California teacher Laura Randazzo is not just a teacher—she’s a teacherpreneur.
The website teacherspayteachers.com, which allows educators to sell original lesson plans, worksheets, and curriculum materials, has provided Ms. Randazzo with an outlet to sell 4,000 copies of her original worksheet, “Whose Cell Phone Is This?” priced at $1 dollar per sheet. Between all of the resources she has made available for high school grammar, vocabulary, and literature, she has grossed $100,000 in sales.
In Teacherpreneur: Innovative Teachers Who Lead But Don’t Leave, the Center for Teacher Quality advocated for this new type of educator. Teacherpreneurs spend a portion of their time teaching in the classroom and then serve in other educational roles outside the classroom. Some, like Ms. Randazzo, develop materials that they then sell. Others help out as teacher leaders in their schools, mentoring new teachers and developing strong curricula for other classes to use. Some even get involved in the policy process, working with district, state, and national leaders to influence the rules and regulations that govern public schools.
Unfortunately, as the authors point out, today’s “archaic” work schedule may limit opportunities for teacherpreneurs. Teaching 2030 cowriter Ariel Sacks explained in 2010 why it’s important for teacherpreneurs to split time both as an educator and an entrepreneur:
Many teachers like myself could play any number of teacherpreneurial roles depending on the needs of my school and the funding source—community organization, think tank, or university. Right now, many of us are developing curriculum materials, mentoring teachers, or creating partnerships between our schools and other organizations. And I can imagine more: I could do policy work outside my school and/or be a freelance writer, with perhaps only half of my salary paid by the school itself.
The beauty of a hybrid, teacherpreneurial role is that I would always maintain a classroom teaching practice. Teaching is the soul of my work in education. If I lose that, I think I’d feel disconnected from my purpose and passion—and my colleagues. At least in my own mind, my work would lose relevance and, understandably, I would lose credibility with my teaching peers.
Today’s school environment is hardly a hotbed for teacherpreneurs, so it’s worth considering what types of policy reforms, either at the local or state level, would allow teacherpreneurs to thrive. Expanding virtual teaching opportunities, for example, may allow educators to stay in the classroom while taking on other roles. They could create online modules or allow students in other schools or districts to join their class via Skype or other video-conferencing software. For every module that a student uses or every student who joins their class, they could get paid.
One day we might not only award an educator with the title of Missouri Teacher of the Year, but recognize a teacherpreneur as well.