19 February 2018 – He didn’t do accounting at school, nor did he head into teaching after university, but Jason Smit is now doing both at Saint Andrew’s.
Jason joined the staff of Saint Andrew’s at the beginning of 2018 and is teaching Economic Management Science (EMS/accounting) for grades eight to 11, and maths literacy to grade 10.
Busy school career
He hails from George, where he attended both York High and Glenwood House, two schools many Saint Andrew’s boys are familiar with. He was a very active learner, playing 1st team hockey (goalkeeper), 2nd team cricket, social squash, as well as participating in chess and interact activities.
He, however, knew very little about Saints before joining the staff, Jason admitted, only that the school had a good cricket team.
Jason Smit: high school EMS and maths literacy teacher
After completing his schooling, he studied B.Com Law at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), “because it seemed rounded” and his first year subjects included accounting, but it was a struggle. Luckily, help was at hand.
"I was taught by a lecturer who used to be an accounting teacher at York. She took the extra classes for kids that didn't have it at school. She looked after me and when I started doing the work and doing well at accounting she pressured me to go the CA (chartered accountant) route. I decided to give it a try and I ended up dropping the law side and doing the accounting," he said.
It took about six months of accounting at university before everything clicked, Jason explained, and after that he began to enjoy the subject. He ended up tutoring first year students who hadn’t previously taken the subject in school.
"No one was going to teach accounting"
It was then that he came to a realisation: "I noticed there was a huge lack in schools. Kids weren't taking accounting and when I looked at it, no one was going to teach accounting."
"In the Postgraduate Certificate in Education, I was the only one at four universities that was working at it! That was worrying to me as well."
Nonetheless, Jason ended up taking the route most travelled and worked as an accountant in industry. Reflecting on that time, he said: "I enjoyed it, but the whole corporate thing wasn't for me.
"I found a passion"
"I tutored at university, serving first year accountants who didn't have accounting at school, and I found a passion, because I, also, didn't have accounting at school. I was able to empathise and help when they struggled."
Jason considered tutoring school children too. "I then saw it as an eventual avenue to go into, especially not wanting to be an accountant in the corporate world. Then I decided to go into teaching."
His roots are in the Eastern Cape, but Jason came to the decision that he needed to move away from there to teach.
Bloemfontein or Cape Town?
"I date a girl here in Bloem and my parents are in Cape Town, so I wanted get a job in one of the two, because they were the places I knew. I was in Bloem when I looked at schools near me. I didn't realise how close Saint Andrew's was. I happened to go to the school's website and there was a vacancy on the vacancies page! Most schools don't have a vacancies page.
Looking back on his job search, he recalled: “It's very difficult. I was e-mailing headmasters and a lot of them didn't reply. I applied very soon after I got a response [from Saint Andrew’s] and then I arranged to come up to Bloem again for the interview.
"I was very impressed. I walked into the school and the boys were calling me ‘Sir’ and greeting me. My school wasn't as disciplined and as nice. That was a good sign."
"I was very fortunate"
Once he had secured the post, Jason found that he had landed a position at a sought-after school: "I was very fortunate, with it being my first teaching position. People said it was the place to be."
There were immediately very noticeable differences between the corporate and teaching worlds, he added: "Whenever I went into a new accounting firm, people were very corporate and cut-throat and a senior would not present your work as being good to get ahead. When I came here, no one benefits from someone doing badly, so everyone was really helpful, to the point that you almost get annoyed by people saying 'remember to talk to me, remember to ask me questions'. But that is good.
"They're all trying to help me and that's really nice. It is a lot easier to get into something [when people are like that]. I have found the teaching staff here to be nice and the structure here is also really good."
Living on campus
Jason now lives in a staff flat in Twells House and the move has been a good one, he reckoned, although some things have taken some getting used to: "It is weird to have people seeing me come and go. That's interesting. Other than that, it has been a big help that I didn't have to move anywhere else.
"The kids have been fine. They don't make much noise. I expected a lot of noise. I expected I wouldn't be able to sleep. It's been manageable. Eating on campus, the food has been good. It has been nice to have a structure about when you eat. I think, had I not been staying in a hostel, I would still be trying to find my feet."
He takes on a busy academic programme, teaching most of the 50 periods in a week, but he is also further involved with squash and the intervention programme (IP).
Being that he is an accounting teacher, like Margo Morgan, his involvement in squash will come as no surprise to anyone who knows Margo. Jason says he is planning on taking up the sport again so that he is physically active.