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Special School District of St. Louis County
 
Bob the Builder
SSD staff member Bob Deakin combines love of woodworking with love for children

Special School District is lucky to have its very own Bob the Builder – more formally known as Bob Deakin.

His nickname of Bob the Builder – a beloved children’s show character – is quite fitting given his role as SSD’s equipment designer/builder. Walk into any special education classroom throughout the district and chances are you will find some piece of support equipment stamped with “Built Better by Bob the Builder.” That’s his trademark, and it appears on every piece of equipment he makes.

“I enjoy what I do,” Deakin said. “I work really closely with occupational therapists and physical therapists. I can build standers, adapted chairs, balance beams, desktop easels, swing frames, trays for augmentative communication devices, you name it. Everything I make is helping a child somewhere.”

And the pieces are easily found. Deakin’s busy schedule serving students throughout the district added up to his creation of 600 items in the 2008-09 school year alone. The value of what he built or repaired would have retailed for more than $140,000.

Deakin, who’s been with SSD for eight years, has a degree in mechanical engineering from McGill University in Toronto and is a former business executive with Monsanto. He retired from Monsanto 10 years ago, but said he soon became bored and decided to re-enter the workforce.

“When I was little I wanted to go into business and be an engineer, so that’s what I did,” Deakin said. “My dad was an electrical engineer, but my grandfather was a cabinetmaker. I think that’s where the love of building stuff came from.”

Deakin said he loves his job and said the most rewarding things is seeing a child “transformed” by something he’s made. One example in recent years was a little girl in one of SSD’s early childhood programs who had multiple challenges and was only able to lie on a mat on the floor.

“I designed a bolster chair for her that she sat on like a saddle with a tray to secure her,” he said. “It had a handle on the tray for her to hold on with her left hand. And when she did that with her left hand, she could actually write with her right hand.

“To see this girl be able to sit up and write was amazing, and it was all because I was able to give her the tools and support she needed. Stories like that are what make it worth coming in every morning.”
Bob Deakin
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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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