Epic Woodshop Teacher's Story A Showstopper at WIC 2013 TEMPE, AZ - Woodshop teacher Dean Mattson, a former businessman who has sparked excitement - and waiting lists to sign up - for woodworking classes at North Salem High School in Oregon, delivered a riveting speech about his woodworking students during WIC 2013, the Wood Industry Conference, here in Tempe.

Mattson, a former cabinetry business operator, said when he arrived,  the woodshop classes had become a dumping ground for students who failed other educational tracks at North Salem High School. Shop class enrollment was shrinking, and the program was filled with poorly performing, unmotivated students, many, not coincidentally, from disadvantaged backgrounds. In fact, 20 percent are homeless.

Mattson told of one student - a 15-year-old girl - who had a never received a grade above a D. He challenged her to work hard on a wood project, a 15-inch square lamp table, with the promise of C. The student did such a good job, he gave her a B, which elicited tears.

"I never thought I would get a grade that high," she told Mattson, adding, "This is perfect for my dining table. My sister and brother and I can all just fit around it." Incredulous, Mattson asked what she meant.

"We live in the back seat of our car," she told him. Mattson was dumbstruck, as was the audience listening to his speech in Tempe. The student explained that she had trouble completing homework because it was dark, and cold, in the car she and her siblings called home.

From that point, the student went on to finish high school, got a job as a secretary, and three years later rents an apartment where she looks after her brother and sister.

Galvanized by this and dozens of other students' stories, "I needed to react quickly," Mattson told the rapt audience. "So I ramped up the program." Raising $600,000, he asked for donations of equipment and supplies. The school is a member of WOODLinks USA and the Woodwork Career Alliance.

"Truckloads came," he said. The program was reset from a woodshop class, to a high school curriculum using woodworking as a basis for STEM-based education - teaching science, technology, engineering and math with hands-on applications. The woodworking education program at North Salem High is thought to be the largest in the U.S. And next year it will double in size, to 950 students, reputedly the largest woodworking program in the world.

"Now its time for some of you to join in," Mattson told the Wood Industry Conference suppliers groups in Tempe. Clutching the Wood Globe, Mattson said, "I don't know if I deserve this award. But my students do. And we have a chance to change how industry is run."

Mattson received a standing ovation and triggered laughs and some tears; and he was flooded with well wishers and likely donors at the end of the Wooden Globe awards ceremony.

Also honored were executives from Stanley Furniture, with a Wooden Globe for Commitment to the Industry, and from Koetter Woodworking, with a Wooden Globe for Innovation in Technology.

With its highly automated production of mouldings, doors, stair parts, custom millwork and wood flooring, Koetter Woodworking services cabinet and furniture manufacturers, architectural millwork distributors, lumber yards, and wood flooring distributors. Working together with a variety of  distribution chains, Koetter Woodworking is able to provide an entire millwork package for both residential and commercial building projects.

Stanley Furniture has become a symbol of the reshoring wood manufacturing movement. The company brought back to the U.S. the manufacture of its Young America line, retooling its plant  in the process.

Epic Woodshop Teacher's Story A Showstopper at WIC 2013Also during the luncheon awards ceremony, The Woodworking Machinery Industry Association named Scm Group North America its 2012 Partner of the Year. 

Since 1994, the Partner of the Year Award has been conferred by WMIA's distributor members on a manufacturer or importer that best exemplifying the spirit of partnership in its dealings with woodworking machinery distributors.

"Partnership between manufacturers, importers and distributors is more important than ever," said WMIA President John Henderson (right), who  presented the award to Scm Group North America's president John Gangone.

Noting that Italy-based Scm Group exports 92 percent of its production, "The U.S. market is critical strategically," Gangone said. "Our commitment will remain in distribution. We have a great network of excellent distributorships and we're counting on them." Read more


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