TpT is turning 10 this year! How ’bout them apples?
We recently had the honor of sitting down with Teacher-Author Erica Bohrer — long time TpT’er, teacher, and Teacher-Blogger — to ask her some questions about what brought her to teaching and what sustains her passion.
In the past, we’ve featured 5 Questions in these blog posts, but in honor of turning double digits we’re taking this one up to 10 (11 actually – this one goes to 11). So without further ado… meet and become inspired by Teacher-Author Erica Bohrer.
1. Erica, you have a sincere passion for public education and come from a family of educators. Tell us more about your educational values and how those were formed.
Yes, my mother is a reading teacher (Maria LaPlaca Bohrer on TpT); she instilled her love for learning and her work ethics in me. I remember her going back to college part-time when we were kids; she was always studying. She was hired right after she graduated as a permanent sub, when I was 10 years old. The following year, she was hired as a 2nd grade teacher. She was thrilled! My mother was, and still is, a very dedicated teacher.
I remember as a kid, being annoyed that she called her students her “kids.” I would tell her, “They are not your kids! We are.” Of course now I get it, and I call my students “my kids,” too. My mother didn’t get to go to college right after high school because her parents didn’t have the funds. She and my dad never wanted their children to not have college as an option. They told us that we could go to a state school and they would find a way to pay for it so we wouldn’t be in debt when we graduated. I went to Binghamton University and LOVED it there. I earned a degree in Literature in Rhetoric. Then I came home and worked full-time for a podiatrist to earn money to pay for my Master’s in Education from Dowling College. By the end of that year, I was able to get a subbing position in the same school district as my mother and the next year a full-time teaching job in the same district.
It was funny, because in the beginning of my career, everyone would ask me if I was related to Maria Bohrer, and now they ask her if she is related to me. I’ve now been a teacher for the past 15 years! I’ve taught 1st grade for the past 13 years, and I cannot believe how fast the years have flown by. I am never bored in 1st grade and I don’t think I ever will be. I am blessed to have a job that I enjoy going to every day.
2. In a recent blog post, you mention that your favorite subject in school was art. How do you incorporate art into your lessons and classroom so kids who feel similarly can take pride in their work?
I love art! My former principal was pretty strict about cutting out what he called the “fluff,” so I had to be creative to get art back into the classroom. That’s when I created “art center” activities. Basically, the students have to follow directions on a pocket chart to create an art project. The tracers are next to each step. My students need to work together, sharing and reading the directions. I also incorporate many math crafts. My kiddos LOVE my craftivities/graphtivities. Lately, I’ve discovered directed drawings and find them so calming to do with my students. I get most of those from TpT from FirstGradeBlueSkies. She has a ton of freebies!
3. If you could invite an educational celebrity to dinner, who would you invite, and why?
I would say Ron Clark because I have actually met him through my friend Hope and he is hysterical and so full of energy. I love his philosophy of having students rise to the challenge and “not everybody gets a cookie.”
I love my Writing Unit. There’s just so much great children’s literature out there. My students are so motivated and beg me to read the next book. We use the texts as mentor texts, and my students’ writing pieces have such voice. I can even get my reluctant writers motivated to write.
5. How did you first become involved on TpT, and what is one of your favorite parts about being a Teacher-Author?
I first became a member of TpT back in 2008 when it was owned by Scholastic. I was looking for ways to make extra money as a single homeowner but I didn’t want to take another job that would take me away from my dogs. I heard about TpT through an inservice class called Teachers as Authors. I signed up right away, and I also sent a query letter to Scholastic proposing a teacher resource book. Scholastic hired me and I went to work writing 50 Just Right Reading Response Activities. While I waited for that to be published, I slowly added items to my TpT store. Then I wrote another book for Scholastic, 20 Super Spelling Centers. Meanwhile, TpT had just started to take off around 2011. I looked at what others were doing, and what I wasn’t, and then changed up how I created products. I also started a blog, Erica’s Ed-Ventures.
I started creating products as if I were writing a resource book. My style for TpT is still evolving. I have a huge variety of resources in my store. My favorite part about being a TpT author is the friendships I’ve made with Buyers and Sellers.
6. Tell us a little more about your process: How does a resource go from concept to completion?
My process varies depending on the resource. For most of the items in my store, I create them because I have a need for the resource in my own classroom. I think about what skills or concepts I want to cover with my students. If it’s a science or literacy packet, I think about what I need to cover on day one of that concept and go from there. Sometimes I create the packet totally ahead of time, and sometimes I’m just a few days ahead of what I am teaching.
