10 years ago, when Paul Edelman had the vision to start Teachers Pay Teachers, who knew it would become so much more than an ecommerce site? That it would provide inspiration for teachers worldwide and help spur collaborations? Today, with more than 1.8 million resources and 3.5 million active members, TpT is known around the globe and visited by more than 400,000 teachers each month.
But TpT wouldn’t be what it is today without educators just like you. So in the spirit of celebrating teachers and our 10 year anniversary, we’ve asked a few folks to answer 10 questions about why they became a teacher and what continues to motivate them.
1. Stephanie, you clearly have a sincere passion for education. Tell us more about your educational values and where those came from.
When I first started teaching 18 years ago, I was horrible at it. I was not one of those natural born teachers. I thought I would walk into the classroom, the kids would listen, and the world would be changed. It didn’t quite work out like that. It took the intervention of our school coordinator to put me on the right track. She taught me the “tricks of the trade” and helped set me on the path to the teacher I am today. She showed me how to manage my class and how to inspire the students through innovative and thoughtful lessons. She taught me that the classroom should reflect the students and their learning. Because of this, I ONLY decorate my classroom with students’ work. Everything that goes onto the walls (unless mandated by my district) has been produced by my kids. That woman, through her selfless acts to help me, enabled me to find my footing as a teacher and instilled in me this love of educating children through high expectations that I keep with me each time I walk into my classroom.
2. Do you have a passion subject? How do you incorporate it into your lessons and classroom in ways that help kids feel pride in their work?
I LOVE teaching social studies. Knowing how people behaved in the past, and how that affects what we do in the present, is fascinating to me. But I know that by the time the students reach me in 5th grade, they’re not always a huge fan of social studies. Some find it boring and tedious. What I love more than anything, is seeing those same kids walk out of my class at the end of the year as full-fledged historians. By incorporating social studies into everything we do (reading, writing, math, art…even PE!), the students begin to see it as something that is naturally connected to our world. We delve into primary sources when studying about Paul Revere and look at the Columbian Exchange from both sides of the Atlantic. The kids create plays and make art that reflects all that they have learned in social studies. And by the end of their year with me, the kids love social studies just as much as I do!
3. If you could invite an educational celebrity to dinner, who would you invite and why?
I would love to have dinner with Donalyn Miller. Her book, The Book Whisperer, fundamentally changed the way I view reading and reading instruction in my classroom. She made me a better reading teacher and, consequently, turned my students into voracious readers. I would just love to thank her for that.
4. Do you have a favorite unit to teach? Why is it so special to you?
I could teach the American Revolution all year long. There is just SO much to it, and the kids soak it all in. From the battles, to the political drama, to the behind the scenes intrigue of each key player, I can’t get enough of it! Because I enjoy it so much, the students really get into it all. And, as I said before, nothing makes my heart happier than turning non-history lovers into major history buffs. This unit does it every.single.year.
5. How did you first become involved on TpT, and what is one of your favorite parts about being a Teacher-Author?
In 2011, I began my blog, Teaching in Room 6, as a way to share what was happening in my classroom with others. I never really thought it would take off like it did, but soon, people were begging me for the resources I was writing about. Through my adventures in blogging, I had run across TpT, as many other Teacher-Bloggers were also on the site. So in January of 2012, I posted my first resource, a Reading Log, that is still a top seller of mine.
As my time on TpT went on, I discovered that I loved hearing how the things I used successfully within my classroom were also able to be used successfully by other teachers. I would get emails from people asking me how to implement a strategy they saw on my blog or what the best way to use a particular resource they bought from me was. Feedback would pour in, stating how useful a product was to that teacher and her students. All of this validated not only the products I was creating, but helped me to see that I was affecting the lives of so many people that I could never have connected with if it weren’t for TpT. As the feedback and emails came in, I realized what a gift being a Teacher-Author truly is.
6. Tell us a little more about your process: how does a resource go from concept to completion?
For me, most of my resources begin in my classroom. They stem from a need I have as a teacher and venture out from there. Once I’ve taught it to my class, I then sit down and think about how I can best describe the lesson that was in my head sufficiently enough for another teacher, in another state, with another set of students and circumstances to replicate. I always try to keep the rigor up and the prep work down, while keeping the end result — teaching students — in mind. I usually just sit at my computer and type it all up: lesson plan, pictures, student pages. And a TpT resource is born!
7. What are your three favorite TpT resources and why?
I am in love with my Calendar Math series. This is something I’ve written about on my blog more than any other single subject. I’m passionate about it’s implementation, so much so that I wrote an entire manual for my buyers! I just feel that the constant repetition and pressure-free approach it takes creates students who master basic math skills in no time at all.
I also love my In 5 Days series. “Plot in 5 Days” was the first one I wrote, so it is extra special to me. But this entire series, which is a set of five lesson plans to teach a concept in one school week, has been such a lifesaver to me. When I need to teach that concept, all of my lessons are done. I don’t have to do much else other than print it all out!
My Apple of my Eye Positive Behavior Slips are something that I use on a daily basis as well. My students can’t wait to receive one. The looks on their faces when they open their planners and the slip is in there with something positive they did that day is just priceless.
8. What is one achievement for which you are particularly proud?
Receiving my National Board Certification in 2006 (and then my renewal in 2016) was, hands down, the most rewarding experience of my teaching career. It was such a rigorous process, but one that made me far more reflective of my teaching practice and, in turn, a better teacher.
9. What is the one thing you want your students to remember about you?
That I was always pushing them to be the best they could be. The bar in my classroom is high and, by the end of the year, I expect that the students will rise to the occasion. And, you know what? They usually do. I would like them to look back and see that they rose to the expectation because of what *they* did.
10. How has TpT affected your life the most?
Blogging and TpT has brought the most amazing people into my life. Jennifer Runde (Runde’s Room), Kristen Beakey (Ladybug’s Teacher Files), Susie Rios (Panicked Teacher) and Jennifer Findley (Teaching to Inspire) are my backbone. These four ladies, as well as many others in my circle of upper grade Teacher-Authors, push me to be a better blogger, author, and teacher. I am so grateful to have met them through this process.
Another side effect of TpT is that I am a better teacher now. I think more critically and deeply about all of the lessons I present to my students. I am on the cutting edge of technology and educational reform. Innovation within the walls of my classroom happens all the time because I am more connected to the educational system outside of those walls.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
I am not just a TpT Teacher-Author, blogger, and full time teacher, but I am a mother and wife. My two older children (ages 9 and 6) are avid sports players, so most of our free time is spent at the softball or baseball diamonds. I tend to spend that time chasing around my 2-year-old while desperately trying to catch a bit of my daughter pitching or my son catching!
Because of our busy schedule, making time for TpT is something that I must plan for. It doesn’t come easily or naturally, as some would like to believe. Juggling things is always a work in progress for me, as I know it is for most of us Teacher-Authors. My advice to those of you just starting out would be to keep at it. Go with your passion and stick to it. Create quality over quantity, but always be mindful of that juggling act.
Stephanie of Teaching in Room 6 has a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and a Master of Education. Additionally, she’s a been Nationally Board Certified two times! And here’s what she has to say about her teaching style: “I believe my role in the class should be to impart new knowledge, and the students should be doing everything else. I train my students to be as self-sufficient as possible so that they gain the most out of my class. My motto is: If I am the only one working, I am the only learning… so let’s let the kids work and learn!” Check out her TpT store, Blog, Facebook, and Instagram for more inspiration.