Speaking Engagements

Ever wondered why TED Talks are so popular? For us grownups, they remind us of when we had a great guest speaker back in school. It goes back to our ancient tribal roots, when we learned about the world through storytelling. An electrifying speaker pushes emotions, opens eyes, and changes minds.

Humans love that.

I build my talks around issues that matter. With a degree in psychology and another one in education, a decade of teaching, and a lifetime of human and social research, I have a lot to say about where we’re going.

Pick your talk from the drop-downs on the side. And look on the page bottom for testimonials.

Then call me. And I’ll come shift thinking.

How to Deal: A Future of Change

Grades 9–adult. The future is fast. Are you ready for what’s coming? Let’s talk about the accelerating rate of change and the skills we’re all going to need to cope. Technology is growing exponentially, and social change is speeding up. You think it’s fast now? By 2030, the “change curve” will be almost vertical. We’re going to have to have massive skills in being fluid, adaptable and self-directing. That means knowing our own strengths and desires, building a wider relationship net, and letting go of things that no longer work. We need creativity and freedom to think, an entrepreneurial mindset, and an ability to collaborate.

How To Figure Out Your Life Path

High school & adults. Do what you love, and you’ll be happy in life. Right? Well, it’s not that easy. Many of us aren’t even sure what we love, let alone what we want for ourselves. Let’s look at why that is. I’ll take you step by step through the process of discerning what you want in any given situation, and show you the habit that’ll gradually reshape your life. Very soon you’ll discover that your future is in your hands — and you’ve got the power to create anything you want.

Anxiety & Mental Health

Grades 4–adult (adapted for age). Anxiety rates are skyrocketing. It’s now the most prevalent mental health condition among youth in Canada. The rise in digital technology combined with fast-shifting social change is leaving kids more stressed and pressured than any other generation. Headaches, stomachaches, panic attacks, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness — and suicidal thoughts. Optional add-on: 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. I share ways for students to calm and strengthen their minds in the midst of our stress-packed world.

Curating Your Digital Footprint

Grades 6–post-secondary (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 SnapChat, where you thought your comments and pictures would 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 content to my books and real-world anecdotes. This presentation helps students understand that pressing “delete” doesn’t mean it’s gone, and that content should be true, useful and positive.


Biodiversity & Invasive Species

Grades K–10 (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.

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