If it’s a math center packet, I cover concepts previously taught so that my students don’t lose the skills. I then add a few new concepts that we’re learning about. After the packet is completed, I usually photograph samples in my home. I’ve been trying to use more of my own photographs of materials from the resources on the covers and inside the packets. I think teachers are very visual, and this helps them quickly implement the resources in their own classroom. After I photograph, I go back and add those photos to the packet. I create my cover, credits page, TpT thumbnails, and blog images. Then I post the product and share on social media and eventually on my blog, too.
7. What are your three favorite resources and why?
- I love reading the feedback on my Evidence Binder Packet. I love that I can help teachers through their teacher evaluation systems with this packet. I remember how stressful it was when I first made my own Evidence Binder. It took me forever. After finishing it, I thought to myself, I wonder if other teachers would want to see mine? Could they use my dividers? So I posted it and the answer was, YES!
- I also think my 1st Grade Words of the Week packet is pretty darn amazing. I made it with my colleague Janine Every, and we gave it to all the 1st grade teachers in our district. The kids love the activities in the packet. It’s a phonics scope and sequence for the entire school year!
- These thank you notes are a favorite of my students and teachers. I love seeing teachers tag me with photos of these on social media.
8. What’s one achievement for which you’re particularly proud?
I am particularly proud that I foster animals. I’ve had a total of 13 kittens pass through my home as fosters. Some were so tiny that I had to bottle-feed them. I’ve also had three foster puppies. It’s so hard giving them up, but if I didn’t step up to foster, they may have been put down in a shelter. It’s a ton of work and I do cry every time one gets adopted, but there’s nothing better than kitten purrs and puppy kisses! I lucked out in that my brother adopted one of the puppies and my friend adopted the other, so I get to see them often. I do have a beloved dog and cat of my own and they’re like my children. I hope that I can help other animals become someone’s beloved pet through fostering.
9. What’s the one thing you want your students to remember about you?
I hope my students remember that I was kind and made learning fun. Last year, on the first day of school, one little boy came up to me and said “Just so you know, I hated kindergarten and I am going to hate 1st grade.” My heart broke for him; he’d been in school for only one year and decided it was not for him. I said to him, “Well, I think that is sad, but I know you are going to like 1st grade.” By the end of the first week of school, he came running up to me and gave me a great big hug. He said “Miss Bohrer, I love school and I love you!” My heart melted.
10. How has TpT affected your life the most?
TpT has affected my life the most in the friendships I have made. I never would have met all these wonderful people if it were not for TpT. I first met up with TpT’ers Deanna Jump, Cheryl Saoud of Primary Graffiti, Hope King, and Anna Brantley in 2011. We hit it off right away. We all had a lot in common; we had started blogging or TpTing around the same time. Then we met up again with other mutual blogging friends in 2012.
We try to meet up some place fun once a year, and of course, there’s always the big TpT meet-up. These women have become some of my best friends. They are the kindest people I know, and we all love to laugh and make fun of ourselves.
As TpT grows, so does my TpT circles of friends. I started a Facebook chat group for Tri-State TpT’ers and we meet up in NYC to visit the TpT office or go to Broadway plays. I love this group because we normally would not have crossed paths as primary and secondary Teacher-Bloggers, but we do because of our common location. A few of my east coast TpT friends and I are even in a live Facebok Walking Dead chat group. We all take it so seriously! I love how I can virtually “talk” to my TpT friends at all times.
Remember how we said this one goes to 11? We asked Erica if there was anything else she’d like to talk about that wasn’t covered in the above questions. We think you’ll love and relate to her response. Please feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who think that teachers get the summer off.
I don’t think it is widely known that teachers spend a ton of their summer preparing their classrooms for the following year. I am in there for a full two weeks with no AC during the summer: organizing, painting, decorating, and prepping resources. You can check out photos of my classroom here.
I feel like if I am going to be in a place for most of my waking hours, it should be a place that makes me smile. Everything is organized and labeled in my classroom. This helps minimize stress and makes my students more independent. I love walking into my classroom every morning.
Erica holds a B.A. in Literature and Rhetoric from SUNY Binghamton and an M.A. in Elementary Education from Dowling College. Erica’s been teaching for 15 years and says, “I am a 1st grade teacher in a public elementary school and I love my job. I love the age, and I love creating new things for my students. I have the inclusion classroom, so many of my products were created to fit a variety of learning needs.” Follow and see more of Erica’s journey on her blog Erica’s Ed-ventures and Instagram.