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How an Abandoned Middle School in Colorado Became an Elite Manufacturing Facility

Posted on Oct 31, 2017
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A few weeks back we had the pleasure of speaking with Dean Mattson, whose been accredited with revamping the woodworking technology teaching model in Oregon, formerly at North Salem High School, and now in Colorado, as the Director of the Woods Manufacturing Program at Peyton School District. We wanted to learn more about the “Mattson Model” and Dean’s new program in Colorado.

“I’m sitting here in front of two TigerStops with your banner on the wall,” says the voice on the other end of the phone. “TigerStop is one of the main reasons we grew to one of the largest woods training programs in the world.” Dean Mattson is about to explain how he went from a business owner and entrepreneur to being the Director of the Woods Manufacturing Program at Peyton School District in Colorado. “Let me take you on my journey,” says Dean.

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Peyton School District - TigerStop cutoff station

It was 2007 and Dean’s wife had just tragically passed away from cancer at age 49. It felt like a rug had been pulled out from under him. Then to make things worse, the entire economy collapsed. “I was a very successful entrepreneur and had founded 7 corporations in my lifetime. And at the time it felt like everything I had ever accomplished amounted to nothing.” Dean also had two daughters in high school and college to think about. He knew he had to reinvent himself, and with the support of family he did just that.

It just so happened that David Anderson, the legendary woods teacher at North Salem High, was retiring after 30 years. Dean was contacted to help replace David due to his extensive background in woodworking. Six months later Dean was offered the position. “I wasn’t trained to be an educator, I was a cabinetmaker, a businessman, a corporate head hunter, I turned corporations around, and I was very capitalistic and hardworking. I was your typical businessman and entrepreneur.”

The woodworking program at North Salem High School was what Dean described as “a dying program.” But it wasn’t the program itself that worried him the most, it was the students. Dean had no idea what kind of students he was up against. “The students were volatile, shocking, and poverty stricken. I was shocked about public education.” But as a self proclaimed “serious man of faith,” Dean knew he had been called to teach for a reason and was determined to help the students anyway he could.

As a business strategist Dean knew that he needed to develop a game plan. He needed a strategy to connect with his students and make woodworking cool. “First I wanted new equipment. The current equipment in the school was old and out outdated,” explained Dean.

So Dean started attending woodworking trade shows. In 2009 he made his way to the TigerStop booth at AWFS. He had used the equipment commercially in his past businesses and thought the machinery would be a good fit for his classroom. “The first TigerStop in my classroom came right off the show floor in Las Vegas. At the time, the only thing that was sexy about the program was TigerStop. TigerStop is responsible, because of the color, the logo, the brand, for being more of an attraction to the program next to the way I teach.”

Dean’s next strategy was to run his woodworking program like a business. He started treating his students like employees, giving them skills for woodworking careers post graduation, and making them accountable. And all of a sudden he started seeing results. The “Mattson Model” was born.

“When I started, 68% of my students were F students. All then, miraculously, students were graduating.” Students started seeing their grades improving and an influx of students signed up for his classes.

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Peyton School Students

Dean has truly done the impossible. He has made a significant impact in education and simultaneously given the woodworking industry hope in the next generation of skilled workers. “To see these children’s lives change and to give them hope is great. TigerStop has helped change kids’ lives.” Putting a businessman in a classroom environment is just what the woodworking and construction industries have been craving for so long. In a time marked with skilled labor shortages, the “Mattson Model” couldn’t have better timing. Now students can graduate knowing they have a strong career path in cabinetmaking and wood manufacturing.

Dean is currently the Director of Peyton School District's Woods Manufacturing Program in Colorado. He turned an abandoned middle school into a state of the art manufacturing shop specializing in Career Technical Education. Dean has partnered with many machinery companies including TigerStop to outfit the brand new facility.

This week marks Peyton's first Open House and TigerStop couldn't wish them more success! TigerStop is honored to take part in investing in the next generation of skilled laborers.

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