Ten years ago, Megan Mitchell was a single mom to kindergarten triplets, living paycheck to paycheck. With mounting debt and no relief in sight, she turned to one of the only things she was sure of—teaching.
She had already been working as a teacher for several years in Sylvania, Ohio, and always took pride in creating her own materials and resources. So Megan decided to post a few of her products to Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) to see if anyone would buy them.
It started out slow, but Megan appreciated the flexibility she had to create and sell her own resources. As a busy mom and teacher, it wasn’t easy to find time to create, but she was hardworking and dedicated. She liked having the fate of side hustle in her own hands.
A year later, Megan married a fellow teacher who also had three children. Then shortly after, they had a little girl, Charlie, together who was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Now a family of nine with growing expenses and needs, Megan doubled down on her TPT store to keep it growing and earning.
Little by little, they paid off debt, their house, car loans, and even set some aside for family vacations. WeAreTeachers chatted with Megan on how she went from single mom in debt to a side hustle that outearns her teaching salary. She shares her story, and some tips, below.
WeAreTeachers: How did you decide what your first products would be?
MM: It was February when I opened my store, and the first resource I posted was on dental health because it was National Children’s Dental Health Month. It was something I was going to be using in my own classroom, so I thought others could use it as well.
WeAreTeachers: Is that first-ever product still up?
MM: It’s gone through three or four revisions, but yes. It’s still there.
WeAreTeachers: How do you decide what materials to create?
MM: First and foremost, I create materials for my kids (students) and my classroom. It encourages me to be more creative with teaching and develop a curriculum that’s really engaging. It also helps me channel my creativity. I’m not much of a TV watcher, and I have ADHD, so it’s good for me to always have something to do and to stay busy with my hands.
WeAreTeachers: Do your students ever decide what you create?
MM: All the time. You never know what your students are going to be into, and I really enjoy creating materials that they love. Years ago, I had a little guy who was super interested in learning about different countries and continents, which led to a lot of fun stuff. And a lot of my animal curriculum comes from boys that have wanted that content. I’ll make something, and then I can’t wait to use it in the classroom.
WeAreTeachers: How have you used the extra income?
MM: At first, we used it to pay off the debt that I had. Then we slowly used the income to fix up our house. Then we bought a new house and redid it. We eventually started taking one family trip a year, and we were even able to take the entire family on a cruise. We are actually debt-free right now.
WeAreTeachers: It sounds like you’ve put a lot of money toward family needs, but please tell us you’ve had at least one splurge for yourself.
MM: Yes. You’re actually looking at it (she points behind her in the video interview). This is my splurge room. I wanted a children’s library, and now I have it. I have big plans of neighborhood kids coming over to read all summer long if COVID would just go away. Charlie and I love to read in there, too! Someday it’ll be great for grandbabies.
WeAreTeachers: Why are you still in the classroom, given your success?
MM: I love teaching. I absolutely love it. First grade, in particular, is my favorite—their curiosity! Their brains are like little sponges. You can say big words and teach them things that you wouldn’t think they would remember. They truly love to learn and are open to anything.
WeAreTeachers: Do you put a lot of hours into this side hustle?
MM: A lot of times, people don’t realize just how much time goes into creating materials like this. It really has become a full-time job for me.
WeAreTeachers: So how are you able to find time to do it all?
MM: You just have to find the hours. In the past, I’ve woken up at 5 a.m. to work before school. Then I would work a little bit every evening. I also worked weekends, sometimes eight hours on both Saturday and Sunday. Obviously, family comes first for me. I get my kids to where they need to be and cook dinner. But it takes commitment to spend your free time this way.
WeAreTeachers: Is your spouse supportive?
MM: Yes! My husband even started a store—he teaches junior high math. And we used to get up early together to work on our curriculum and our stores.
WeAreTeachers: Not everyone loves Teachers Pay Teachers, and they want all resources to be free. What’s your thought around this?
MM: I think it’s amazing that we as teachers have TPT as an option. As a 23-year teacher, I feel qualified to write classroom materials, and I back teachers who are doing the same. I know what my kids need, and it’s rewarding for me to be able to create it. Also, people really don’t realize all the time, energy, and money we all put into our stores. It’s a lot of work. I’m happy to support other teachers in this way. We all know teachers don’t get paid a lot, and I think it’s great that this is an option.
WeAreTeachers: If someone is trying to break into TPT or create a good side hustle opportunity, what advice do you have?
MM: I do feel fortunate to have gotten in with TPT when I did. I know it can be a lot harder these days to start and grow a store. But for anyone looking to do something like this, I think you really do have to put in the time and work. It’s not easy, and the money doesn’t just flow in, but it is possible.
Megan’s store on Teachers Pay Teachers is called First Grade Roars.