Denise Gagne: A JA Story

We ran into Denise at a teacher’s convention and when we found out she is a JA alumna, we just had to get her story. Enjoy!

“In Grade 9 (1970 or so), a guest speaker came to talk to my class about a program they were going to start in the evenings that was going to teach young people about being entrepreneurs.

I joined, and really enjoyed the program. We sold shares in our company for a dollar (I think) and used the money that the investors gave us to buy supplies to make beer can lighters. It was a great idea – we sold out of them! We also made some kind of a peg board game that we sold at Superstore. We made our original investment back and paid our shareholders 3 or 4 times their investment, and still had money in the bank.

The idea that you could start your own business stayed with me. I became a music teacher, teaching band, choir and classroom music from K-12 for many years. When the first desktop computers came out, I learned how to notate music on the computer and started making my own materials for my classroom. After many requests from teachers for copies of them, I started self-publishing and selling by mail order, then by fax, and now via an online site. Our newest creation is an online subscription site:

Today, Themes & Variations is Canada’s largest publisher of music for elementary schools. Our curriculum, Musicplay, is in use in more than 10,000 schools and is the provincial textbook in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

Junior Achievement planted the idea that you could be an entrepreneur – be it with beer can lighters or selling recorders to schools. Thank you to all the volunteers that continue to offer JA in schools across the country. You could be encouraging the next Google or Facebook!”