Both Jared Butler and Tom Skerritt went into teaching after having other careers. They are the two new teachers at Smith School, in the Hamlet of Smith.
Butler is originally from Edmonton, but has lived in a town of about 480 people in Colorado. Population-wise, Smith is smaller (225 as of the 2021 Census), but amenities-wise it is very similar. Both communities have a Kindergarten to Grade 9 school, a post office, and a few businesses. Smith has more with a restaurant/laundry mat, grocery/liquor store, gas station/convenience store, library, Legion, community complex, and seniors drop in centre. The other one had a corner store/restaurant and a post office.
“For my kids it’s a change,” says Butler.
Butler, his wife, and four kids moved to Smith for the job. The three younger kids are at Smith School. The oldest is at the high school in Athabasca. His wife is still in university in Edmonton, so goes back and forth.
Butler is teaching junior high math and science, plus two junior high option classes each semester. The first semester is food studies and table top game design. These are based on his interests.
Butler describes himself as a nerd and likes all types of games, but especially role-playing games (RPGs).
Prior to studying education, Butler worked as a cook and in sales.
Butler also volunteered as a Scout leader and with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Butler just finished his bachelor of education from the University of Alberta, which he attended as a mature student.
In his previous jobs and as a volunteer, he was already teaching or training people, and decided that he’d like to be a teacher.
Asked how it was going the third week of school he says, “aside from the stress it’s not bad.”
Skerritt teaches junior high English and social studies at Smith School.
Skerritt also attended the University of Alberta as a mature student. This is his fourth year teaching.
Skerritt taught in a fly-in community in the Northwest Territories and Fox Lake, Alberta. Fox Lake is east of High Level and was evacuated last year because of wildfires.
“This is the least remote place I’ve ever taught,” says Skerritt of Smith.
Before becoming a teacher, Skerritt worked as in oilfield offices and with people with intellectual difficulties. He enjoyed working with these people, he says, but it didn’t pay well. Therefore, he decided that teaching was something similar, but with “adequate compensation,” he says. It also doesn’t require shift work.
Skerritt is originally from Toronto, Ontario, but has lived in Alberta for 12 and a half years. He is married.
“I live in a teacherage in town (Smith),” says Skerritt, “but my home-base for now is in Edmonton.”
Asked about his hobbies, he says, “I’m a big reader. I just got into home renovations, and I built an oak kitchen table this summer after spending a fortune on tools.”