We hear again and again how TpT has changed lives (teachers and students alike!), opened eyes, opened doors, created and fostered lasting friendships, and provided a level of professional appreciation not often felt in this noblest of professions. We receive notes from educators all over the world who are feeling reinvigorated in their teaching because of connecting with like-minded colleagues.
Educators like you are changing the face of education because of a shared passion to help one another help children.
Below is the story of Virgil Mills Elementary School. This school boasts over 20 TpT Teacher-Authors who’ve worked tirelessly to create an atmosphere of collaboration and continuous learning. What started as an idea has blossomed into a way of being. It couldn’t have happened without collaboration and the support of an exceptional administrator who trusts and believes in his team. We hope you’ll read it and be encouraged to reach out and collaborate with educators who truly want to make a difference in children’s lives everywhere.
The difference between “try” and “triumph” is a little umph
Math Mojo: Planning and creating lessons has always been my favorite part of teaching, so TpT was the perfect outlet. I loved the TpT forums filled with other people who were as excited about this as me! For years, people had advised me to ignore everything going on in education and, “shut the classroom door and teach.” In this amazing TpT community I no longer had to; I was free to create and be the teacher I wanted to be. Initially, I planned on keeping it a secret because I assumed no one would really buy what I was making. I went “undercover” and named my store Math Mojo and started uploading products. Then, something amazing happened. I had my first sale, then another, and another. Then I got feedback THANKING ME for doing what I loved. My prayer was answered and I knew I had started my “life’s work”.
I could not stay “undercover” any longer. I told my real life teacher BFF, Trina Dralus Deboree about the site. She and I had spent our maternity leave rocking fussy babies and talking about teaching, so I knew she would love TpT as much as I did.
A rising tide lifts all boats, and pretty soon the flood gates opened and we started to tell others, each of us encouraging someone else. The group of Sellers at Virgil Mills Elementary came together through a shared love of creating resources and talking about how to make classrooms really work. We developed support networks, we met monthly, shared ideas, supported each other, shared information, and learned from one another. Our group continues to grow. To many of us, TpT is about more than just selling resources. We share ideas, we share frustrations, we laugh a lot, sometimes we cry, but most of all we lean on one another to navigate the twists and turns of teaching as we cling on for dear life to the ever-shifting pendulum swings in education.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity
Trina Dralus Deboree: The beginning of our TpT journey differs from one person to the next. It began with a prayer for something more than what we were getting personally and emotionally from teaching, as well as a desire to make a difference in the lives of teachers and students. Alexis (Math Mojo) had heard about a teacher who had made a million dollars sharing her ideas on the Internet on a site called Teachers Pay Teachers. She promptly started investigating and since she’d already been creating materials and sharing with others, she thought: “Why not give it a try?”
She immediately turned to her best friend (me) and said this would be perfect for me as well. She knew how much I loved to create materials. She also knew about my personal struggles with an abusive marriage and a desperation to be a part of something of value and inspiration. Soon we were both spreading the word about TpT. My dear friend Andrea Knight jumped on board, and the group began to grow.
The Mills family is special. Of the nine of us who traveled to Las Vegas this summer, three of us were a part of the original leadership team who opened Mills. We created a vision at Mills led by our innovative open-minded administrator. We were determined to do it better than it was being done, and we believed in empowering our teachers, and in this way we would empower our students.
We set high expectations for ourselves and our children, and this atmosphere drew like-minded people to our school. Creative, generous, hard-working, brilliant teachers who care about education and children like no other group of teachers I have ever seen. That is why I feel we have such a large amount of people who have become successful TpT’ers.
One can make a difference — together we can rock the world
Andrea Knight: Many of us have been working together since our school opened in 2004. We have a very supportive administrative team and the culture of the school holds collaborative teamwork at its core, so when the first few of us became interested in TpT, we started spreading the word and encouraging others to open their own stores and share their ideas online. I’ve worked in other schools where individual agendas and competition would’ve prevented this from happening, but this group is different. We’re genuinely concerned about each other’s growth and success, and we work together to brainstorm ideas and strategies.
