Shop class T-shirt program goes national |

Shop class T-shirt program goes national

When Matt Beckett was enrolled in Moffat County High School teacher Craig Conrad’s class, he never expected to be working so closely with him more than a decade later.

Beckett graduated in 1992 and later helped Conrad design T-shirts for his “Tradition of Excellence” program. The teacher distributes them to exceptional students in his wood shop course.

“The kids don’t get one unless they earn it,” he said. “I kind of reserve the right for anything that’s above and beyond, so to speak.”

He has been running the reward program for four years, and spoke about it at a Michigan Industrial Technology Education Society (MITES) convention last year.

Bob Spencer, the director of educational programs for Woodcraft, a woodworking products company, heard Conrad talk, and liked the idea.

Conrad said the company aims to start an initiative to encourage schools to keep wood shop classes in their curriculum or Woodcraft “will have no one to sell to.”

The company asked Conrad to use his phrase, “Tradition of Excellence” to encourage remarkable students nationwide. Teachers can nominate youths, and Woodcraft will send a screen-printed shirt to the student and an embroidered polo to the teacher.

Conrad agreed, but with one condition: Sign Source, which Beckett owns, gets the business.

“If it goes well, it could be a really big job,” Beckett said.

Conrad agreed, and is excited at the prospect of a Craig shop producing T-shirts for nationwide distribution.

“Once it catches on, Matt will be making a lot of shirts,” he said.

The company did change the logo Beckett designed, however. The original shirt depicted a circular saw blade cutting through a board and read, Brother (or Sister) Woods, “Tradition of Excellence,” MCHS Wood shop.

Woodcraft’s design has the letters “T” and “E” in a varsity-style font with a star and the catchphrase written out. The shirt is gray with yellow and blue lettering.

The back sports the logos of the contributing businesses: Bessey, DMT, Rikon Power Tools, Teknatool International, Woodcraft and Woodcraft Magazine.

Beckett’s shop did not have the capability to embroider the polos, however. So his mother, Joyce Beckett, purchased an embroidery machine.

“Just this one thing is close enough to pay for it,” he said.

The companies purchased 300 tees and 300 polos in its first order.

But why would Conrad go to such lengths to help out a former student?

Well, Beckett printed the most recent batch of shirts for Conrad’s class, and accidentally got paid twice.

“He had the integrity enough to come and give it back,” Conrad said. “He lost $600 that day, but he gained a lot more.”

But Beckett didn’t think twice about returning the money.

“I guess he’s pretty surprised about it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s anything anyone else wouldn’t have done.”

But Conrad did, so he’s proud to showcase Beckett’s work to all the schools he speaks at and to all the students honored with one of his T-shirts through Woodcraft’s program.

“Hopefully it goes well,” Beckett said.

Michelle Perry may be reached at 824-7031 or

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