The Million Dollar Teacher

This week’s School of Thought at TIME takes a look at Deanna Jump – who has made a million dollars selling her lesson plans online – and the larger issues around online sites where teachers can crowdsource material. There are several big sites doing this, some legal questions, and also big potential to help teachers collaborate more:

You won’t get rich as a teacher, right? That’s no longer true for a small but growing number of educators who are making big bucks selling their lesson plans online. On a peer-to-peer site called TeachersPayTeachers (TPT), Georgia kindergarten teacher Deanna Jump has earned more than $1 million selling lesson plans — with names like “Colorful Cats Math, Science and Literacy Fun!” — for about $9 a pop. Since the site launched in 2006, 26 teachers have each made more than $100,000 on TPT, which takes a 15% commission on most sales. In August, Jump became the first on TPT to reach $1 million. Her success has been aided by the thousands of followers of her personal blog who get notified each time she retails a new lesson. Another reason she thinks her stuff sells so well: “I’ve used it in my classroom,” says Jump, who just kicked off her 16th year of teaching. “I know it works.”

You know what else you can find online?  The entire column via this link.

35 Replies to “The Million Dollar Teacher”

  1. You really had an amazing opportunity to celebrate a GREAT teacher and a inspirational story and you completely blew it! With all the unwarranted negative attention teachers have been getting lately, I guess you are just trying to sell magazines and get people to your blog. Deanna, you are an inspiration to people everywhere!

  2. When you took your “look at Deanna Jump” did that involve actually looking at one of her entire products? Did it involve observing her in her classroom putting that product to practice? Did it involve even talking to her at all? I think through the slant this article takes the answer to these questions is a resounding NO! What a sad waste of an opportunity to actually write about something positive that is going on in education. I’m not talking about the money being made at TpT, but at all the collaboration that goes on in the forums there, all the creative classroom tested products being offered to teachers at a considerable discount to what they’ve been paying corporate publishers all these years, and all the sharing of hundreds of free products being offered there. Did you know that you are required to post a FREE product before you can post anything for sale? Did you check the ratio of free products in the many teacher stores? TpT is a wonderful site that is a glowing bright spot on education today. You really dropped the ball here! Sad.

  3. A kindergarten teacher from Georgia, the first educator in the world, the first educator in all of history, writes and sells a million dollars worth of her original work. A million dollars in sales. I repeat myself for emphasis. Maybe if this fact is flashed before the press enough times someone will finally pay attention. Something important and unprecendented is happening, and you’re missing it.

    Deanna Jump, thousands of other talented teachers, and TeachersPayTeachers have started something that is making a huge impact on teaching. We can now instantly share our expertiese with colleagues all over the world. On TeachersPayTeachers alone, educators have instant access to 202,000+ classroom-tested reasources and more than 42,000 top-quality free products.

    This is significant! No matter how the press portrays education, the fact still remains that teachers are the real experts. Well, sir, the experts are now communicating with each other on a global scale! We are supporting each other as professionals, improving each other’s classroom performances, raising our incomes, and using the lightning speed of the internet to do it. We are learning to blaze our own trails.

    Your article is covered wagon stuff. We won’t be slowing down.

  4. I am afraid Time’s liberal bias is showing in this article. The notion that someone should not be allowed to make a profit on their hard work is one of the hallmarks of the liberal point of view. Next you will be wanting to take that million dollars Deanna Jump has made and redistribute it. After all, we can’t have individual wealth and we want everyone to be rewarded equally, no matter how hard they work, or even if they work at all! And heaven help us if a teacher finds a way to become financially successful. I never remember anyone complaining about a teacher spending non-paid summers working on lessons, lesson plans and getting classrooms ready. In fact, I don’t think anyone took much notice. And nobody complains when a teacher pours half her salary back into her classroom because she doesn’t get enough supply money to buy the things she wants and needs for her class. But, boy, oh, boy! You let that same teacher make her own lessons and turn around and sell them… Suddenly everybody notices! Instead of complaining, we should be celebrating the creativity and resourcefulness of these teachers! I would consider myself very lucky indeed if my child was in one of their classrooms!

