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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

Iron man

Gunnar Mattson achieves perfect attendance for academic career
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jun 27, 2018
Gunnar Mattson

When Gunnar Mattson walked across the track at Trojan Stadium earlier this month to receive his high school diploma, he achieved a rather unusual feat.

In his 13 years of attending school, Mattson had never missed a single day. Not for an illness, not for a doctor’s appointment, not for a funeral, not for any reason whatsoever.

Though Mattson is a healthy teenager, he doesn’t think his diet and exercise regimen is out of the ordinary. In fact, he said his sleep schedule is poor, and often feels he can eat better or exercise more. He attributes his consistent health to something else.

“I often caught a mild case of an illness, and usually on the weekends or during a break,” he said.

Mattson stresses that luck played a major role in allowing him to graduate with perfect attendance. He did have a few scares where he came down with a serious illness, but always managed to pull through by the time the school bell rang.

He remembers that in fourth grade a devastating strain of flu kept half the class at home. He stayed strong, though, until Thanksgiving break, when he finally succumbed to the virus.

He battled the illness for five days, exactly as long as his break from school. Mattson considered the timing of that sickness “lucky,” because it kept his career perfect attendance in tact.

Mattson never missed school from chickenpox because he never got it. His parents tried to expose him to it by having him play with infected classmates, but that didn’t work. Mattson is hopeful he can live his life without ever contracting it.

Another close call came at the worst possible time, earlier this school year. Mattson was cast as Mortimer Brewster, one of the main characters in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” He came down with a fever and was sick every night of dress rehearsal and for the performances, too.

“I was doing my best not to spread it to anybody,” he said. “Some of those days were very rough, but we had a small cast, and no one else would have known my lines. I felt like, ‘The show must go on.’”

Mattson doesn’t do anything special to avoid germs, and he doesn’t think of himself as a germaphobe. He just washes his hands like any normal person would.

Father Craig and mother Becky are careful to schedule doctor and dentist appointments outside school hours, either in the summer or on late start Wednesdays. Mattson said he would not have been able to attain perfect attendance without their help. Mattson’s younger brother, Sam, has an attendance record nearly as spotless as his. Sam will enter his senior year of high school this fall having missed only one day in his entire academic career.

Another important factor contributing to Mattson’s accomplishment is that he enjoyed going to school. His favorite subject was science, and that led him to pick chemical engineering as a major, which he will study this fall at Iowa State University.

Mattson said he appreciates the great teachers he had throughout his time in the district.

“Teachers keep students motivated, and keep them coming back,” he said.

The one who stands out from the crowd is band director Jim Edgeton. Mattson was the drum major during the marching and pep band seasons, and played trumpet, too.

“Mr. Edgeton is very easy to talk to, and he really tries. You can tell that,” Mattson said. “His experience over his teaching career shows. He’s able to make an effective connection with his students, and the time I spent with him helped us grow together.”

Mattson said band is probably his favorite extracurricular activity, but the others are important to him, too. They are choir, theater and speech. Mattson said the directors of those programs “put a ton of effort” into their craft, and made each one enjoyable.

 

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