SMUS Teacher Feature: Mr. Matt Keil

Matt Keil

Grade 5 teacher Mr. Matt Keil is originally from small-town Ontario. He grew up in Listowel, a tiny farming town two hours from Toronto. After high school he went straight to university in Guelph (where he met his future wife, Melissa) and finished his honours psychology degree. He worked with children in group homes in Stratford, Ontario for a couple of years before heading to Australia to earn his master’s degree in teaching. He returned to Ontario and worked at schools in Toronto for a couple of years before he and Melissa (now married) decided to move west to be close to the ocean – they decided on Victoria, a city neither had ever visited. Matt taught at Sylvan Learning and Elizabeth Buckley School before coming to St. Michaels University School as a Grade 5 teacher in September 2014.

Matt and Melissa have one son, Oliver, and baby on the way, due in July!

Let’s get to know Mr. Keil better:

What was your favourite subject in school?
Phys ed because I loved to get out and do things and I liked doing things that were physical. I was also more confident in that subject than in all the others.

What was your first job?
My brothers and I ran our own lawn care company. We cut lawns at local churches and neighbours, and did all of their gardening. We started when I was about 12 years old and carried on until I was 17 or 18.

What do you do on a day off?
I like to go for bike rides with Oliver and hang out with family, and I play guitar and have friends over to rock out in the garage.

Where do you most want to travel but have never been?
Africa because of the wildlife. I think it would be a humbling experience to go and witness their size and power in person.

What did you do after high school?
I went to university. But going to school was exciting for me because I lived in such a small town. Leaving to go to school was the adventure. I lived in the country, outside of a village of 300 people, so to get out of town to go to school was really exciting for me.

Why did you want to be a teacher?
I did a lot of volunteer work with kids. Doing that and seeing the spirit and the excitement that they bring made me realize it was something I wanted that you can’t get anywhere else.

What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
Either a professional hockey player or a morning radio host. When I was young I talked a lot and told a lot of stories, so I thought being on the radio would be a great fit for me.

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
I worked in an adrenaline park in Australia and would go bungee jumping and do something called ‘the slingshot’ as part of my job. Just to be able to do those things on a whim, and get paid to do it, was a lot of fun and a really exciting time.

What was the first concert you went to?
When I was 14 I went to Edgefest in Barrie, Ontario. It was a festival of some really ’90s bands like Our Lady Peace, I Mother Earth, The Tea Party and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
I was told I would never make it into university by my guidance counsellors, a few of my teachers and by a vice-principal. I had to convince people to let me take certain courses so I could get into university. Then when it came time to get my acceptances I was denied from every university because of a mess up when teachers submitted my grades. It was hard, as an 18 year old, to convince adults to do what I needed them to do to get me to go to university when I had some of them telling me I’d never make it.

What is one thing you can’t live without?

What movie have you watched the most in your life?
Big Fish

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
When I was teaching in Toronto I had a little girl come back after Grade 5 because she got an A on something. It was very unexpected and she was so proud to show it off. It was such a great feeling knowing I had made such a connection with her that her old teacher was the first person she wanted to show.

What was your favourite field trip as a kid in school?
We went to Camp Wyoka in Grade 4 and all I remember about it was we got to play Capture the Flag in this enormous forest, to the point where we could run through the river and climb the trees. It was amazing!

Do you collect anything?

What are you currently reading?
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

What’s the best part of your job?
When you have those aha moments; when you can change the way somebody perceives themselves and to be able to have that influence and allow them to recognize their talents. Because when they see it, it’s such a big moment. It’s something not a lot of people get to see in their work but we see it almost every day.

What’s your favourite meal?

What do you love about living on Vancouver Island?
There’s so many things to do here outdoors. It’s so easy to find something to do that you don’t have to spend money on or travel far to do. You can go and hike up a mountain or go sit on an amazing beach all in one afternoon.

What was your favourite childhood Halloween costume?
I went as Garth from Wayne’s World when I was 10 or 11. My friend went as Wayne.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I want to fly.

If you didn’t have to work, what would you do?
I would definitely spend lots of time with my family but I would want to volunteer in some capacity with kids.


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