The most obviously unusual thing about the education-themed extravaganza that Apple held on Tuesday was its venue: Lane Tech College Prep, a gorgeous 1930s high-school building in Chicago. But another unique aspect of this product launch was the fact that it segued into an open-to-the-public evening program at Apple’s Michigan Avenue store, with a presentation by an award-winning teacher on using Apple’s Clips app in schools and a performance by rapper Towkio, a Lane Tech graduate.

The store activities were a reminder that Apple’s 501 retail outposts are the closest thing the company has to its own classrooms. At the Chicago store, I chatted with Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior VP of retail, and two of her colleagues, about the day’s news and the stores’ part in it. Ahrendts told me that Steve Jobs said that the mission of retail was to enrich lives rather than merely move product. But another, she says, is education: “Connecting people and humanizing technology, maybe our job is to inspire.”

For the past 10 months, Apple has been piloting “Teacher Tuesdays,” a series of sessions at Apple stores which brings in educators—such as those honored by the company’s 24-year-old Apple Distinguished Educator program—to share advice on using Apple device, apps, and services. Now it’s extending the program to all its stores globally and isn’t just restricting it to Tuesdays. The desire to host educational events also influenced the new retail format the company has been rolling out, which opens up far more space for gatherings: “We had to redsign the store,” Ahrendts says. (That configuration makes her talk of inspiration and education feel less corny than if the establishments…