  5. Wow, what a wasted opportunity to turn this into a positive story. Deanna is an incredibly gracious and well-respected member of her school, district, and of the ‘online teacher community.’ Reading this article makes me ask… Did you do any research at all? Other than watch a news story or read an article or two? Did you contact her? Her district? TPT? Read through her blog? Ask her how she gives back to her family, school, and community? Read comments from teachers who purchased her items (and saved hours of planning)? Download one of her items to check it out for yourself? Or was this just another attempt to shine a negative light on teachers? This should have been a positive story.

    I don’t disagree with you that there are bad apples in the bunch (like you refer to in many of your other articles), just like every other profession. Sure there are probably some people selling things on there just for the compensation, but the overwhelming majority is made up of teachers who simply want to share what works in their classroom. They spend money on professional graphics, spend hours creating things, write detailed instructions for other teachers to use it, etc. Why should Deanna give away a 100 page unit for free? She made it on her own time to supplement the curriculum the district provides. Do you not recognize what an amazing teacher she is and that she’s going above and beyond what the district is asking of her?

    TPT is an incredible resource and it is has allowed so many teachers to branch out of their own school, district, state, and even country to see what is working elsewhere. As a teacher myself, it has saved me hours upon hours of planning and creating my own ‘stuff’. There are so many amazing ideas (free and paid) that I’ve found via TPT and teaching blogs. Why is it ok for me to spend $20 on a book from a publisher (who isn’t in a classroom), but completely unacceptable to buy something from a teacher… who uses it… and shows that it works!? The irony. This idea that everything teachers make should be free is absolutely ridiculous. Sure things that are made during school hours might fall into that category, but I can guarantee you most of what is made is done on a teachers personal time. Again, to supplement the curriculum, some of which is completely inadequate for making sure our students are prepared for the future. If he or she feels they should be compensated for it, then fine. If other teachers (buyers) see that it’s a great resource, others have bought and loved it, then they’ll pay for it… with their own money. You seem to have left that fact out. We purchase items our of our own pockets.

    I hope everyone reading this realizes that Deanna is STILL a kindergarten teacher. She loves what she does and is passionate about making a difference. Not only for her students, but for others around the country. This story could have been so inspirational and encouraging had you actually done your homework. This new culture of teachers being able to share and collaborate with the click of a button is incredible. It’s helping so many of us find ways to help our students succeed, which is the name of the game. It’s disheartening that there are so many incredible teachers out there who get a bad wrap because of a few bad apples, or stories like this. Why not write something positive? I think the current state of our country could use a little of it.

    Regardless of if you agree or disagree with teachers getting paid for lessons, you can’t deny the fact that TPT has played a very important role in connecting teachers, making them feel worthy, and giving them some incredible resources to ensure their students are successful.

  6. Hi –

    Thanks for the comments here and at the TIME site. To clear one thing up, of course we talked to Deanna, the tip off for readers is the first paragraph where she’s quoted directly. It’s also clear she’s still a kindergarten teachers because we identify her that way upon introducing her and without some modifier like “former” that would suggest otherwise.

    But more generally, I’m unclear why this article is perceived as not flattering to her? The lede is about her success at this (and some others) and why she’s successful and this idea is spreading. We do raise the legal question – because it’s a legitimate one and contested terrain – but what makes you think the article is hostile to her or the sharing idea overall?

  7. Would you please give some details about this alleged lawsuit that you referenced in your article? I’m from NY and would be VERY interested to see how it applies.

  8. We are not necessarily preceiving it as hostile toward Deanna herself, but as a rambling, negative, ho-hum, totally off-the-mark presentation of her accomplishments. You took Deanna’s success and twisted it into the “Should Teachers Be Selling Their Lesson Plans” headline which is not an issue at all. Period! Deanna’s first-of-its-kind achievement as a teacher/author gets totally lost in your ramblings. You even hint that her earnings as a teacher/author might be illegal. If you can’t see why your article is being preceived as negative, even hostile, then no one can explain it to you.
    What would have been wrong with publishing a piece about Deanna’s success without all the negative nonsense? My perception is that you purposely muddied the water.