It has always been important to us to have high-quality, classroom-tested items in our stores — items real teachers in real classrooms can use. But sometimes, in the busyness of life, you don’t realize you’ve done something awesome and you need a friend to remind you, so we make sure to point those out to one another. It wouldn’t be uncommon to hear us say to each other, “This unit is so smart… teachers would love it!” or “That game is so clever… you should offer that in your TpT store!”
Lolly’s Locker: I first heard about Teachers Pay Teachers from Alexis. Shortly thereafter, I learned about other amazing talented Mills teachers who were creating great products for their TpT stores. I had to check it out, and the journey began! The most surprising thing about this group of teachers is the level of sharing, mentoring, and encouragement that takes place. I am blessed to be a part of this community.
Robin Harrington from Class of Kinders: In 2012, two teachers from my school — Alexis (Math Mojo) and Andrea Knight — started talking to me about selling on TpT. They shared with me that they had opened stores and were finding that TpT was an amazing selling opportunity for teachers. I was a Buyer, yes. But a Seller? I hadn’t even considered it. I dismissed it pretty quickly, making excuses about not having enough time.
Thankfully they didn’t give up on me, and I opened my store in the fall of 2012. Little by little as I made resources for my own students, I put them in my store just as Alexis and Andrea had suggested. Within six months, I had a thriving TpT store called Class of Kinders.
I just could not believe (even to this day) that teachers from all over the world were buying my resources. What was even better than that? Teachers were leaving me the most thoughtful and positive comments and feedback, validating me as a teacher. My resources were helping teachers and impacting their students!
I then began “paying it forward” so to speak, sharing my TpT experience with Elaine (Kitty Kitty Kindergarten). It took some convincing but she opened a store as well. And this, for the most part, is how our school has brought together more than 20 teachers opening stores on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Our principal supports and understands that this opportunity makes EVEN better teachers. A win for us all! This support and collaboration has led to friendships and laughter, collaborative blogs and Facebook pages, Vegas conventions, and Pinterest parties… the list goes on and on. I will forever be grateful.
Our principal says it’s more like Teachers Praise Teachers
Elaine Baker of Kitty Kitty Kindergarten: My number one supporter is Robin from Class of Kinders who really insisted that I give TpT a try. Robin and I are next door teaching neighbors, and we constantly support each other with ideas and activities for our classes. We complement each other in our teaching styles and with our products.
I make my products as needed to support the needs of my students, and what little I have in my store is selling! And guess what I buy with my income from my store? Yes — more TpT products! I can find something EVERY DAY that would support our curriculum, enhance my teaching practices, decorate my room to look just right or be the perfect clip art to give that finishing touch to something that I’m creating.
All the girls are an inspiration and really work hard — teaching, taking care of their families, and taking care of each other in our group. We share our heartwarming comments from our Buyers (and the not so good comments too), proofread products, pin each other’s products, follow and support each other’s Facebook pages and blogs, offer tech assistance, and share ideas. There is nothing better than hearing compliments about your work from your peers.
Our principal says it’s more like Teachers Praise Teachers. He loves to hear about our success and values our work and the work of others as valid supplements that enhance our teaching. Our group has allowed us to develop new friendships all over Florida and in Vegas and has made it possible to support our school as a whole with our products. I am so grateful for that.
Melanie Redden from Snips Snails and Teacher Tales: A couple of years ago, my dear friend and teaching partner, Trina, told me about this website for teachers called Teachers Pay Teachers where you could sell your lesson plans. At the time, I was on maternity leave and home with a two-year-old and a newborn. I kept the thought in the back of my mind, and when I finally decided to take the plunge (because, after all, I had nothing to lose!), I immediately felt that I had become a part of something great!
I’ll never forget the excitement I felt when I made my first sale. The fact that another teacher chose to spend his/her hard-earned money on something that I had created was absolutely mind-blowing! Then it got better… I started receiving feedback. The positive words from teachers whom I’d never met from the global community became the fuel to my fire, and still are. It brings me so much joy to hear how a product made a fellow teacher’s life easier, helped a student, or even made an observation successful.
TpT has opened up conversations about education. Not just between our group at Virgil Mills Elementary, but also with teachers across the globe. We are one big family that has come together to do what is right for ALL of our students. I feel that because of TpT, I have become a better teacher in my quest for creating quality products that make learning fun and engaging for students.
