Meet TpT Teacher-Author Shelley Gray! She’s been in the field of education for over 10 years, a member of Teachers Pay Teachers for six, and has a passion for kinesthetic learning. She weaves this style of discovery and movement into many of her resources such as Gallery Walks and offers helpful tips in her Bright Ideas blog 5 Ways to Help Your Kinesthetic Learners. We’re looking forward to learning more from Shelley at this year’s TpT conference where she’ll lead our Advanced Marketing Panel.
At a very young age, I wanted to be two things — a teacher and a writer. When I first started teaching in 2005, I became interested in writing educational resources for teachers, and began searching for opportunities to be published. In 2009, a friend told me about TpT. It was perfect for me. The thought of being able to self-publish my own material that had worked well in the classroom was like a dream come true. I signed up immediately and haven’t looked back since. TpT has given me the opportunity to do what I love, and I am grateful for that every single day. It’s been life changing.
2. What’s your favorite type of resource to create?
Math resources are my favorite to create. It’s my absolute favorite subject to teach. I love when I can take challenging material and make it accessible for all students. I work really hard to incorporate research-based pedagogy into all of my resources so that they are highly engaging for all students, regardless of ability level. When students are engaged, they’re having fun and learning to the best of their abilities. That is my ultimate goal for every resource that I make.
3. Your resources are so creative — where do you get your creative ideas from and do you have any tips for newbies?
When I first start working on a new resource, I first consider the topic. Then I figure out a way to make it creative and rigorous while also fostering student engagement. I want my resources to be pedagogically sound, so I incorporate basic principles of student engagement wherever possible. The three most important words that I consider when creating something new are: power, fun, and freedom. It’s important to me that my resources provide students with these basic needs, because I know that when they’re given power, fun, or freedom (or all three), they’re engaged at optimal levels. I also make sure that my resources follow my passions. When you love what you do, it’s easy to create really great content, and it’s easy to spend your time designing it.
New TpT authors who get into this business must remember that it sometimes takes years to find a groove and really become good at what you do. I’ve been on TpT for over six years now, and I still feel like my style and design is ever-changing, and getting better and better all the time. I’m still learning so much every day. One thing about many of us on TpT is that we’re teachers — not graphic designers. It takes time and a lot of practice to be able to take your amazing ideas and make them marketable to others. To be successful as a TpT Seller, you need to be open to change and, just as in teaching, commit to being a life-long learner. The most important thing for new sellers to consider is their passion. What are you passionate about? What’s worked really well in your own classroom? Take those ideas and design something creative around them. Your passions truly do shine through in the resources that you create.
4. That’s so great, Shelley, so what are three of your favorite resources and why?
My three favorite resources are The Early Finisher Board, The Multiplication Station, and my Gallery Walks.
- The Early Finisher Board is my baby. I’ll never forget the day that the idea popped into my head. Within 15 minutes I had my rough outlines done and had begun creating it. I knew right from that moment that it was going to be something that I would be really proud of. When teachers tell me that it has literally transformed their entire classroom, it’s a really great feeling
- My other favorite resource is The Multiplication Station. During my first year of teaching, in an effort to differentiate my instruction to various ability levels, I designed a work-at-your-own pace method for learning multiplication. Students would literally beg me to do the Multiplication Station, even those who were not normally motivated during math class. I saw huge improvements in their abilities. Over the years I have re-worked this idea so that every level is very strategic and builds on the one before. I get emails from teachers all over the world telling me that FINALLY their students know all the facts, and they are more engaged than ever before. It is incredibly humbling to know that this little system I developed in my first year as a teacher has worked so amazingly well for thousands of other students.
- Gallery Walks are something that I always did regularly in the classroom. They’re great because students get up and move around while reinforcing essential knowledge. The greatest part is that classroom management issues are minimized because students are so engaged. My Gallery Walks on TpT span a wide range of topics and skills and are a great way for teachers to easily integrate some kinesthetic learning into their lessons.
Tell us a little bit about your children and you educational hopes/dreams for them. Do you use your resources with them?
I have an 18-year-old step-daughter and three children — ages 3, 5, and 7. They are the light of my life, and are all such amazing, creative people. I hope that my kids always retain their curiosity and creativity. I want them to ask a lot of questions and wonder about everything that is around them. I want them to always know that there are multiple ways of thinking and of solving every problem. Creative, critical thinking is very important.
More than anything, I hope that they follow their dreams. I believe that when you follow your passions, life’s opportunities just seem to present themselves to you. My step-daughter is pursuing a career in fitness and nutrition and I see how her passion for what she does creates an excitement that is contagious. She is such an inspiring person. I know that she is going to do phenomenal things in her lifetime and make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives. I hope that my other children follow her lead and pursue their passions as they get older.
Because I am currently taking a few years away from the classroom to stay home with my kids, they have become my “testers” for my resources. My 7-year-old daughter loves school, so she is more than happy to help me out. I’m pretty sure she would complete every resource I make four times if she could.
Thank you for your warmth and willingness to share with us, Shelley. You can see her store here and Shelly’s blog Teaching in the Early Years here. And viva #TpTVegas15. Premium Sellers register here.