  9. “You took Deanna’s success and twisted it into the “Should Teachers Be Selling Their Lesson Plans” headline which is not an issue at all.”

    in other words, “there’s no debate because i said so!”

  10. Exactly. The ‘debate” exists only in the press. This is the second time I have seen this article’s headline printed word-for-word. In neithr case were there cases, facts, or links presented to back up the statement. But in dwelling on this non issue, anonymous, you are also missing the point and a name!

    Usually, I pay absolutely no attention to any comment written by “anonymous.” This time, however, I’ll make an exception.

  11. Hi –

    I think you may be frustrated with the article because it’s not about what you want it to be about. Deanna’s accomplishment is noteworthy and it’s an interesting way into the issue of these various sites – but the article was about what three of the big sites are up to, not just about TPT or Deanna. In other words it is not intended to be a profile of her. And I’m unclear how her accomplishment got “lost” anyway, it was *the lede* of the column! It was also referenced further down. A lot of people would like to get lost in a TIME piece like that.

    Also, quick glance at how the sausage gets made: Writers don’t write headlines, someone else does that so you can save yourself a lot of time by not bothering to complain to the person whose name is on the byline about a headline you don’t like. But, the idea behind a headline is to draw people in so this one seems to have worked pretty well.

    Anyway, on the legal issues, the NEA has a good brief on it that is a great place to start:

    And this is contested ground so even if, like me, you think the new sharing sites are pretty cool that doesn’t minimize some complicated issues here about legality and about business models and approaches.

  12. Richi, I’m about as liberal as the day is long (just ask anyone on this site 🙂 and I want more of these kinds of opportunities for teachers. In fact, I would like to be able to offer my district my own hundreds of hours spent on improving and customizing their dumbed-down curriculum for a price–but an exclusive just for my classes at my school. If they want to use it elsewhere, I get paid per classroom adoption.

  13. The headline and teaser were what bothered me the most about the article, but I do recognize that most of the time it’s a copy editor or even someone in the design department who writes it. However, it’s just not good journalism to use misleading headlines. I also recognize that the author welcomes this kind of sharing, as evidenced in the last line. And, yes, it is good to show both sides. But referencing the NEA article, which references a NY Times article, which then mentions a court case and quotes it without citation is sloppy. Sources should be firsthand or at the very least, secondhand. This court case that is referenced thirdhand deals with a teacher (William Shaul) who was fired for having inappropriate relations with a student and his materials were seized. When they were returned later, he was missing some tests and quizzes that he created and he wanted them back. The court ruled that those materials belonged to the school. To compare Mr. Shaul’s situation (and argument in his defense) with teachers like Deanna Jump–who are creating things that are not required by the school as part of their duties–is simply misleading the readers.

  14. Thank you Tracee Orman! Anonymous and arotherham, the link to the NEA article is simply a discussion of the stand that some out-of-touch school systems take concerning intellectual property rights. There is no court case or documented rulings on this topic. It’s no more than an on-going argument. As is said before, it’s a non-issue.

    Anonymous, you certainly did not “upset my tremondously compelling narrative.” You supported it.

  15. Sorry, Jeffery, I apologize for generalizing! I’m afraid my conservative bias was showing. I hope you do get that opportunity to improve curriculum and I hope you also get rewarded for doing so… And not with just a pat on the head. Again, I apologize for stepping on any toes… Well, except for Time’s big old toes!

  16. I can’t speak for all teachers in all schools, just like the author of this article can’t, but I will say that the teachers at my school share plans and ideas all the time! No, we are not given a lot of time for sharing. We usually share on our own time….after school, but the group I worked with (I retired in May) was always happy to share. And I still share the units I write with my former colleagues. They use them in their classrooms and give me feedback on how they worked.

