By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Teachers throughout the area and across the nation are turning to online forums to download, sell or even give away educational materials that instructors can use in their classrooms.
"There are hundreds of teacher blogs out there that have all of these amazing things you can use in your classroom or adapt for almost any level," Jamie Poore, who is in her second year teaching first grade at St. Francis Elementary School in Quincy, said. "I use them all the time. Most of the teachers I work with go to those sites almost daily."
One of the most popular sites is teacherspayteachers.com, which gives teachers a convenient way to distribute classroom materials or get ideas from other educators. The site, founded six years ago by a New York teacher, now has about 300,000 items for sale and more than 50,000 items that can be downloaded for free, according to a recent Associated Press report.
Poore started using the site almost from the beginning of her educational career. She primarily downloads free worksheets, educational games and other materials she can use to supplement the usual first-grade curriculum.
"My kids love them," she said. "Some of them I tweak, and some of them I don't. It's just a wonderful resource."
Poore dipped her toe into sharing with other teachers with something she created last spring for her own students. It was a summer writing journal she had sent home with students on the last day of school so the kids could keep writing short assignments over the summer.
Poore offered the journal for free through teacherspayteachers.com. The 14-page document already has been downloaded by more than 700 educators.
Krista Little of Hamilton, who teaches third and fourth grades at Keokuk (Iowa) Christian Academy, also is a big fan of teacherspayteachers.com. She found out about the online forum through a professional development class she took a couple of years ago, and since has been using it to download free or low-cost educational materials for use in her classroom.
Little also began freely distributing a program she developed for her room's electronic "whiteboard" -- a large, touch-sensitive display connected to a computer that can be used for assorted interactive lessons. Little's program lets her use the whiteboard to take attendance each morning. She projects a football field onto the display with individual footballs representing each child in the class.
"Instead of calling roll in the morning, the students just move their football to one of the end zones," Little said. "That way, if there's a football left on the field, I know that that student is not present."
Little said this program not only makes taking attendance easy, but it's also fun for kids and helps teach them how to use the smartboard.
Little hasn't yet tried to sell any educational materials on teacherspayteachers.com, but she would consider doing so in the future.
The AP story told how Deanna Jump, a first-grade teacher at Central Fellowship Christian Academy in Macon, Ga., is teacherspayteachers.com's top seller. She earned about $1 million in sales over the past two years.
Another local educator who uses the online site is Mary Miller of Paloma, who teaches third grade at Dewey Elementary School in Quincy.
"I use the Internet to search for materials all the time," Miller said. "Why reinvent the wheel if there's a teacher out there who has already taken material and put it in a usable form that can be accessed for the classroom?"
Miller, who spent 18 years in law enforcement before she switched gears and got into teaching a couple of years ago, says classroom materials developed by experienced teachers can be a helpful addition to the textbooks she uses.
"Textbooks are great, but after you read the textbooks, a lot of times you have to prepare materials to present to your students -- or you have to pull out the key bits of information appropriate for the age or class of students you are dealing with," she said. "If you can find someone who has already condensed that knowledge, or put it in some kind of usable form, why not take advantage of that? It streamlines what we want to do. It's teachers helping teachers."
Miller developed her own age-appropriate flashcards that she uses to drill certain words with students. She now sells some of those flashcards on teacherspayteachers.com and gives others away as free downloads.
Miller believes teachers will rely on online sources even more in the future to get helpful materials they can use in their classrooms. She believes this will grow in importance as school across the nation adopt the "common core" educational standards.
"You'll be able to share material you've found that meets those standards," Miller said.