How These Public School Teachers Made $4.4 Million Selling Lesson Plans Online

Teaching is by no means a very financially rewarding profession.

Even though teachers are doing one of the most important jobs in society, full-time public school teachers make a mere $56,069 per year on average.

That’s where Teachers Pay Teachers comes in. 

The online marketplace for course materials and lesson plans has attracted 1.8 million teachers, whom have collectively sold more $30 million worth of materials online.

The top 10 sellers on the platform have generated more than $5 million in sales, netting around $4.4 million in total. Deanna Jump, pictured above, currently earns more than $80,000 a month.

Teachers Pay Teachers features course materials for grades ranging from preschool to the collegiate level. But Teachers Pay Teachers Head of Product John Yoo says they have seen the strongest interest in the K-12 sector. 

On the high school level, Yoo says Tracee Orman’s material on how to integrate “The Hunger Games” into the classroom has been widely popular.

“She’s not only become seen as the expert in using the Hunger Games in the classroom,” Yoo says. “She’s done what I think all good teachers do, which is marry the things that kids are interested in and turn it into really good curriculum. You know, use what they’re interested in to draw them into the classroom.”

Yoo notes that not all teachers have found the same success as the top 10 sellers. In order to be successful on the platform, Yoo says they encourage teachers to leverage social media to get their name out there.

“Teachers by nature need to share with each other,” Yoo says. “That’s part of what it means to be on the job. […] Whether you’re experiences or new, you need to figure out how to teach things in ways that resonate with kids.”

Business Insider got in touch with many of Teachers Pay Teachers’s most successful teachers to learn more about their experiences.

Teaching experience: Seven years teaching 4th grade, 1st grade, and now 2nd grade.

Sales: $309,000

Amy Lemons on TPT: 'TpT has been such a blessing to so many people that I know. One of the greatest aspects of this business is the connections I've been able to make with other teachers all over the world. It literally is a community and has helped improve so many classrooms through networking and collaborating resources. The biggest traffic source for my store is my blog: stepintosecondgrade.blogspot.com. I started blogging almost two years ago and never imagined the impact it would make.

The biggest blessing of TpT has been our adoption this past year. Through the funds I made from this business we were able to adopt our first child, a three year old cutie from the Congo. Everything else TpT has done is so small in comparison to the blessing of bringing our family together. However, the extra income has allowed me to purchase things like books, classroom supplies, research materials, and so much more for my classroom.

We really do believe the Lord has blessed us so much. The blog has been a great source of traffic, but the blessing of TpT is nothing short of a miracle from the Lord in our lives.'

Teaching experience: A combined 26 years teaching grades 1-6

Sales: $313,000

Melissa Kozerski and Nicole Farrar on TPT: 'It has been inspirational and incredibly rewarding to see people all over the world use our ideas and lesson plans in their classrooms. We truly love helping other teachers. Creating lesson plans for other teachers has also helped us become better teachers in the process!'

Kozerski and Farrar say they collaborate on their ideas and work together to create innovative, high-quality lesson plans. They also use all of their lesson plans with their second and third grade students.

What they've done with the money: Farrar says every penny has gone into her children's college fund, while Kozerski has saved the money, 'nothing fancy!'

Jodi Durgin: $326,000 in sales.

Teaching experience: Jodi Durgin has taught Preschool, Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade. Durgin has taught 3rd grade for six years now.

Sales: $326,000

Jodi Durgin on TPT: Durgin could not be reached for comment, but we will update this piece if we hear back from her.

Teaching experience: 16 years teaching high school level English, journalism, and art history

Sales: $345,000

Tracee Orman on TPT: 'I signed up as a seller on TeachersPayTeachers after reading an article in the New York Times in November, 2009. It inspired me to to list some of my own lessons that I felt would fill a gap for teachers. As a language arts teacher, it's hard to find timely materials and resources for teaching new novels. Plus, it takes a long time to create tests, quizzes, and discussion prompts that are aligned with the standards. I think my success on TeachersPayTeachers is a combination of creating the right materials at the right time and making sure teachers know where to find them.