Cara Gingras is Kindergarten Boom Boom: In 2010, I moved to Mills Elementary and became a part of a wonderful team of teachers. The amount of support this school gives to its teachers is AMAZING. As a team, we’ve always planned together — sharing ideas and resources. Then people started finding freebies on TpT and loving them. Instantly we all began saying to each other, “Hey, you should do this.”
I feel as though TpT has made me a better teacher in many ways. I’ve always made my own resources to use in my classroom because I am just not a workbook-series following teacher. I like to have fun and play while learning. When I started selling on TpT, I had to apply a more critical eye to what I was actually creating, teaching, and sharing. It has made me think more deeply about the standards that my state requires us to teach in order to turn them into fun-loving learning activities and keep the engagement levels of my students high at the same time. This in turn grows my littles to love learning as much as I do (and makes my resources that much better).
Being a teacher has never been rewarding financially (which I am sure you already know). I, like many others, spend at least $200-300 a month on ink, paper, laminating, supplies, snacks, cleaning wipes, etc. just so my classroom can run the way it should and my kiddos can have a safe, friendly, and fun learning environment. Teachers rarely get a “Thank you for all that you do” or “You have helped my child grow so much.” And let’s face it: everyone needs to feel appreciated at their workplace. That is where TpT has come in for me. TpT Buyers have validated what I do and how well I do it by purchasing from my store and leaving thousands of fabulous feedback comments.
New Teammates Welcome!
Cristina McCrone from McCrone Love: This year is my 10th year as an educator in Florida. WOW! What a huge milestone. It almost makes me feel old… almost. I have always loved new things and I am super adventurous to try new things in my classroom. Joining the team at Virgil Mills was the perfect place for me to do all those things. Little did I know, I was going to meet amazing teachers who were going to change my life.
In November of last year I became a ‘premium seller’ and the conversation went like this. “Elaine, do you think it’s too late for me to jump on this TpT bus?” And Elaine practically yelled, “NO!” I’m pretty sure I went home that day and started on my store. Robin has been like a “Fairy TpT Godmother” to me and I’m so thankful for her kind heart to share her story and push to open my store. I am also so thankful for Cara answering my crazy questions at random hours of the night and sharing anyway she can. All these woman have opened their arms to me with my TpT adventure.
This TpT family has proven time and time again that hard work does pay off. The countless friendships that have formed are the best part. As we are all finding our ‘inner business woman,’ we make different rules then the business world. EMPOWER EACH OTHER AND CELEBRATE OUR ACHIEVEMENTS TOGETHER (poolside in Vegas!).
My teaching has been forever changed because of the collaboration of TpT. I once thought I would need to find a new career after year 10, now I am looking forward to 20 more! Truly Thankful.
Experience is the best teacher
Trina Dralus Deboree: Nine of us traveled together to Vegas this summer. (However, this does not represent the total amount of teachers who use TpT from Mills.) This was a truly amazing experience. The conference was inspiring and informative, but the synergy that we felt among our group was magical. The results of this synergy are meetings we have to share our successes and what we have learned along the way, encouragement that motivates each person to keep going, and being a part of something special within something that has been life-changing for us all: TpT.
We have started a collaborative blog together, Planning in Paradise, and we hope to continue to be a part of something that is greatly impacting education and students all over the world. We could not be more grateful for each other or for TpT, for the gift of collaboration, encouragement, creativity, and community. Our lives are forever changed because of these gifts.
Math Mojo: Teaching and creating materials is no longer a “go it alone” proposition for me. I no longer feel like I have to just shut the door and teach. The best ideas are no longer stuffed in one teacher’s filing cabinets or contained on grainy, crooked photocopies that have been passed from one teacher to the next. We now can share, learn from one another, support each other, and collaborate with teachers all over the world.
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson
Cover Photo: Virgil Mills TpT’ers from left to right Trina Dralus Deboree, Kitty Kitty Kindergarten, Andrea Knight, Lolly’s Locker, Class of Kinders, Math Mojo, McCrone Love, Snips Snails and Teacher Tales, and Kindergarten Boom Boom.