Five years ago today, a stranger changed my life.

It was January 2013. Christmas, the first since my mom died of a stroke at 62, was packed away and I was facing a quiet week at home before school started again. I was blue.

A few months earlier, my husband had seen a CNN clip about Deanna Jump, a super-successful TpT seller, and encouraged me to upload some of the lessons he’d seen me working on most nights and weekends of our entire marriage:

“Who’s got time for all that?” I scoffed at the suggestion. On top of teaching full-time, I was tutoring three nights a week and our two kids (a teen and a ‘tween) were still at home. But now, with an open week of rainy afternoons ahead of me and no tutoring clients on the holiday calendar, I thought, What if…? 

I went to the site, figured out one-tenth of all of the things I actually needed to know, and uploaded a few items. Within days, I received this email notification:

That was the moment everything changed.

Someone named “mmanduca” bought a handout and rubric that I used to help my juniors find Transcendental philosophies in today’s pop culture. Another teacher out there in cyberland saw what I did and liked it enough to pull out a credit card. I checked the screen, rubbed my eyes, checked again. It was true. I made a sale. I came tearing into the kitchen, jumping up and down. “We made 60 cents! We made 60 cents!!!” My husband laughed and bear-hugged me.

Over the years, the TpT commission structure has changed a bit, but here’s what that first sale looked like:


Records show that “mmanduca” never came back to buy anything else from my shop – and I completely understand why. When I look back at the quality of those early resources, I’m swallowed by embarrassment. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was doing it. And I suppose that’s a good new year’s resolution-ish reminder for us all. If there’s something you want to do, just get started. You’ll figure out the details as you go. Periodically, I still audit my shop and take down or update items that aren’t up to par; like teaching, all of this online stuff is an ongoing process and I never feel “done.”

So, mmanduca, wherever you are, I want to publicly thank you. You helped me believe in myself and realize I could contribute something of value to our profession that reaches beyond the walls of my own classroom. (You’ve also brought untold joy to my husband, who loves to remind me that – as usual – he was right.)

Teach on, everyone.

Join the conversation! 20 Comments

  1. This is so relatable! I’m still in the early stages, and I can’t believe teachers in the cyberspace have thought my [combined sold] products are worth more than $100!

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  2. That’s so awesome, Keira! Of course, the money is nice, but it’s also about validation, right? In no other space have I received such regular and encouraging feedback. I wish every teacher could feel this, too!

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  3. What a cool story. I’m so glad you did it. You’ve helped energize my classroom and inspire me! I just used your “Famous Failures” bulletin board idea with my own twist. I call it “13 Reasons Why You Should Believe in Yourself,” and I included 10 of your interactive examples and three from faculty and staff at our school. So many kids read that book, but I wanted to give them something life-affirming to think about. I’m about to use some of your ideas from Question Fatigue. I know my kids appreciate it and I thank you for all you have done for the teaching community! Best, Lara

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  4. Love that, Lara! Your creative “13 Reasons Why” twist on that bulletin board just goes to show why teacher-collaboration is so important. I never would’ve thought of that and, yet, I LOVE it! 😀

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  5. This lesson can be applied to every medium. We all become better as we learn and grow. Keep learning and growing….and yeah, your hubs was right!

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  6. I know, I know…but don’t tell him that. 🙂

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  7. You always did put everything into what you do. It’s no surprise you still are. Congratulations and keep up the good work!

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  8. Hey! I’d like to thank mmanduca too! If it weren’t for he /him, I’d never have “met” you and have your amazing work within my files!

    Thank you, again, for your amazing work. It just helps us in so many ways, especially when working with teens!

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  9. Thanks, Ann, for your sweet words. I miss you and the old crew, for sure. xoxo

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  10. And thank you, Carolyn, for being such a faithful reader and commenter on the blog! I love knowing that there’s someone out there, even if you are on the other side of the world, reading my random musings. Happy 2018! 🙂

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  11. Laura,
    This is a great story, and I’m so glad your husband encouraged you! You have helped me many times!!!
    Thank you and Happy New Year!

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  12. Happy new year, Rebecca! And, yes, hubby’s a pretty great guy, definitely my biggest fan. 🙂

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  13. I’m so glad you did get started with selling your materials — they are fabulous! I’d also like to start selling some of the things that I’ve created, but the task seems so daunting. Thank you for the encouragement to “just get started.”

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  14. Love the love, Jessica! In regards to TpT, I know exactly how you’re feeling. It’s okay to go slowly, but at least get going. Think of it as your duty – heck, your obligation to the awesomeness of your ideas – to put those materials out into the world so they can benefit others, teachers and teens alike. It’d be a shame if all of that goodness just sat on your hard-drive forever.

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  15. Thanks for sharing! It’s always comforting to acknowledge other people have the same nervousness and weariness in starting something as you do. I’m confident in my teaching material but was wondering if you would ever consider a blog post on how you get your lessons and handouts to look so beautiful with graphics? I am worried mine TpT uploads would bland in comparison with other products. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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  16. Oh, Miranda, so glad you’re thinking of taking the plunge! I’m afraid I don’t really have enough on design to warrant a whole blog post. Basically, I use Adobe InDesign and Photoshop for most of the things I build, including my handouts and blog graphics. There’s a bit of a learning curve with those two tools, but I think it’s worth the time and money I’ve spent to be able to have such precision and design flexibility. Without those two, my stuff would look like Word Docs. Meh. Hope this helps. Happy building! 🙂

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  17. I wish we could see the original, supposedly poor quality resource. 🙂 I want to get started, but this is what I’m afraid of. I don’t have the cool fonts, verbiage/advertising at the beginning and end of resources, etc. like successful sellers.

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  18. Hey Danielle,
    I understand. That’s exactly where we all started and then, slowly, we figured it out. Alas, the original version of that file has been changed many times over the years, so the first version no longer exists on my hard drive. I can say, though, that the process of being a seller on TpT has dramatically improved not only my layout/design skills, but also my teaching skills. If you want to improve, put yourself out there. Our cyber-colleagues will give you feedback; you should allow the nice comments to buoy your spirits and let the criticism (even the not-so-nice ones) serve as motivation to improve your skills. Let’s not ever let fear stop us from doing what we want to do.

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  19. Thank you for the transparency of this post! It was an encouragement. You’re an asset to this teaching community.

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  20. Thanks for such nice words, Crystal. Appreciate it! 🙂

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