My earnings have never been consistent, so we were afraid to spend any money my first year and a half selling. We knew we would have to pay a lot more into taxes, so most of the money initially went into a savings account. Last year my husband (who is also a teacher) and I decided to pay off our student loans and other bills for home improvements, then invest more into our retirements because the future of our Illinois teacher pensions is uncertain. Most importantly, though, is our investment into our son's college fund. It's nice to know we'll be able to pay for his schooling.'

Teaching experience: Kim Adsit taught kindergarten for more than 30 years before retiring two years ago.

Sales: $398,000

Kim Adsit on TPT: 'It has been amazing over the past 2 ½ years as I travel across the country. At the beginning when I would ask about TPT, no one even knew what it was. But now, there are hardly any teachers who don't! They love the time that it saves them as a teacher, how it helps them to be able to concentrate on the delivery of the content, and how it makes them a more effective, happier teacher!

Teacherspayteachers has been an incredible blessing to our family! My husband and I are almost totally debt free, only 4 more years on our home and no other debt! Over the last few years teacherspayteachers has helped both during tragedy and triumph! We were able to help my mum with my dad's funeral expenses, help my sister get some needed surgery, pay for our daughter's dream wedding, help me son and his wife make their wedding day extra special, replace my son's wrecked racing bicycle, and get ready for our first grandson! We have also been able to make donations to our church that would have never been possible on our salaries.'

Abby Mullins: Elementary school teacher.

Teaching experience: Four years in elementary school, two teaching Kindergarten and two teaching 1st grade.

Sales: Not disclosing sales.

Abby Mullins on TPT: Mullins could not be reached for comment, but we will update this piece if we hear back from her.

Teaching experience: Retired, but taught 2nd through 4th

Sales: $430,000

Rachel Lynette on TPT: 'I was one of the first sellers to sign on with TpT way back in 2006. Back then I was teaching part time and writing nonfiction children's books. Now I do TpT full time.

I believe that finding a type of product that I love creating and that teachers and students love using, as well as developing my own style/brand has contributed significantly to my success. Also, my blog, Minds in Bloom and of course Pinterest have brought a lot of buyers to my store. In addition, I have gained a great deal from networking with other TpT sellers. It has been amazing to be a part of that developing community. What could have become an atmosphere of competition has instead evolved into a supportive and collaborative community that benefits us all.

As a single mum, it has been a huge relief knowing that I no longer have to worry about how I will get my kids through college. In addition to paying my son's tuition (he is a junior at Evergreen State College) and building my daughter's college fund (she is a junior in high school), I have been able to do some travelling, buy my first new car, and I am closing on a house at the end of the month! I have been renting since my divorce, so this is pretty exciting.'

Teaching experience: 10 years teaching Kindergarten, 2nd grade and now, 1st grade.

Sales: $470,000

Cara Carrol on TPT: 'I've been selling on TpT since January 2011. I ask myself every day why I've been so successful and consider this such a blessing. I think my blog may have helped a little. I started out blogging and offering all of my materials for free.

When I saw how much success Deanna Jump was having, I thought it would be great if I could make a couple hundred extra dollars. Never did I imagine that my venture would be so successful. I definitely think that creating quality materials and sticking around after the sale (providing good customer service, etc.) is key to anyone's success. The extra earnings from TpT has given me the opportunity to pay it forward and give back to others. There's no greater feeling than to be able to lighten someone else's load or pay it forward with a random act of kindness. We were also able to use some of my earnings to put toward a down payment on the house we bought when my husband was relocated. We never would have been able to do that otherwise. TpT is such a blessing and I don't take it for granted for a second!'

Deanna Jump: the first full-time teacher millionaire on TPT.

Teaching experience: 15 years teaching Kindergarten and 1st grade

Sales: $1,775,000

Deanna Jump on TPT: Jump could not be reached for comment, but we will update this piece if we hear back from her.

Jump is the first full-time teacher millionaire that Teachers Pay Teachers knows of. She earns about $80,000 a month, more than your average Wall Street banker.

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