3 Ways to Earn Cash in the Classroom Without a Teaching Certificate

Classroom decorations
woodleywonderworks under Creative Commons

We likely all know one or two teachers and have heard about the challenges of the job. From staying up late marking essays to getting kids to care about events from hundreds of years ago, teachers face a number of difficulties.

And as entrepreneurs know, these issues and obstacles — known as pain points — are often business opportunities.

As a teacher, I earn a living in the classroom. But even those without a teaching certificate can find paying gigs in education. Here are some of the ways enterprising people have earned extra cash — and helped teachers at the same time.

1. Get Paid to Set Up a Classroom

One of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive times of the school year is setting up a classroom in September. That’s why East Tennessee teacher Emma Conley chose to hire someone else to set up her room this year.

Since she was making the transition from third grade to fourth grade, changing classrooms and familiarizing herself with a new curriculum, she had the idea to pay two college students to set up her classroom. Conley paid the students $140 to arrange furniture, sort and organize materials, stock her bookshelves and do a little decorating over the course of five hours, which gave her time to focus on her new curriculum. She also paid the school janitor $40 to paint the walls of her new classroom!

How did Conley feel about her first year hiring someone to set up her classroom? When asked if she would do it again next year, she replied with an enthusiastic “Yes!” And based on the number of fellow teachers that stopped by admiring her room, she won’t be the only one.

Want to give this opportunity a shot for yourself? Offer to move and arrange furniture, especially if the teacher is changing classrooms; organize supplies, books and other materials; or decorate — look for ideas and supplies on Pinterest, Scholastic or Office Depot.

The best time to offer your services is likely during the late summer, when teachers usually know their classroom and grade assignments. Start by asking teachers you know, and be sure to take a few photos of your work to share with other potential clients. You may even want to print up some simple business cards.

When you finish a job, ask if the teacher would like you to come back at the end of the year to help him pack up. He may even be interested in having you return mid-year if he’s changing themes — so make sure to check in after the winter break.

2. Make and Sell Classroom Materials

If just thinking about stepping back into a classroom makes your palms sweaty, why not try making and selling classroom materials instead? Paper goods like posters, nameplates, labels, signs, anchor charts and bulletin board materials are fairly simple to put together. Or, if you’re nimble with a needle, you could make chair covers to hold books, floor cushions for circle time or even curtains. Handy with a hammer? Offer to build custom bookshelves, tables or even themed props!

You may want to get started by working with local teachers, but the big market is online. Etsy is a great place to sell your classroom decorations, organizational items, theme packs and printables. I also recommend checking out Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). One teacher, Kristine Nannini, “spent her summer creating wall charts and student data sheets for her fifth grade class — and making $24,000 online by selling those same materials to other teachers,” according to The Huffington Post. In fact, TPT’s top sellers are breaking the million dollar mark!

3. Put Your Tech Skills to Work

Tech-savvy people have several options when it comes to education gigs. One option is to make document viewers out of webcams (video). Running around $100, these devices let teachers project documents and three-dimensional objects onto a screen so students can follow along without crowding around a single desk. These homemade projectors were a big hit with fellow teachers at my old school.

Another option is to help teachers with social media. For example, some teachers may want to learn how to communicate with students using social media and set up technology-based projects. You could:

  • Help a teacher set up a Facebook account for her classroom
  • Teach her to Tweet about class news, assignments and upcoming projects
  • Walk her through using Instagram to share photos of class projects, field trips resources, etc.

Blogging is also quite popular among teachers looking to share their ideas, experiences and resources. You could offer to help set up or even maintain a blog for a busy teacher. Megan at A Bird in Hand Designs, for example, charges $100 to $140 (or more) to design blogs for teachers.

Your Turn: Have you ever earned money helping teachers? What’s your favorite gig?

Leah Thayer is a Nashville-based writer with over 10 years teaching experience. She has also trained other teachers to incorporate innovative ideas in order to work smarter not harder.