Apr 19, 2011 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
Five years ago, Jordan-Elbridge special education teacher Gayle McCabe and Dave Zehner, the high school principal at the time, put their heads together. McCabe wanted to start an entrepreneurial project that would enhance the educational experience for her students, and Zehner had the perfect idea.
“After brainstorming with the principal he came up with this idea of having a card shop,” McCabe said. “By chance and luck one of my friends happens to be a card distributor, and she was thrilled to have someone to take her stock.”
And so the Eagle Card Shop was born.
“There’s nothing like getting a real card in the mail,” McCabe said. “It’s the one area where, people may be writing less letters, but it’s certainly nice to get a card.”
Since that conversation with Zehner, McCabe and her students have taken sample and overstock greeting cards that would’ve otherwise been thrown away, and prepared them to be sold at a discounted price right out of the classroom. McCabe said the business meshes well with the curriculum of English and mathematics.
“A lot of what that business is is reading and math, so it fits in beautifully, really,” she said, adding: “It’s a real self esteem booster, and I think by having the business in the classroom it makes our classroom a very positive environment where people want to be.”
McCabe students learn all aspects of running a business through the shop, like important customer service skills, and the work is varied enough that there’s something for everyone. McCabe said lower functioning students can learn to sort envelopes by color and size, while higher functioning students can match card size to the appropriate envelopes.
The business is not without assistance from the school community.
JE business students have helped McCabe’s students develop business and advertising ideas, and technology students constructed a rolling display unit that McCabe’s class brings to the cafeteria during lunch periods and to special events.
“We are successful in involving the entire student population in our endeavors,” McCabe said. “Most importantly, we know how to access community support.”
Lately students have had the chance to learn to work a cash register, thanks to Ken and Sue Sweeney, who recently donated one to the card shop. The register is one of many recent donations to the business. The Sweeneys’ son-in-law, Gary Dunbar, a contractor in town, donated a display unit that attaches to McCabe’s classroom door, making the room even more inviting. Gary is married to Caron Dunbar, a substitute at JE, who McCabe said “has sort of adopted our card shop.” The Big M in Jordan also donated a display unit.
McCabe said the card shop has at least a few customers coming in daily; last year the classroom made about $1,000 from card sales.
“At 50 cents a piece, that’s pretty amazing,” McCabe said.
And the profits go far. McCabe said funds made in the Eagle Card Shop have helped further enhance her students’ learning by paying for numerous field trips, classroom materials and meals.
Back in action
The Eagle Card Shop took a brief hiatus from September to January when Gayle McCabe took a leave of absence to be with her husband, Matt, and their five children. Matt had a heart transplant in November, from which he’s recovered remarkably well. He returned home from Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston just in time to spend New Year’s Eve with his family at their home on Main Street, Jordan.
“He didn’t realize how bad he felt before the transplant compared to how good he feels now that he’s been given a new lease on life,” Gayle said. “It’s fantastic.”
Matt has been outside doing yard work, and walks with their 10-year-old son, Ethan, to school every day. He is a self-employed forensic economist, and while he’s not back to work yet, Gayle said he’s getting there.
“Every day he does better,” she said.
Gayle is happy to back in the card shop, and is busy with customers thanks to Easter approaching this Sunday, and Mother’s Day (May 8) to follow.
“Luckily I happen to love cards,” she said. “Who doesn’t?”
If you’re debating whether to send someone a card, Gayle has one line of advice that’s hard to argue: “It only takes a minute to sign your name to a card.”