They’re identical twins, best friends and teachers.
So why wouldn’t Nichole Milleville and Samantha Cooper start a business together?
The sisters’ business, TechTwins, sells lesson plans and other online aids to teachers around Kansas and the country. The focus is on technology and business courses.
“It was just an idea to help each other out, but it turned into something helping teachers everywhere,” said Cooper, who teaches at Maize South High.
“It’s in our blood,” said Milleville, who teaches at Andale High. “Our grandma was a teacher. Our parents are teachers.
“We love being around kids. We love computers and business, so why not?”
Milleville and and Cooper grew up in El Dorado, where their parents, Doug and Julie Jensen, are both educators. Doug Jensen is the district’s technology director and Julie Jensen is its curriculum director.
Both Jensens also work part-time for Apple, training other educators in the use of technology. Milleville said her father “noticed 18 years ago how technology was growing, and he encouraged us to do the same.”
Milleville and Cooper both majored in business education at Kansas State University, graduating in 2011. Not long after, they started a website, kstechtwins.com, that included a blog, tips and list of resources such as other websites and technology that they found helpful in their new profession.
“We were brand new teachers,” Milleville said. “We had no money in our budget for any resources. We just went online to get free resources to use in our class.
“A lot of teachers struggle with incorporating that. We provided resources for them and gave them tips and ideas.”
All of the material on that website is free. But about a year later, after visitors to the website began requesting their lesson plans, the sister decided to start selling them through an online marketplace, teacherspayteachers.com, which claims to have made teachers $330 million since its start in 2006.
Working nights, weekends and summers, the sisters have developed about 130 lesson plans, ranging from a “computer scavenger hunt” that might help a teacher fill one hour for $3.45 up to a semester-long computer applications course for $124.98.
There are courses on internet safety and cyberbullying, creating business brochures, web design and other subjects. The courses are mostly geared toward students in the sixth grade and above, although some can be used by younger students.
The plans are designed to foster “project-based learning.” In the internet safety plan, for instance, Milleville said, “They do a project where they create a poster of how they’re going to protect themselves online. They’re learning computer skills, making this poster. They learn not just one thing at a time.”
Milleville said the plans and other aids are all things the sisters have come up with on their own and found to be effective. Recently, for instance, TechTwins offered a program for teachers preparing to go on maternity leave, as Cooper is about to do. She is expecting a baby in March.
Both sisters are married to businessmen, and both recently earned their master’s degrees in education administration from Fort Hays State University.
Cooper said TechTwins “is just a side business,” and she expects the two to continue teaching. Milleville said the success from TechTwins might mean they don’t pursue jobs in education administration, the usual route to making more money in their field.
Milleville said TechTwins is a top seller among business and technology courses offered on teacherspayteachers.com. The sisters hope their story leads to a little more competition, she added.
“We want all teachers to know they can make a business for themselves,” she said.
Now you know
Owner: Nichole Milleville and Samantha Cooper