TOMBALL, Texas — Jennifer Hobbs once won Teacher of the Month at her school in northwest Houston. However, the 6th grade English Language Arts instructor at Creekside Junior High School invented a side hustle that could become her signature achievement.

“I knew right away,” she said.

While coaching high school students at old job at Northland Christian School, Hobbs noticed kids dropping pens to use mesh fidget gadgets between answering test questions.

“I was like, wait a minute,” she said. “They like it because it’s small. It fits in the hand. It’s quiet. So nobody knows they’re fidgeting.”

Days after searching online for a pen that had such a feature, Hobbs invented something she was almost too embarrassed to show.

“Don’t pay attention to what it looks like,” she said. “Just look at the concept.”

Initially, students laughed, Hobbs said. Still, they used and like it so much, Hobbs went after a patent. She already had experience getting one.

Eight years ago, her first invention, two-pocket folders that expand, were sold in Walmart and HEB, Hobbs said.

Her latest invention took two years to get one prototype from China.

“I broke it the first day,” she said. “It was made out of 3D (printing material). I didn’t know. I didn’t know it was a soft plastic.”

Hobbs currently has nine prototypes. She calls the pens “Mesh-It.”

A Kickstarter page to raise money to mass produce Hobbs’ first batch of black “Mesh-It” pens exceeded her $5,000 goal in four days. She hopes to raise another $5,000 to $10,000 to sell pens in burgundy and blue.

“The one thing I was afraid of honestly was to fail in front of my students,” Hobbs said.

She now teaches 6th graders. Everyday they ask about her invention, Hobbs said. Like any good teacher, she hopes they learn a lesson or two from her work.

“Hopefully they learn to believe in their ideas and go for it sometimes,” Hobbs said.

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