  17. And, from another Million Dollar Man, Bruce Rauner, in response to the fact that parents supported the Chicago teacher strike.
    Many parents don’t really understand what’s going on inside their schools. As long as their child feels safe and their teacher is a pleasant person they think things are alright. The tragedy is that hundreds of thousands of children in the Chicago Public Schools are receiving an inadequate education, and their futures are being damaged because of it.

    Stupid parents. It’s a good thing Bruce, Bill, Mike, Eli, Rahm, Michelle, Wendy and Andy et. al. know what’s best for their kids.

  18. Thanks Richi. Liberals love to make money. Lots of it. We want the rules to be fair and applied to all. If I improve the bottom line of my publicly-funded district because I went beyond their narrow-minded curriculum and I can back it up with evidence, I expect to get paid more. I also expect my union to support me in my creative work. The language of my contract with the district is vague when it comes to extra work or thinking outside the box even though mine is one of the few in the nation to get performance pay.

    Isn’t this the place we can all find common ground? I really don’t think most liberals fit the stereotype of some kind of bogey-man Leninist insurgency. I really don’t think most conservatives fit the stereotype of me-first, government is the problem knee-jerkers. There are leverage points in an economic system where a central bank or government can do great good as there are other leverage points where private innovation and freedom can unleash creative potential.

    If one listened to Clinton and Obama during the DNC Convention, one heard this message. It was how Clinton did business during the 1990s. Our society is too complex, too fractured, for one perspective to claim totalistic legitimacy. It must be all of us together, working our own magic individually, to make America work again.

  19. I’m offended by the article because it implies that as a teacher, I do not (or should not) own my intellectual property. I don’t understand how this can be debatable.

    If I create lessons, teaching materials and units of study and switch teaching assignments or school districts, I am allowed to take what I created with me. Although I personally believe that sharing what I create with colleagues is a part of professionalism, it is my right to decide what I share and with whom. It is perfectly within my right to sell the original materials that I’ve created.

    The school district owns the textbooks and curriculum that it purchases. I own what I create.

    In the school district where I taught, our contract stated: “Teachers shall be free to publish professional works or secure copyrights without interference or censorship by the Board of Education or any of its agents.” I’m certain that most contracts have a similar statement.

    In this negative climate against the teaching profession, if a teacher selling lesson plans and materials was illegal or immoral, there would be plenty of court cases affirming this stance. The court case cited by Still Anonymous is a completely different circumstance.

  20. are you all for real? that case specifically dealt with the issue of how copyright law applies to teaching materials.

    It is clear that preparing materials for class was the kind of work that he was employed to perform as a teacher (satisfying the first prong) and that Shaul was motivated to spend the time to prepare materials for class in order to fulfill his duties as a teacher (satisfying the third prong), regardless of his purported desire to publish the materials. With respect to the second prong, the instant case is distinguishable from Beasley, in which a police officer deliberately worked on an educational program at home for the express purpose of retaining ownership of the materials. See id. at 6. Here, the very nature of a teacher’s duties involves a substantial amount of time outside of class devoted to preparing lessons, problem sets, and quizzes and tests-which is clearly within the scope of his employment.


    Without denigrating in any way the time and effort devoted by Shaul in fulfilling his teaching duties, we hold that his ownership of the tests, quizzes, homework problems, and other teaching materials in his former classroom is precluded by the work-for-hire doctrine.

    a contractual exception to work-for-hire will not necessarily be found in all contracts, and the fact that such an exception is necessary is the entire point: these issues are messy and will continue to be debated. kind of andy’s point, no?

  21. I feel that this article puts a negative spin on sites like TeacherspayTeachers and the success that some teachers have had there. I also disagree with the implication that teachers don’t share with one another, and further, that teachers like Deanna Jump, myself, and others who sell lesson plans are less likely to share free resources with colleagues.

