Being a great listener is a strength that continues to serve Andrew Kiel in immeasurable ways.
It has included listening to himself throughout his life, and in particular as a student.
"Prior to receiving my Bachelor of Education, I was on a mission of self-discovery of what I wanted to do in life," says Kiel, who graduated from St. Michael's College School in 2009. "Finding a sense of purpose in my work was important."
The journey led him to pursue post-secondary studies at the University of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto (U of T) and subsequently a job at the school itself.
"I worked at the University of Toronto in residence life and in university advancement (young alumni, fundraising, and special projects)," says Kiel. "I worked with students who faced unique challenges."
Lending a friendly and supportive ear to alumni and students while serving as a mentor were key facets of Kiel's role.
“As a Residence Don at U of T, I encountered several unique challenges," says Kiel. "One in particular, was the growing number of students experiencing mental health and wellness issues. Students were often overwhelmed with academic obligations, settling into a new environment for the first time, and challenges in managing existing relationships. Unfortunately, this often led to an increase in substance abuse and isolation. An important part of my role was to help students overcome their challenges.”
Armed with varied experience and a teaching degree, Kiel's career trajectory thrust him forward in 2017, weaving together his education, experience skill set and purpose into a new role at St. Michael’s College School.
"As a qualified teacher in Ontario, it allowed me to return to St. Mike’s where I was a student, to give back to other talented individuals who could benefit from my experiences," says Kiel.
"The biggest adjustment in transitioning to teaching was a more expanded role, which meant taking on the role as the Coordinator of Spiritual Life," he says. "This was a role that my previous career trained me for."
"My past career taught me the importance of listening to and understanding others,” adds Kiel. “Specifically, being aware of their needs and insecurities. Understanding people in my previous roles allowed me to become a better educator, and provided me with the ability to build important relationships with students and help them achieve their full potential."
His responsibilities are both extensive and impactful -- ranging from leading the organization of the school's many religious ceremonies, Community Service initiatives with students, alumni-focused projects, coordinating Clubs and Activities and the daily morning video announcements, among other duties. His various roles have brought with them plenty of learnings for Kiel himself.
"As the Coordinator of Spiritual Life, I deliver daily prayer to the community on video," he says. "I am uncomfortable speaking in front of a camera, as I enjoy working behind the scenes on projects. Stepping out of my comfort-zone was important in this role to pray to God daily and thank him for our blessings."
With his office nestled in the heart of the student locker area at the school, Kiel's daily interaction with students from all grade levels --- as a sounding board, mentor, advisor, and educator --- is perhaps his most important duty.
"Attention to detail and listening to others are required for my current role," he says. "My greatest challenge is to ensure that I do my part in encouraging and supporting every student at St. Mike’s to achieve their full potential in life. Every student should know that they can reach out for support to use the many resources available to them."
In many ways, Kiel's career arc has come full circle, as he navigates interactions, exchanges, and connections with boys during their formative years. It is a time he remembers vividly on his own path of discernment.
"Getting to know each student outside of the classroom is the most rewarding experience," he says. “Often these relationships continue beyond graduation."
Andrew Kiel's Learnings, Career Tips, and Strategies:
"Ask yourself if your current career provides a sense of purpose that resonates with you. If not, then is there a career that can help you find that sense of purpose?
Have confidence in yourself to make a career change that will benefit you in the long run.
Do not be afraid to make mistakes in life, as long as you learn from them. It is an opportunity for you to learn and grow in your journey of self-discovery. Often when a door closes, another one opens. This is often the case with career choices. It is expected that many of today’s generation of students will have several careers in their lifetime.
Have faith in God to help you get there."
This story is part of an ongoing series on the career journeys of St. Michael’s College School staff.
Grade 11 Career Day at St. Michael's College School takes place on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.