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The TeacherMade Origin Story: 

From COVID Spring to Your Classroom

 

Where Did TeacherMade Come From?

Since March of 2020, Teachers around the United States have been forced to translate their entire lesson strategies from physical experiences to a digital classroom environment. While school districts allowed teachers to collect their curriculum resources at the start of the closures, many educators reported having only a couple of hours to gather their materials and evacuate. In some states, such as Florida, schools were out for Spring Break when the move to remote teaching and learning was announced, complicating matters in a different way. 

 

As the online education model became a crisis-induced standard across the nation, Teachers couldn’t know the tsunami headed their way. It soon became apparent that many homes were not able to download and print curriculum materials. Many students lacked reliable internet access and the devices necessary for completing online assignments. The obstacles were enormous; the solutions were varied, from issuing devices for home use to school buses traveling around and delivering packets of printables and grab-and-go lunches.

 

Some of these packets of worksheets, practice exercises, and writing assignments were physically returned to the school for the teacher to review. But in most cases, they were returned as photos. Teachers clicked through attachments, text messages, and browser windows, zooming in on worksheet images and deciphering handwriting to appraise their students’ progress. There were few tools designed to truly help with the problem, so Teachers cobbled together what solutions they could and soldiered on– right into the 2020-2021 Back-to-School season. 

 

If K–12 education hopes to be more nimble and responsive in the future, how we distribute and collect our students’ work needs to evolve— not just for the students’ sakes, but for their Teachers’ sanity, too.

 

Enter TeacherMade: the digital (r)evolution of the paper classroom.

 

Meet the TeacherMade Founders

Brad Smith and Laura Bresko, the founders of TeacherMade.com, have spent all of their lives in the education world. Raised in families of Teachers– aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers and, most importantly, moms who all taught school, there was little doubt where they’d direct their professional attention. Coming of age during the 80s and 90s, they combined their natural attraction to technology with their education DNA. They’ve been making impactful edtech ever since– fueled by occasional stints in the classroom. They’re happiest when they’re solving problems for Teachers– and always capitalize the word out of respect for the beautiful, caring people who have enormous influence in each of our lives. We’re all “Teacher-made.”

Though we are a new site, we are not new to the edtech space. Our first company focused on the ELA classroom, making fully annotated and hyperlinked, multimedia books before the internet was available. A textbook publisher acquired it. In our second company, we made essential Teacher tools software: puzzle makers, worksheet generators, test builders, etc. Harry Potter’s publisher bought most of those products. We didn’t really want to sell but sometimes it’s foolish to say no. So we kept the testing software because we were excited about the promise of data-driven instruction. We wrote 100,000+ questions and spent over a decade making Teacher favorites like FCAT Test Maker, STAAR Test Maker, and other state-specific assessment products. That company, Progress Testing, became a part of Illuminate Education’s “Megazord” mergers and acquisition spree. We were so relieved to be out of the assessment market by then! What started out as a hopeful social justice/equity issue has now become a cancer on public education as politicians and their corporate partners turn a blind eye to the devastating impacts of their failed policies.

We’re so glad to be back where our hearts have always been– with you, the classroom Teacher. (I hope you’re able to feel our joy, right through this screen!) We look forward to hearing from each and every one of you. We read and respond directly to Community Forum posts. If you need to reach us privately, just say so in the Forum and Laura will send you an email directly.