Thursday, May 18, 2023

Teacher Trading Cards

Teaching can be a polarizing profession. I have a few friends who think it's the cushiest job in the world. Some of my friends think my talents are wasted in education and I could be making far more money elsewhere. (As if we need the least intelligent and skilled people teaching our children!) Some people argue that teachers are overpaid and coddled for the hours they work. Others argue that they are criminally underpaid. Teachers rebut the argument that no other profession gets three months of the year off with a counter that they are constantly taking work home and grading into the night. I try to avoid these arguments. I view myself as a professional and I understand every profession has its pros and cons, its perks and drags. I think sometimes teachers do themselves and their profession a disservice, at least in public perception, by complaining about salaries and workload. But I also recognize that the work we do is vital not only to society, but for the well-being of those kids we teach. I won't argue that educators should be paid as much as pro athletes because I understand the funding for those two professions come from entirely different sources. Still, things like this Key and Peele video get a little chuckle out of me:


Since I moved out of the classroom for another role two years ago, I've discovered that May is no longer an easy, slow month for me. For 13 years, I was winding down and wrapping up in April and May, looking for ways to let my English students have fun and show off their creativity. It was light work. Now that my new responsibilities include overseeing testing and professional development (in-service training), April and May have become a whirlwind for me. This explains my blogging absence over the past 5 or 6 weeks.

But I've found a way to incorporate cards into my work. Being in charge of professional development, I put out a monthly PD newsletter. As part of that newsletter, I've been highlighting our monthly Spirit of Willowcreek award winners. This award is given to teachers by teachers who recognize the good work their colleagues are doing. We have three trophies that get passed around from month to month. In my newsletter, I include a picture of the teacher and some fun tidbit, like a personal motto or something. This year, I decided to make the teacher's photo come in the form of a card.

Here's a snippet of an example:

After a couple months of doing this, I realized that the award recipients were passing the traveling trophy onto a colleague at the end of the month with no other physical memento of it. So I started printing out the cards and delivering them to the teacher. Each card had this message on the back:

Yes, I started to make this kind of a Topps On Demand living set and I numbered the cards. It has been a highlight each month for me to make these. I just found and downloaded some Photoshop templates of card designs and used my rudimentary Adobe skills to make this teacher-centric custom card set.

For privacy purposes, I've blacked out the last name of the teacher and blurred any student faces in the background. The one teacher who has a bitmoji instead of a photo is because he doesn't even like to have his picture up on the school's website. That's his school photo taken from the school's site. I enlisted the yearbook staff to take the pictures for me.

The blank spot is because two people picked the same teacher in one month, so only two teachers received the three trophies.

The Topps Rookie Cup appears on all cards just to be a symbol of the award. I do realize that 1989 Donruss, 1997 Score, 1991 Fleer, etc. didn't use the Topps Rookie Cup. I don't know how many recipients actually realize that, however.

For my first attempt at custom cards, I tried my best to match fonts and keep things as original as possible (aside from the sometimes erroneous or anachronistic cup, of course). On some cards, I added a school logo where the original design wouldn't have had one, but I think they look good overall.

While I have been far too busy with work things to post on my blog, at least I've found a way to make some of those work things card things at the same time. On top of work, I've been staying busy by coaching my son's 7th and 8th-grade little league team. It's my first experience as a head coach and I'm enjoying it. But now I'm thinking--another round of custom cards may be in order with this experience, too.


  1. Good stuff ... Teachers get paid more than most of the people in my profession, so sometimes it's difficult to sympathize. But overall when you look at which jobs pay the most, it's definitely out of whack.

  2. Very cool idea... and your customs turned out way better than anything I could produce.

    As for teaching... it's a very rewarding profession, but definitely not lucrative (at least in my area). That being said, I didn't enter the profession to make a lot of money and I don't think I've ever heard a colleague say they did. My biggest concern is I've seen a lot of great teachers (mostly new within the first few years) leave our district (and either move physically or switch careers entirely) because of the ability (or lack thereof) to stay financially afloat.

  3. This is a great idea! Nice assortment of designs, too!

  4. Like everyone else, I think that this was a very cool idea. Hopefully all of your colleagues have thought so too.

  5. Great idea! Just make sure that next year you don't duplicate the design for repeat winners!