01/23/13 — Brogden teacher finds blogging lucrative

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Brogden teacher finds blogging lucrative

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 23, 2013 1:46 PM

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Randi Fleming poses with a tablet displaying her blog, teachitwithclass, inside of her first-grade classroom at Brogden Primary School. The blog offers different resources (calendars, schedules, etc.) for teachers to use and personalize.

When Randi Fleming began looking for teacher resources online a couple years ago, blogs were just hitting the Internet.

The chance discovery prompted her to consider creating one of her own.

"That was, like, when the blog world blew up and I found it when it became popular," the first-grade teacher at Brogden Primary School said, recalling the encouraging words she heard from a teacher friend. "'I think we can do this, we have things to say.'"

Now, she teaches classes on how to set up a blog and recently did a presentation at the N.C. Elementary Educators Conference.

Her own site, teachitwithclass, features tips and resources she has created, things that can easily be personalized, downloaded and printed out for use by other educators. At the outset, she said she ran the concept by her principal and school officials before establishing it online.

The timing was right, as it coincided with the introduction of "teachers pay teachers," an open marketplace for educators where teachers buy, sell and share original teaching resources.

Both ventures took off, she said.

"It's extremely profitable," Ms. Fleming said of the venture. "My blog, I make something and then I showcase how they can use it. It's just decorative stuff, but I also do content. ...

"When I started it, it was just something to share. It just has blown up to so much more."

Today she has about 1,500 followers of her blog and her "teachers pay teachers" store link is at almost 2,000, while her Facebook page has about 3,100 followers.

And yet, ironically, the 29-year-old never set out to become a teacher.

After graduating from Mount Olive College with a degree in criminal justice, she floundered, trying out a succession of jobs -- at a temporary agency finding jobs for other people, taking care of government housing, working at a crafts store.

"I just wasn't happy," she says now.

Someone suggested teaching, but she wasn't thrilled with the idea of going back to college, especially since she'd already earned a degree.

The lateral entry program, requiring a Praxis test and attaining certification while working in the classroom, held an appeal. Things began to fall into place -- her test results came back quickly and she was hired "on the spot" at Brogden.

"It really was meant to be," she said. "I really jumped in, because I thought I was so far behind."

Making up for what she perceived as lost time only motivated her more to tap into her creative side.

But while she adored the students and certain aspects of her newfound career, she had her doubts.

"I didn't know I was good at it," she said. "I knew I loved it but you don't teach kids if you're not good at it.

"It took a lot of principals and people that I looked up to (encouraging me). I really felt everybody else learned all this in college."

After five years in the profession, she knows she is where she's supposed to be.

The sideline business she launched may be good supplemental income, but the biggest pay-offs come in tiny packages, those 19 students who sit in her classroom every day and bring her trinkets and homemade pictures to show their appreciation.

Like the little girl who couldn't master the art of snapping her fingers.

Her teacher uses the action to illustrate a punctuation lesson -- every time she reaches the end of a sentence, where there should be a period, she'll snap.

Earlier this week, that student, for the first time, was able to do it, too.

Ms. Fleming would be hard-pressed to say who was more proud in that moment.

"I taught her how to snap," she said.

And if in the process, she can also encourage or support other educators in the profession through her blog, she hopes to do that, too.

More and more teachers in the district, as well as across the country, are taking advantage of such resources, or even developing their own.

"I keep thinking it's got to cap out. There's going to be so many doing it," Ms. Fleming says. "But the guy who founded the 'teachers pay teachers,' they just finished their numbers and he said he's predicting double or triple his productivity numbers, which are just outrageous."

Ms. Fleming's blog can be found at teachitwithclass.blogspot.com.