Speaking Engagements

Inviting an author to your school is a phenomenal way to lock in learning for your students. Who among us doesn’t remember a vibrant and engaging speaker from our own school days?

My author visits are fun and educational. I love speaking with students, whether I’m talking about social media, anxiety, invasive species or what it’s like to be an author. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and a Bachelor of Education — and I use them both in my magazine and professional writing, as well as in my books. As a former middle school teacher, I’m experienced in holding an audience’s attention, and always have a store of anecdotes at the ready. Your students will be entertained and enlightened, but most importantly, they’ll be engaged in a memorable, authentic way. I’ll talk them through things that they’ll be thinking about for weeks, months, maybe even years afterward. And my slide shows ignite all sorts of conversations that carry over to the classroom, making for deep and meaningful learning.

Scroll down to read testimonials from other educators who have invited me to speak with their students.

Biodiversity & Invasive Species

Grades K–9 (adapted for age). What’s an alien, and how is it different from an invasive? What is biodiversity and why is it so important? In this science-rich presentation, I answer this question and a whole bunch of others, such as Where do aliens come from? and What can we do to help preserve biodiversity? Audiences are fascinated by the stories behind the arrival of the species featured in the presentation, and they love Mike Deas’s humorous illustrations. This informative presentation offers myriad tie-ins for the science curriculum in all grades. I customize this talk to include species of concern in your school’s geographic area.

Anxiety & Mental Health

Grades 4–adult (adapted for age). Anxiety rates are skyrocketing for children, especially teens. A recent study in Ontario found 33% of high schoolers feel anxious and overwhelmed. That’s one third of kids in school. The rise in digital technology, combined with an overall increase in time demands on today’s kids leads them to feel more stressed and pressured than any other generation: got to fit it all in, got to learn so much, got to stay on top of it all. Making it to soccer practice. Making it into the “right” university. Looking good on Snapchat. Our kids have headaches, stomachaches, panic attacks, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness — and suicidal thoughts. That’s not even considering how rough the ride can be if depression or bipolar disorder are thrown into the mix.  New for 2017: a special segment looking at the research into marijuana’s effects on the developing brain, and its connection to mental health issues later in life. This presentation uses my books as a launching pad for a conversation about anxiety and mental health. I share ways for students to calm their bodies and their minds in the midst of our stress-packed world. We look at research into the most effective anxiety-busters, including what relaxation is (walking in nature, reading, f2f with someone important, sleep) and what relaxation isn’t (Netflix, social media, getting high).

Curating Your Digital Footprint

Grades 6–college (adapted for age). Every platform you use, every photo you post, every comment you submit—it’s all part of your digital footprint. Yep, even on that wonderful little platform called SnapChat, where you thought your comments and pictures could just … vanish, never to be seen again. In this presentation, I speak with students about the reality of our online environment and the importance of carefully curating one’s online activity, relating the lessons to my books and real-world anecdotes. This presentation helps students understand that pressing “delete” doesn’t mean it’s gone, that content should be true, useful and positive, and that their privacy settings must be constantly updated—plus a whole lot more, including the usefulness of social media, and how it can be employed in a powerful, positive way. Dozens of conversation-starters for teachers to follow up on!


Writing for Life

Grades 3–adult (adapted for age). This presentation covers my early years as a writer, as well as my path to publication. I talk about where my ideas come from, the process of developing a story, and a little bit about each of my books. And of course, I’m always weaving in tips and advice for young writers. Can be customized to support the unit or area of focus your students are currently engaged in, e.g. editing, revising, plotting, character development, voice etc. I am also happy to talk with students about various aspects of non-fiction writing: researching, choosing authoritative sources, guarding against plagiarism, organizing information and compiling it into a report, essay or project.

Rich in images, stories and useful tips, my presentations are available for students of all ages. I am available to present to adult audiences, as well. You’ll find more details about each of my presentations in the drop-down toggles above.

Don’t see what you’re looking for? Drop me a line, and we’ll customize something that’s right for your group.

What a wealth of knowledge you have brought to our school. The students are still sharing with me their gratitude for being able to hear you speak and to work with you through some very specific topics. I appreciate your versatility and especially the delivery of your presentations. Barsby is a very down-to-earth school – no bells and whistles, the students understand and respond to facts and straight up information. I appreciate your ability to read your audience and to work at their level. The day was a total success! Once again, thank you; the discussions will continue because of you.

D. Marshall

High School Principal, Nanaimo

I’ve heard a lot of guest speakers in my 12 years as a middle school teacher and I thought your presentation was one of the best we’ve ever had.  The information you shared on anxiety, marijuana use, use of digital devices and the effects of positive versus negative words/energy were fascinating and valuable to both my students and to myself as a parent and an educator.

J. Allsopp

Grade 7 teacher, Victoria

Thank you so much for your presentation last Friday! I think you introduced a new topic to many of our students; one that is so important to all of us. It’s amazing how destructive a new species can be!  

C. Hussey

Principal, Sooke

After hearing a bit about the novels, the students were eagerly lining up to take them out of the library. Alex Van Tol gave an interesting talk and inspired us to help protect our province against the invasion of alien species!

N. Benes

Teacher-librarian, Pemberton

Every teacher that attended your presentation has come up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it. A parent told me that their child in grade 2 came home talking about school and your presentation and he never usually wants to talk about school. Teachers who were absent yesterday are asking me about the presentation because their students are still discussing the ideas today.

S. Soo

Teacher-librarian, Surrey

Last year we came to your reading at the museum and subsequently picked up a copy of Aliens Among Us. You kindly signed the book for my son and answered the questions of a whole troupe of elementary students with aplomb-even when incredibly off topic.

S. Jost

Parent, Victoria

Alex Van Tol is knowledgeable, and presented the topics in an age-appropriate way for junior high students. The presentations kept students engaged and provided further opportunities for discussion. There was plenty of positive feedback from staff and students.

E. MacConnell

Teacher-librarian, Chilliwack

“An author visit, planned by a creative, insightful group of educators, can be the one event that can change the reading life of a child for years to come. I believe that the author visit, in the hands of the best authors and educators, may be the most powerful, motivational literary experience which we can give our children.”             

—teacher librarian Kathleen Turkington