New role for teacher: selling lesson plans

  • Tue Nov 29th, 2011 10:05pm
  • News

By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist

A trained teacher, Rachel Lynette no longer spends her days in a classroom. Even so, she’s hard at work on lesson plans.

Those work sheets, it turns out, are valuable commodities.

“I earn about two-thirds of my living this way,” the Bothell woman said. “My goal is $100 a day, every day — seven days a week, not five.”

In October, Lynette said, she earned $3,350 selling her original lesson plans at the TeachersPayTeachers website. She isn’t getting rich, but the site’s founder, and at least one top seller, make serious money.

The website was founded by Paul Edelman, a former New York City public school teacher. He was 33 when he launched TeachersPayTeachers in 2006.

“He takes 15 percent,” Lynette said of Edelman. The $3,350 she cleared last month was net pay.

Lynette doesn’t know how many Snohomish County teachers use the site, which lists 104 participants from Washington state. She did find one of her daughter’s Bothell High School teachers on the site.

When The New York Times published an article about TeachersPayTeachers in 2009, the site had more than 200,000 registered users, and Edelman was quoted as saying sales had topped $600,000.

On a “Top 100” list of sellers on the site, Lynette, 47, was ranked Tuesday at No. 12. “I’m usually in the top 15,” she said.

Lynette put her full-time teaching career on hold to raise two children. A Western Washington University graduate, she taught in the Lake Washington School District, at the private Open Window School in Bellevue, and at Soundview School, a private school in Lynnwood. She also taught Pacific Science Center classes, computer classes at Holy Rosary School in Edmonds, and was an educational consultant for the Snohomish County PUD.

Lynette has also written nonfiction books for children. She happened upon the TeachersPayTeachers site while looking for part-time work in education. Her lesson plans are mostly language arts offerings, including dictionary and spelling worksheets and nonfiction book projects.

The website touts its system as “Free Market Merit Pay for Teachers,” and says that teachers “deserve extra compensation for all those hours spent lesson planning.”

Lynette knows all about uncompensated hours. As a full-time teacher, she said she spent her Sundays on lesson planning. “I wanted to be with my own family,” she said.

As the Legislature ponders cuts in education and jobless statistics show little improvement, Lynette’s work is an object lesson in making a living without a traditional job. Teachers are selling tried-and-true experience on the site.

“Instead of going to an educational store and spending $25 for a workbook, here you can find pages that have all been used in a classroom — prepared by a teacher who has a clue about what will work,” Lynette said. Most teachers, she said, buy materials.

The most successful sellers make sure their lesson plans are in line with Common Core Standards used around the country, she said.

If there’s a star lesson-planner on TeachersPayTeachers, it’s Deanna Jump. By far the site’s top seller, the kindergarten and first-grade teacher from Georgia has earned $80,000 over the past 18 months selling her original lesson plans. A Fox News TV station in Atlanta reported that Jump used those earnings to buy a specialized van for her brother, a quadriplegic.

The TeachersPayTeachers site raises questions. Everett School District spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said Tuesday that she knows of no district policy that would keep teachers from selling their own lessons created during off hours. Copyright laws certainly need to be followed.

“The whole education industry is moving away from the individual classroom toward collaboration,” Waggoner said. “This is not totally different from that.”

In its 2009 article on the subject, The New York Times reported that Virginia school officials looked into the issue of a former football coach selling his playbook and instructional DVDs online, but allowed him to continue sales. “The marketplace for educational tips and tricks is too new to have generated policies or guidelines in most places,” the article by New York Times writer Winnie Hu said.

“I love knowing that tens of thousands of students around the world use what I create,” Lynette said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

For information about the TeachersPayTeachers website for selling lesson plans, go to www.teacherspayteachers.com.