AWI e-briefs - 07/21/2011 (Plain Text Version)

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Salem North High School Gives Troubled Youth Hope at Workbench

In June, The AWI Oregon Chapter learned from shop teacher Dean Mattson about his 400 students in four grades who do not fit the usual profile of a classmate. Seventeen percent of the students live in cars.

"They are troubled young people trying to succeed," said AWI Chief Learning Officer Greg Heuer who was present at the chapter meeting to talk about "connecting and networking." He recently relayed a gripping story that "completely overshadowed" his presentation, he said.

Teacher Dean Mattson spoke about a young man crying as he assembled a beautiful walnut side table on display at the meeting. Mr. Mattson asked the student what was wrong. "Mr. Mattson," he answered through his tears, "nothing good has ever come from my hands before this." "The work of the students is beautiful," Mr. Heuer said.

Mr. Mattson conducts the class like an employer managing a business. He lays out the ground rules at the beginning of the year and those who do not follow them, including showing respect and control of language in class, get "fired." With word spreading that he means business, classroom comportment has improved. The shop teacher shared many success stories, heartwarming stories of kids with no hope of a successful future finding a skill and realizing accomplishments. The teacher has carved the names of his top performers into a Walnut plaque which he posted on the classroom wall.

"Oregon Chapter member Carol Grant volunteered to purchase a Skill Standards manual for the school," Mr. Heuer reported. The teacher is eager to use it to help write curriculum for next year, according to Mr. Heuer.

Here’s a school that needs help. The newly formed AWI Oregon Chapter is going to work to help the teacher realize his dream of scholarships for outstanding performers. It’s a worthy goal; one that we hope comes true to change the lives of those students.  [Return to top]