Two years ago, Deanna Jump, a Georgia kindergarten teacher with two kids in college, was struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck. More recently, though, she has found herself rocketing up the tax brackets.
Jump is still teaching kindergarten—but she is now also the top seller on Teachers Pay Teachers, the website on which educators can buy and sell lesson plans. In the past year, she has reportedly made $230,000 through the site. She says that roughly $100,000 of that came in the last fiscal quarter alone.
“It’s unbelievable,” she says, noting that when she first started using the TPT three years ago she made only around $300.
Jump—whose manner on the phone mixes Southern charm with a teacher’s slightly frantic pace—says she currently has about 60 lessons on TPT, with prices averaging around $8. (Sample Title: “Penguins Math and Literacy Fun.”) She never posts a unit, she emphasizes, until she has used it in her own classroom.
She explains that many teachers today have an urgent need for good lesson plans because the materials created by commercial publishers or provided by school districts are not always well-adapted to the current standards that need to be taught. They can also be dry and too slowly paced, she adds.
In all, more than $3 million has been spent on lesson materials on TPT, according to Paul Edelman, the company’s founder.
Jump, who has been teaching for 14 years, says that in the past she often shared her lesson plans with colleagues. One of them finally told her that they were so good she should be making money on them.
Asked about the concern that services like TPT may jeopardize the free exchange of ideas and resources in teachers’ professional community, Jump sounds far less defensive than practical. She says that she often posts lesson ideas on her blog that teachers are welcome to take but that the lessons she uploads to TPT are carefully crafted and ready for use. It typically takes her about 40 hours outside of school to create a lesson unit—which, she notes, significantly cuts into the time she could be spending with her family or relaxing. “I don’t think anyone out there would work on something for 40 hours, and then be happy not to get paid for it,” she says.
She also notes that, in the current economic climate, many teachers have been forced to take second jobs. “This is my second job,” she says. “I don’t think it’s wrong.”
Regardless, Jump has been generous with her profits. She has bought a specially equipped van for a brother who is quadriplegic and set up a scholarship at her son’s private school. At her own school, she has purchased technology equipment—including a Smartboard for a friend—and paid for colleagues to attend the Ron Clark Academy. She has also funded projects on Donorschoose, the site that lets individuals help teachers buy needed instructional supplies.
Jump notes that school budgets have been tight for several years, and that many teachers don’t have adequate resources. “I’m very blessed right now,” she says. “I just want to give back.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.