After you’ve gone to law school and won the Bill and Melinda Gates Teacher of the Year award, what’s next? Working for The Container Store, of course! In our latest “Careers with Heart” interview we spoke to Wanda Vinson, a prime-time employee at our Tampa store location, about her amazing and unusual career path.
What did you study in school? And what did you do before you worked for The Container Store?
After receiving my Bachelor of Science in Finance, I began working for an insurance company. I processed claims and managed their liability department for several years, and eventually I went back to school and earned my law degree in order to better understand the legal aspect of the industry.
By 2001, I was starting to feel like I needed a change. I realized that I wanted to work for a company that shared my values. Even though I was making good money, I wasn’t feeling like I was making a positive difference in the world. I felt like it was important to set that example for my young son, so I started taking education classes and decided to become a teacher. I began by teaching 3rd grade at an environmental science charter school and I discovered I LOVED it! Since then I’ve been teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students at an International Baccalaureate school.
You won the prestigious “Bill and Melinda Gates Teacher of the Year” award! What was that like?
That was a really neat experience! I was flown to a nice dinner in Chicago, and I met so many great teachers from all over the country. There were about two or three fellow honorees from each state, and they all did such amazing work.
It all began when I was nominated for the award by some of my colleagues, and then the organization spent many months observing my teaching methods and videotaping my lessons in the classroom. I was a little self-conscious at first, but watching those videos later on really helped me learn and grow as a teacher. I always strive to improve and do things better!
What made you want to come work for The Container Store?
I’ve loved The Container Store ever since I first shopped at the Sixth Avenue store in Manhattan while visiting my sister. My school principal knew I was looking for a little extra work on the side, so when they announced that they were opening a new store location here in Tampa, he suggested I apply. By that time, I knew it was a great company to work for. I knew I could make a positive impact and that The Container Store paid well for part-time retail work, so I jumped at the chance to apply.
What are some of your job responsibilities during a typical day at work?
I’m a “prime-time” employee (which is what we call part-time), and it’s perfect for me since it provides so much flexibility around my teaching schedule. I normally work one to two nights a week and one day on the weekend. Most of the time I work in order processing. I enjoy the time crunch of running around quickly to get the pickup orders together. But depending on the day, I’ve also unloaded trucks, worked the register, and helped with inventory. I love the chance to work in many different areas!
Speaking of running around, aren’t you an avid jogger as well?
I am! I love running, and I’ve completed 12 marathons. Unfortunately, I had to slow down for a while due to a broken foot, but the employees at the Tampa store were so loving and supportive while I was out! They sent me cards and called me all the time. What a PHENOMENAL group!
When you’re not at work in the store or in the classroom, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy reading when I get the chance. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is one of my favorite books of all time. Admittedly I only get to read children’s books most of the time, but Kate DiCamillo is a particularly good author for kids.
Are there any products from The Container Store that you love using in your classroom?
I use a lot of our products in my classroom, including elfa shelves, Stockholm boxes, and a variety of baskets. The shower totes work great for the storing colored pencils at our table groups, and I also like our acrylic office line. There are so many great options! And I have to say, at home I love using the Huggable Hangers!