(Some of Team TpT, clockwise from left: Paul, John, Amy, Karen, Shama, Ryan)
I often wish that the founding of TpT were one of those easily digestible and super satisfying creation stories that cuts right to the core. If I could rewrite it myself, it would go like this: Exhausted after another long day as a third-year teacher, I was planning for the next day’s classes when I jokingly offered my veteran colleague $5 for her lesson plans. To my surprise, she said yes. We made the exchange and were both absolutely thrilled with the transaction. And I thought, holy smokes, this could be a billion dollar business!
Many founding stories are aha moments like this, though reality is often a bit less neat and clean. Pierre Omidyar started eBay to help his wife find more collectible Pez dispensers, right? Not exactly. It turns out that the Pez story was created by someone in the PR department.
Even though the $5 deal didn’t happen, the essential elements of the longer story are very similar.
Here’s how TpT got started: Like all new teachers, I struggled. It was grueling to try to reinvent the wheel night after night after already long days of driving my misshapen wheels off the side of the road. Luckily, we had the Internet by time I became a teacher in 2001. But boy was it hard to find quality resources back then. The late 90’s-style education resource sites were somewhat helpful, but rudimentary at best, and the teaching resources that made their way to them were limited in scope and quality.
Out of necessity I started getting better at creating my own resources. I noticed that my students respected me more because these resources were more creative and innovative than something mass produced, and it turned out that my colleagues appreciated them, too. They were tailored specifically for our students’ levels and interests and social contexts, so it’s no wonder that they worked well in our school. I really loved seeing my ideas appear on the bulletin boards of other classrooms, too. But still no aha moment.
Starting my own business was always my long term goal, so I left teaching after four years to make it happen. I wasn’t yet sure what kind of business it would be, but the idea I couldn’t quite shake was to create my own educational publishing company, Eduman Publishing. But how in the world would I get schools to buy my resources? It just seemed like too steep a mountain to climb, and then the aha! moment finally arrived — instead of creating and selling my own resources, why not create a way for every teacher to buy or sell original resources in a grand open marketplace?
My brain lit up and my heart raced. This was IT!
Within minutes I purchased the URL TeachersPayTeachers.com and was jumping around and calling my teacher friends to get their gut reactions. Most everyone said some version of “oh, hell yeah” so I knew I was on to something big. That was November 1, 2005. And though overnight success has taken eight years, teachers have now bought and sold well over $60,000,000 worth of amazingly well-crafted, engaging, affordable educational resources that have transformed lives and classrooms. And we are still just getting started.
Best $5 I never even spent.