    I provide my resources for free to any teacher in my school or district who wants to use them. Unfortunately, I don’t know that many teachers outside the districts that I have worked in. However, on TpT, 20% of the resources in my store are free. Additionally, I share other ideas and lessons on my blog for free.

    TpT also gives me a chance to increase my reach, so to speak. In my current assignment, I might have the opportunity to teach, reach, and impact 65 students per year in one school. Instead, through selling and sharing my lessons on TpT, I have had the opportunity to impact 50,000 students or more WORLDWIDE. I’m in this profession not to make money, but to make a difference, and TpT is helping me accomplish that.

    TpT came into my life during a time when I was sinking financially. As a third year teacher, the budget cuts finally made it to me, and my position was eliminated- not because I was a bad teacher, but because I didn’t have the seniority. Fortunately, I found another job quickly, but it was far away. We had to pick up and move 8 hours away to a new city. We left behind a house which we pay mortgage on in addition to rent in our new city, my husband was unemployed for many months after the move, and we were struggling to make ends meet on my teaching salary. I’m so thankful for TpT- without it I’d be deep in debt.

    Instead of having to get a second job waiting tables, I was able to begin selling the materials I had been creating online to other teachers who needed them. A second job waiting tables would sap my energy, leave me less time to plan engaging lessons, and generally detract from my performance in my primary job: teaching. Instead, sharing and selling my materials online has driven me to be a better teacher, to design materials that are MORE creative and MORE engaging. It has given me the chance to collaborate with thousands of other teachers all over the world so that I can gain new ideas and points of view to improve my own teaching skills.

    Furthermore, I am not the only one who is benefiting from my online success- not only do I have enough money to make ends meet in my household now, but I often make enough to pump some back into my classroom in the form of materials and rewards for my students. If you ask most of the teachers on TpT, I bet they’d tell you the same thing. I know Deanna has used some of her earnings in very positive ways to impact her school and community.

    I hope next time you write an article about this topic, that you will bother to include some of the positive impact that sites like these can have on teachers and education.

  22. LP Jurca: Thanks for sharing your story and perspective — you make a strong case for teaching having the right to share and sell their creative work to a broad audience.

  23. No one thinks it even slightly bizarre that teachers are making money scamming other teache4rs? Surely the schools should be paying for the lessons? Or maybe they are–I sure hope the teachers are at least expensing it. Good lord, what a crock.

    And what kind of idiot–well, several hundred thousand idiots–pay money for kindergarten lessons? Keerist.

  24. Should a teacher be allowed to sell her lesson plans?

    Yes, a teacher does not give up her civil rights at the classroom door. If she writes these plans on her own time, of course they belong to her. If the district pays her to do it during contracted hours, that is a different thing. I am not a lawyer, but I believe there is much legal precedence for this.

    While I was a teacher, I wrote a book during the summers and evenings. When it was published, I did not mention the name of the district and certainly did not share any of the royalties. The book was in print for ten years.

    Congratulations, Deanna!

  25. I too have a few items listed for sale on TPT. I created them on my own time and feel they may be beneficial to other teachers and enjoy getting paid for my effort. Although I don’t make much (yet) with my products, the little bit I do make helps me to purchase things for my classroom (like calculators) that the school doesn’t provide and would otherwise have to come out of my pocket taking money away from my family.

  26. I feel very strongly about this article. I believe that teachers should be allowed to post their lesson plans online to sell. How is this any different than teacher collaboration? Teacher collaboration is something that does not happen in schools as often as it should. I just currently graduated with my undergrad degree in education and I know that at some points when I am in the classroom I feel like I do not have a leg to stand on. Professors can prepare us for all kinds of things that we need to know as teachers. However, we learn when we actually get put out in the field and do it. I am not sure that I would spend the money to purchase a lesson plan that some other person made up, but I think it is a good source to have out there. I believe collaboration is a key part of being a successful teacher and if we are not doing it in person in our actual school districts, then why not find a way to collaborate with other educators by doing so online?

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