Natalie Lemacks never imagined an owl could make her $4,000.
The first-grade teacher from Atlanta had used owl drawings to teach pupils to count and tell time, but didn’t find out about their appeal until she put her ideas online for sale this summer.
Using TeachersPayTeachers, an online marketplace where educators sell and buy lesson plans and activities, Lemacks posted her owl-themed classroom set for $8 per download and watched as clicks turned into cash.
“I feel like I’m definitely on a path for something big, which is exciting,” Lemacks said.
Teachers across the country are using the Internet not only to exchange instruction ideas but also to earn extra money. On TeachersPayTeachers, Augusta-area educators are earning thousands of dollars and finding ways to excite their classrooms.
Lemacks has been downloading free lesson plans from the Web site for about a year but began selling her items in February.
At first, cyberspace was a tough crowd. She sold a few products and earned about $300 in five months.
When teachers caught wind of her owl posters, desk tags and number counters over the summer, the money started coming in, making her $3,500 between July and September.
It came at a perfect time because when Lemacks moved to Augusta in July with her husband, she was unemployed and a little worried. The paychecks from her Atlanta teaching job had stopped, and she started creating a business plan to make a living selling her ideas on TeachersPayTeachers.
When Jenkins White Elementary Charter School offered her a job in August, Lemacks snatched the opportunity but said she hopes TeachersPayTeachers will supplement her teaching salary.
“It was a sense of security,” Lemacks said. “At the time, even though I didn’t have a job, it gave me an income. And it’s something I love.”
TeachersPayTeachers was launched in 2006 by former New York City teacher Paul Edelman, who thought teachers needed a platform to share ideas and make money in the process.
Today 1 million teachers use the resource. While many just browse the site for the items offered at no cost, at least two teachers have earned $300,000 and 23 have made more than $100,000, Edelman told Bloomberg Businessweek in September.
One teacher, Deanna Jump, a 43-year-old kindergarten teacher from Warner Robins, Ga., made $1 million.
“I saw Deanna Jump … and thought, ‘I could do this too, this could be easy,’ ” Lemacks said. “I knew people were making money because I was looking at the products online that were four to five dollars, but if 100 people bought them, that’s $400 right there.”
Katie Holmes, a first-grade teacher at Baker Place Elementary School and Columbia County’s Teacher of the Year, said the site has been a way to earn money but also get ideas for hard-to-teach concepts.
When Holmes needed a quick way to teach fractions, she found a free holiday-themed set that used turkey feathers to teach the different numbers.
Holmes began selling her ideas in July and has earned $2,500 off two products.
Most of her earnings go straight back to her classroom. This year she used her first TeachersPayTeachers paycheck to buy three Kindle Fires to use with her first-graders.
The rest, she said, is for fun.
“I definitely want to keep teaching,” Holmes said. “I don’t ever see this as another career, but it definitely helps supplement.”