Launching Our Teachers Pay Teachers Store

According to a recent Forbes Magazine article, two-thirds of all U.S. teachers actively use Teachers Pay Teachers. Whether you download the many free items, peruse the site for ideas, buy things to supplement or refresh already successful units, shop late night for a sub-plan because your kid is sick, or set up your store because you have materials you’d like to sell, Teachers Pay Teachers is a bustling marketplace of resources. TPT has evolved from teacher-authors offering primarily teaching materials and supplies to storefronts that support teacher-authors providing services like virtual assistants, web design, courses, fonts, and clipart.

Our TPT Journey

Our TPT journey goes like this.  First, some backstory. In May of 2012, I was wrapping up my 23rd year of teaching. I loved teaching high school English but had reached a plateau. In 2009, I completed a summer fellowship in journalism. In May of 2010, I was laid off from a reduction in force due to the economic downturn. I had only three years of experience in this particular district since we moved from another state to be near family. The RIF was devastating but forced me to do some deep reflection. I was rehired for the following year but returned to school a bit jaded and questioning my purpose.


My husband (also a teacher) and I have always had side-hustles to add extra income. We have taught summer school, test prep and tutored. We have proctored standardized tests. We have scored online or at testing sites. Moreover, we have sold books online. Our book business was thriving and kind of fun. We scanned garage and estate sales on APPs, online or the local paper and got up early on Saturday morning to plot our route.

Being English teachers, we knew what books were being taught across the nation, so we purchased paperback books for 25-50 cents each and sold them for a considerable markup. We noticed that people were starting to beat us to the garage sales armed with scanners. No longer was it a challenge to use our English-teacher savvy to find products because the scanner people could beep in the ISBN and know the price and data points on the books. It was also a labor heavy side-hustle.

My prize find was a play by the late Nora Ephron, a writer and playwright whom I admired. I was in the basement of an estate sale. The deceased owner loved books, and I appreciated her taste and sensibility. I snagged the play and some other titles, many of which ended up in my classroom. The play cost 25 cents, and I sold it for $143. Yes, you read that right.

In the early days before the scanner people, we also found recent editions of textbooks at Goodwill which sold well. Envelopes could be ordered online in bulk and housed in the garage. Stamps could be bought online and printed from a home printer. We made a couple of trips to the post office each week with a laundry basket full of packaged books. We made good money, spent time together, and felt we were bringing books back into circulation. When we got overwhelmed or tired of selling books, we just closed up shop and donated all the inventory to Goodwill or our classrooms.

Free TPT Account Versus Premium

Back to 2012. I had heard about Teachers Pay Teachers, especially the remarkable story of Deanna Jump. I opened a TPT free account in May, posted six items, and made $4.43.  In June, I posted six more products and had a two month whopping total of $8.53. By the year’s end, we had made $500. It was the potential that I couldn’t shake. No more getting up early on the weekends to proctor or teach. No more weeks of summer blocked out to score. No more shelves of books unsold in the garage or hunting for more inventory.

I thought about my best, most creative lessons and activities and wrote them with new teachers, burned out teachers, or teachers who needed fresh ideas in mind.

My husband jumped on board, and we created a template that produces a comprehensive lesson plan with the resources, links, and materials available. Within the first month, we moved to the TPT premium seller account. For $59 per year, or $4.99 per month, we earn 80%, and TPT keeps 20% of our proceeds. The profit split is quite reasonable considering they host the platform, handle the payments, and do some marketing for us.  We post and update products, respond to customers, market our products, and have a steady growing income. Some of our evergreen lessons from the early days are our best sellers. After all, a great idea is a great idea.

Our best seller isn’t even a high school English lesson.  When I was in kindergarten, I went to my best friend’s birthday party. Janis’s mother handed each kid the materials for the game I feature in the activity. All these years later, I still do this activity to start my year:

First Day of School Icebreaker: Cup Towers 

I will write more on variations of the lesson in a later post.

A Social Mission and a Global Reach

Like the social mission we had selling books, we have a purpose for our store. We serve teachers. If we can take the pressure of lesson planning off the table so a teacher can focus on building relationships with students, classroom management, and providing feedback, then we have succeeded. In a time of teacher shortages, we contribute to keeping teachers in the field and perhaps, alleviating their time-consuming and challenging workload.  We also post products that advocate for the ethics of care, inclusivity, and diverse voices.

One recent feature for sellers is a downloadable sales report that includes the origin of the purchaser.  In this month alone, we have sold products to teachers in Australia, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, South Korea, New Zealand and Uraguay and educators in 25 different states—and this is one of the slow months!  TPT’s reach is global. In these ugly times of resurgent racism and nativism, it makes us happy that a message of love, curiosity for learning, respect for others’ differences, and celebration of varied cultures is a resounding success.