain lists of places for teachers to begin their search.
As a parent with two daughters in public school in Seattle, Kathy Smith says she trusts teachers to make good decisions about what they choose to share with the students regardless of where they obtain the materials.
"I've got a lot of faith in teachers," she said. "I don't see any problem using computer sites for supplementation at all."
Everything that Becky Smith, a special education teacher from Alabama, has gotten from teacherspayteachers.com has been free. The website saves Smith driving time and cash because she only buys what she needs — a single worksheet vs. a $20 workbook filled with things she doesn't need. She also believes that supporting other teachers is important.
"I was on there for hours just looking for things before school started," she said.