The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

When I was a Principal in Madison Wisconsin

on September 8, 2019

Although I was a principal in Wisconsin before becoming one in Oregon, I didn’t plan to write about my experience there until yesterday. Because several readers had responded to the description of our Oregon program, I decided to add the story of our earlier program, which was a school store conceived and managed by a classroom teacher. I think readers will appreciate all the hard work she and the students did and and the strong lasting results.

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When I had been the principal at the elementary school in Madison Wisconsin for about a year, one of our teachers came to me with an idea for creating a special student program: a school store. When she described her plans to me I loved them. They sounded like they would be easy too carry out, benefit many students, and not cost the school any extra funds. Her plan was to use an empty first floor classroom that would be open only one day a week during the noon hour, and sell student made products to other students and teachers. I also agreed to free her from some of her regular responsibilities and allow her to use that new time creating and managing the store. Her job would be to advise and assist students who wanted to make and sell products, and also to supervise the store operations.

The first part of the teacher’s new job was to advertise the store’s opening and the opportunities for students who wanted to create items for the store and work there. Next, she would advise those who were interested about the practicality of the things they were planing to make and the prices they should charge for them. Right away many students from all grade levels responded, appearing eager to make products and set their prices at home, then sell what they made in the new store.

Happily, during the store’s opening months many of the most desirable items were produced and sold. The most popular ones were greeting cards, sculptured jewelry, constructed games, embroidered handkerchiefs, and small rocks with pictures painted on them.

As time went by, the gift makers and the items they produced changed, but the store continued to be popular. The workers never tired of producing desirable products, and the shoppers never tired of buying them. Because the most popular items continued to be decorative rather than useful ones, sales of woven bracelets always exceeded the sales of workbook covers.

After some years as the school’s principal, I left there to move to Oregon wit, where my husband and I had been offered new jobs. Nevertheless, I continued to communicate with the teachers in Portland who told me about their work, school events and the activities of the school store. Although the school workers and the teacher who led them changed over time, the store continued to operate successfully for several years afterward.


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