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OUR HOMETOWN: Teacher raises the next generation up in trades

Andrew Hutchinson is passionate about exposing his students to what he says is a dying industry
Andrew Hutchinson stands in front of a tool shed one of his classes is building at Lake City Secondary School. Nov. 13, 2023. (Kim Kimberlin photo - Black Press Media)

By Kim Kimberlin,

Local Journalism Initiative

Andrew Hutchinson, affectionately known by his students as “Hutch,” has been teaching since 2005.

He began his career teaching courses like math and science and later trades — once the shop wing at Columneetza was rebuilt after the 2005 fire.

The North Vancouverite graduated in 2001 with his teaching degree from the University of British Columbia. In the 90s, he took some trades courses from the British Columbia Institute of Technology, solidifying his love for the trades.

After teaching in England for half a year, then Squamish and Port Alberni (each for a few months), he was laid off and began working at Home Depot.

It was a hard time to get a teaching job and he sent resumes everywhere possible. It was his mom who encouraged him to apply for a teaching position in Williams Lake. After receiving a phone call from the principal, Hutchinson said he’d drive up the next morning if he could get an interview, which he did. He moved everything up in his car and has been here ever since.

Students seem at ease with Hutch when the Tribune visits his shop class at Lake City Secondary School (LCSS), signifying a trust that goes both ways. He’s been teaching at the high school since 2012.

“I feed off of them. It’s not just me; it’s the kids, too,” when referring to the passion that exudes in his classroom.

For Hutchinson, he loves giving kids experiences working with tools and exposing them to the trades, an industry he said is showing the strain of workers burning out, approaching retirement or the cost of supplies being expensive.

“We need knowledge passed on.”

Hutchinson teaches woodwork and skills exploration courses at LCSS, covering everything from electrical to carpentry to plumbing. He loves that the courses give boys a more active and hands-on way of learning and for girls, exposes them to an industry that shouldn’t include only half the population.

Part of the trades exposure comes from the many opportunities his class has had to build things around the city. Whether it’s building the picnic tables at the Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club or the Neighbourhood Ice Cream Shop, firewood storage sheds for Marie Sharpe Elementary, doll-size houses for the fire department to learn how fire moves through a building or display cases for Orange Shirt Day, Hutchinson is there.

“I like to say yes. And good things come,” he laughed, hoping the admittance of always saying yes wouldn’t mean too much would suddenly come his way. However, “things seem to come to me.”

Of course, he was quick to thank the many folks who have inspired and helped him along the way: Mauro Calabrese and West Fraser for donating wood; his mentor, Dave Corbett at School District 27; principal Curt Levens for helping with budgets and keeping classes organized; vice-principal Yvonne Davis; TRU trades professor Mark Desautels; Zirnhelt Timber Frames; OT Timber Frames; educational assistants Tanis Rosa and Zoe Klassen; and the school district’s maintenance team for keeping the heat on and machines running, to name a few.

Hutchinson has been in charge of the electrical for the Medieval Market for many years, as well as being the Williams Lake Cycling Club (WLCC) area director for the Boitanio Bike Park, which he helped redesign along with WLCC president Shawn Lewis, and another new bike trail along the WestSyde Trail Network. He also created a curriculum for a vinyl graphics course a little over ten years ago, which is now part of the course Media Design and taught at LCSS today.

He’s been an avid mountain biker since the late 80s, part of what drew him to the community of Williams Lake.

“I love that I can walk out of my back door and be in the woods.”

Committing to a community is also important to him, he said, and not only does he offer his talents, but it’s also where he’s raising his family.

He met his wife, Mairen Hutchinson, through mutual friends, and they married in 2008. She’s a kindergarten teacher at Chilcotin Road Elementary School — teaching being something they share in common.

“I couldn’t do it without her. There are rough days when I have nothing left to give, but Mairen brings it back together and keeps us on track,” he said.

The couple has two children, Emily, 13 and James, 11, who will be in his classroom in just a few short years.

As for his current students, a few pipe up when asked what they think of Hutch, to which they agree he’s amazing. They sit nearby during parts of the interview, attesting to the easy-going relationships shared between them.

The job is fun, it’s important work and the kids keep him young, he said. Plus, seeing the students grow in their skills and gain confidence using tools, including seeing his former high school students take trades courses at TRU, is a satisfying feat for Hutchinson.

Kim Kimberlin, Local Journalism Initiative

About the Author: Kim Kimberlin, Local Journalism Initiative

I joined Black Press Media in 2022, and have a passion for covering topics on women’s rights, 2SLGBTQIA+ and racial issues, mental health and the arts.
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