Last month, Riverview resident Keith Moen was honoured with the Award of Excellence from the Manitoba Association of School Psychologists for his outstanding contribution in the practice of psychology in the school setting. Keith’s work focuses on making psychology accessible to everyone, empowering people to better control their mental health through self-understanding. 

Keith travels between two high schools and three elementary schools in the Louis Riel School Division, where he designs and leads sessions for students and staff. Working with the entire school community, smaller groups, and individuals, plus writing up reports are all part of the job.

By teaching kids about their brains, Keith believes they can better understand themselves and develop better strategies for self-control. 

Creating innovative sessions, like building a model brain, is part of why Keith was chosen for the award.

He starts by handing out model magic and a cheat sheet listing the different parts of the brain and their functions. Then he leads the kids in building their own brain, explaining the different parts as they go. He says the kids love learning the fancy terms for the different parts of the brain, then using them to impress their parents when they get home. 

Self-regulation lets people keep an emotional balance. As they go through the activity, Keith talks with the kids about different regulation strategies they can use in their own lives. 

While they build, Keith tells stories that include questions like, “If a kid is walking to school, what part of the brain are they using to walk?” Learning the different parts of the brain and how they function prepares the kids for the next time they have a reaction like anxiety about a math test, now they can identify that as a flight response from the amygdala. Knowing they’ve triggered a threat detector originally meant for lions, they can take the initiative and calm down using a self-regulation strategy, like deep breathing. Learning about the brain and self-regulation allows them to make choices and deal with the problem.

Most people think of school as academics, but Keith thinks that schools should be looking at the whole child, including mental well-being. Along with helping children with learning differences engage with academics, students with high test scores might still struggle socially and emotionally and also need help. 

He moved to Morley Avenue around 2006, and has worked as a school psychologist for the past eleven years, but has been working with children and families for 30 and feels like everything has been leading to this. All along, his education and career path were about understanding people and helping them. 

Being honoured with the Award for Excellence came as a tremendous shock to him since he has many colleagues he feels were just as deserving.

Keith treasures his memories of working with kids, getting to know them, and finding their strengths. He says it can be liberating for a student to find out they have a strength, and every day something a student does brings him joy.

Keith believes all teachers deserve an award this year for how hard they’ve worked to transform their whole practice during the pandemic. He emphasizes that the loss of the last year has shown us how we learn and support each other as a community and the role of our education system, and that gives us all the more reason to be very thoughtful about how education works. For that reason, he feels people need to get informed about Bill 64, and if they find out that’s not a direction they want to go down, they have to use their voices loudly and contact their MLAs.