Teachers Make, Save Money on Online School Supplies

Not only does TeachersPayTeachers.com, and other sites like it, provide an additional income source for teachers everywhere, but it also allows other instructors to purchase course materials and curricula at prices which often undercut local school supply stores. Now those who invest the time to create tools like student data sheets and lesson plans can use them in their own classes and provide them – for a price – to others who don’t have the time or the money to invest in developing such aids themselves.

Kristine Nannini made more than $24,000 over the summer selling wall charts she created for her fifth graders. TeachersPayTeachers’ top seller, Deanna Jump, who teaches first grade in a school in Macon, Georgia, has earned more than $1 million over two years. She attributes the success of the site to the wide range of materials available for sale created by people who understand and have personal experience with a classroom setting.

Furthermore, the prices tend to be lower than they would be elsewhere and aid the teachers in getting more out of the traditional materials supplied by the school.

Dozens of Internet forums have been created to help teachers distribute their material and pick up ideas from other educators. Teacherspayteachers.com is one of the biggest. It was started by a former teacher in New York in 2006 and quickly grew. Others followed, like the sharemylesson.com run by the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union, where free curriculum ideas and materials are offered.

Teachers are highly sensitive to price because many end up going way beyond allowances they get from the school — if they get any at all — to purchase materials for the year, which helps to make teacher-created materials are so popular. Their school supply dollars go much further at TeachersPayTeachers than they would anywhere else.

Still, shoppers need to be very careful when making purchases because the quality varies greatly. Jump said that only professional-quality materials draw customers, as teachers and their students not being interested in using materials that look like they’ve been hand-crafted with scissors and glue. The sites have a mechanism to review and rate the available products to help improve quality and draw customers to the best offerings.

While most characterize these sites as an inexpensive way for teachers to supplement textbook materials, some teachers may get pushback from administrators for their entrepreneurial efforts. Seattle Public Schools’ recently revised its ethics policy, with the new policy prohibiting teachers from selling anything they developed on district time, said district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel.

‘‘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,’’ she said.

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