That’s right, there are two amazing minds behind the Teachers Pay Teachers store Second Story Window. Sister team Heidi and Emily materialized their dream of working together by running their blog of the same name and their TpT store from different parts of the country. Heidi teaches 2nd grade, and Emily taught 2nd grade until taking some time to be a stay-at-home mom with her two-year-old daughter.
These two are passionate about education and sharing terrific, classroom-tested products with their followers. Here’s what they’ve got to say about their TpT journey.
1. You’re sisters, and you partner up to write your blog and create your TpT products — amazing! How do you divide the work?
We’re lucky in that we have complementary strengths, so that allows us to focus on what interests us most. Emily is more business-minded while Heidi likes researching educational topics. When it comes time to create, we divide the work based on the product. Sometimes we do a product independently, sometimes we split it 50/50, sometimes one contributes to something the other is working on. We’re flexible!
2. How did you two discover TpT, and what do you enjoy most about being part of it?
Emily and I both taught 2nd grade in the same city and loved to create things that we could use in both classrooms. When we stumbled upon TpT, it seemed like the perfect avenue for sharing with other classrooms what we’d loved doing with our own students, but we were too unsure to commit to selling. Making back the Premium Seller fee seemed so impossible! We finally took the leap in 2012 and haven’t looked back since! So if anyone is still hesitating about signing up to sell on TpT, we can only say: DO IT! If you have fresh ideas and are willing to put in the hard work, you’ll make back the Premium Seller fee in no time!
3. What are your three favorite products and why?
Our 2nd Grade Morning Work is the first big product we uploaded to TpT, and it’s been a huge component in our success as Sellers. About 10 years ago, I (Heidi) made the first version of the Morning Work for my own classroom and over the years I revamped it to better fit the needs of my students. The most recent version took over 600 hours to make, but seeing it help so many teachers makes all the effort worth it!
After doing some research about vocabulary instruction, we felt it was important to have a resource that we could use with our own students to support their learning of new words. Out of that research, our Jargon Journal interactive notebooks were born. Our students loved, loved, loved mastering their new words.
We recently uploaded a set of free All About Me posters. We feel that taking time to celebrate individual students helps set a positive tone for the classroom. We’re drawn toward clean design and we tried to showcase that look with this product. Since starting to sell on TpT, we’ve been learning to use the tools of design. There’s a definite learning curve with new technology, but it’s so much fun when it all comes together!
4. You wrote a recent blog post on Jargon Journals and mentioned not wanting these to end up in the “teacher cemetery of good ideas” — hysterical. What are Jargon Journals, and how have you kept them out of said cemetery?
I (Heidi) always go into September with such amazing intentions for all the fabulous programs I’m going to implement. And then, life happens. After a few weeks, all my good intentions are swallowed in the need to just survive, and any new ideas get pushed aside. So I found it was very important to have a year’s worth of plans ready to go before school even started. I could always adapt as I needed, but I needed something to adapt from.
A few years ago, we did a faculty book study about vocabulary. It really opened my eyes to an area of instruction that I had frequently glossed over. I realized how I was short-changing my students, and I knew consistent vocabulary instruction was far too important to let die away. Out of that came our Jargon Journal interactive notebooks. There’s a predictable routine so the kids (and their teacher!) know what to expect, but the content changes so students are meaningfully interacting with four new words each week.
What surprised me, though, was how much the kids loved it! They got excited about trying out their new words and finding them in their reading. And I loved watching their vocabularies blossom!
5. What are your favorite types of resources to make, and what programs do you use to create them?
Emily gets the most excited about our newest idea — whatever that happens to be! I really like the detailed planning of a big product. I love combining the different ideas into one well-designed whole. When we started creating, we worked exclusively in Microsoft Word. Since then, we’ve branched out into Adobe Illustrator. It took quite a while (and Heidi was very resistant), but it’s been an amazing change. It’s important to have the right tool for the job you’re trying to do. Next we’re going to try to master InDesign. Wish us luck!
Thanks again, Emily and Heidi, for giving us a peek into your process. What a great gift to get to share with your sister. If you’re interested in reading about more of our Teacher-Authors, check out the other 5 questions posts.