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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 29, 2006

Teachers cash in at new Web site

By Ben Feller
Associated Press

WASHINGTON For all those teachers who take work home at night, creating lessons they hope kids will like, the reward is a good day in class. Now there could be another payoff: cash.

Teachers are selling their original lectures, course outlines and study guides to other teachers through a new Web site launched by New York entrepreneur Paul Edelman.

The www.teacherspayteachers.com site aims to be an eBay for educators. For a $29.95 yearly fee, sellers can post their work and set their prices. Buyers rate the products.

"It's a way to pat teachers on the back, to value what they do," Edelman said. "They create the material night after night. The best way to value that is to put a price on it."

Lots of Web sites offer lesson plans that can be purchased or downloaded for free. Yet Edelman says they don't cover a fraction of what teachers themselves have come up with. By offering them a way to make a buck, the 33-year-old former teacher says he's found a niche.

He's banking on it. Edelman cashed in his retirement fund and maxed his credit cards to launch the business in April. He keeps 15 percent of every sale, but he knows the only way he will really make money is by getting "teacher-authors" to pay the membership fee.

So far, he's recruited about 80. That includes eight former state teachers of the year who got free lifetime memberships.

Need a lesson about the history of China? How about a way to teach the Industrial Revolution through documentary photography? Or a manual for organizing a poetry slam?

They're all for sale. Many of the items go for only a dollar or so.

"We're all out there looking for different things," said Ron Hubbard, 36, a fifth-grade teacher in San Ramon, Calif., who has purchased 11 items for $41. "Each class is different, each year is different. You like to put your own little spin on it."

Hubbard picked up some timelines on American history, logic games for his gifted students, and a software program that lets him randomly select pairings of students. He's pleased. "It's fellow teachers, so you figure they're going to give you a good deal," he said.

States decide which subjects must be covered in class. Textbooks provide outlines and exercises along with the basic facts. But teachers decide how to fill the gaps each day.

"This is what we do all the time we're down in the trenches, sharing information. This just gives us access on a much wider basis," said Jim Smith, who teaches U.S. history in Las Cruces, N.M., and took the state's top teaching honor a few years ago.

Edelman's site specializes in teaching materials. Teachers can browse through a range of subject areas, such as science, and then delve into subcategories, like chemistry and physics.

Overall, the project's fate will depend on how big the catalog gets and how good it is. "Why just give it away?" Edelman tells teachers. "This is what you've worked hard on."