Academy Speakers

BCSTA looks to inspire both new and veteran school trustees with our lineup of engaging speakers. We will update this space with more bios as they become available. 

Carefully selected with the theme of “Growing together, planting the seeds for inclusion” in mind, we trust that attendees will leave informed and energized.



Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Environmental Activist

At just 12 years old, Severn Cullis-Suzuki gained international attention when she delivered her famous speech at the Rio Earth Summit, pleading for the delegates to preserve the planet.

Learn more about Severn

Since then, Severn has gone on to speak to audiences around the world about the necessity of redefining our values and acting with the future in mind when it comes to environmental sustainability.

In 2000, Severn cycled across Canada in a campaign to raise awareness about climate change and air pollution. In 2001, along with others, she developed The Skyfish Project, a youth think-tank that presented at the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development. The presentation (and the journey to making it) was the subject of a documentary film that aired CBC’s The Nature of Things.

Severn has published several books including The Day You Will Change the World, and is one of the authors and editors of the book Notes from Canada’s Young Activists. As a youth, Severn co-hosted a TV series in North America for children called Suzuki’s NatureQuest, and currently hosts the APTN series Samaqan Water Stories about First Nations and water issues. She is also a board member for the David Suzuki Foundation and the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society, a “spark” for the Girls Action Foundation, and was a champion for WE CANada at the Earth Summit 2012.

Severn received a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale University, and a Master’s of Science in Ethnoecology from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, where she studied with Kwakwaka’wakw elders on the Pacific Northwest coast.

For presenting her speech in Rio, Severn received the UN Environment Program’s Global 500 Award.



Dr. Jill Birch

Leadership and Organizational Change Expert

How will we create better leadership for our future? Dr. Jill Birch answers this question — and many more — in her captivating and customized presentations designed to inspire change, build leadership capacity, and drive competitive advantage.

Learn more about Jill

Jill has spent the past five years studying relational leadership — a new way leaders achieve results that contribute to more collaborative and healthy organizations. As she was conducting her research, Jill walked the talk, experiencing first-hand the many sides of leadership as a CEO and C-Suite executive.

After leading a $40 million business unit, she developed and facilitated leadership programs for Fortune 500 companies and international not-for-profits. Her new research draws on a “P3 Leadership Framework” that focuses on the five principles, processes, and practices of a new way for leaders to lead — relationally. Her fresh approach resonates amongst senior executives, leaders, teams, Boards, and human resource professionals: leaders who are looking for impactful and innovative ways to approach leadership development.

In her engaging talks, Jill begins with a relational framework that focuses first on others, and then moves to helping leaders develop greater self-awareness, become more ethically attuned, and unlock new ways to address leadership challenges by creating collective team intelligence and a nurturing culture.

Jill is the founder and CEO of BirchGrove Inc., a holistic learning platform of keynote presentations, programs, and bespoke consulting that offers leaders a new way to think deeply about how they define the work of leadership, and how they develop and relate to others. She has spoken to thousands of leaders around the world, and provided consulting support to the high-tech, energy, finance, telecommunications, professionals services, education, health and not-for-profit sectors.

She holds a PhD from Griffith University in Australia, and an MA from the University of Toronto where she researched how CEOs learn to lead, and how they learn to learn. She is also a Certified Association Executive.

Simon Jackson

Movement Builder - Founder of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition

Simon Jackson is a storyteller and movement builder who has dedicated his life to finding a better balance between the needs of people and nature.

Learn more about Simon

At the age of 13, Simon founded the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition in the quest to unite the voice of young people to save Canada’s endangered white Kermode or spirit bear. Through the Youth Coalition, Simon led the campaign that helped raise international awareness about the plight of the rare bear, building the organization into the world’s largest youth-led environmental movement, with a global network of more than 6 million in over 85 countries.

After almost two decades of work, the spirit bear is now saved, with its last intact habitat having been set aside from development through one of the largest land protection measures in North American history.

Simon has received several honours for his work to save the spirit bear, including being awarded Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, being named as one of the 100 Angels of the Earth by UNESCO and, most notably, being honoured as one of Time Magazine’s sixty Heroes for the Planet – one of only six young people selected from around the world. His life’s work was the focus of an internationally televised movie, Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story.

Additionally, Simon has contributed to the success of numerous non-profit organizations beyond the Youth Coalition, having served as a board member of the Jane Goodall Institute, DreamNow, the International Institute for Child Rights and Development and The WILD Foundation, amongst others.

Today, Simon is focused on advancing nature literacy as the co-founder of the Ghost Bear Institute. Its signature project, Nature Labs, is working to provide high school teachers with the critical resources they need to help a new generation understand why nature matters and what they can do to create a better balance.

Simon is a motivational speaker with agency Speakers’ Spotlight, an award-winning photographer and a widely published writer. He has contributed images and chapters to eight books – including co-authoring the book A Geography of Hope: Saving Primary Forests – and has served as a columnist for CBC and the Huffington Post. Simon’s writing led him to being named a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers.

Mike Lake

Member of Parliament

Mike is the Member of Parliament for Edmonton-Wetaskiwin, and was first elected in 2006. Prior to entering federal politics, Mike worked for 10 years with the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.

Learn more about Mike

While in his role as a Member of Parliament he has served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, the Deputy Shadow Minister for International Development, and is now the Shadow Minister for Youth, Sport, and Accessibility.

Mike has two children, a son Jaden and a daughter Jenae. The Lakes have been active supporters of autism organizations, families, and individuals across the country and around the world, while sharing their story of life with Jaden, who has autism.

Anthony McLean

Youth Motivational Speaker

With a background in theatre, Anthony McLean delivers lively presentations on mental health, diversity, bullying, and parenting.

Learn more about Anthony

He has delivered hundreds of inspiring talks across Canada, the U.S. and Australia, and, as a respected voice in his field, appeared on CBC News, Global Toronto’s Morning Show, and Breakfast Television. Delivering research-backed tools and actionable strategies, McLean always leaves his audiences inspired to bring their best every day. McLean is also an actor who has starred in television commercials for Ford, Milk, Tim Horton’s, Sprite, Verizon Wireless, and Bell. He also hosted the CBC Television show The X and was featured in the documentary films Colour Me, SOAR, and Rising Above. In his theatre career, McLean participated in the renowned Stratford Festival where he developed his passion for Shakespeare. He also loves to freestyle rap — give him any topic in the world and he’ll make up a rap on the spot about it.

McLean is currently writing his first book, Mental Health for High Performers.

Brian Woodland

Owner of BrianInspires - Speaker/Consultant

Brian Woodland heads communications firm BrianInspires, with the mission to Speak-Consult-Inspire.

Learn more about Brian

Brian recently retired as Director of Communications and Community Relations for the Peel District School Board, one of Canada’s largest and most diverse school districts with 246 schools and 153,000 students. He has 32 years of experience in public education. In 2008, US-based PR News selected him as PR person of the year.

Brian is a frequent presenter at conferences and school districts across North America. He speaks on leadership, effective communication, customer service and inclusion. A passionate advocate for public education, Brian is known for his practical. powerful, provocative, humourous and fearless presentations. Brian sees his role, first and foremost, as supporting student achievement through effective communication.



Joanna Angelidis

Director Inclusive Learning - SD37 (Delta)

Joanna Angelidis is Director of Learning Services with the Delta School District. Joanna is committed to the inclusion and success of all students, believing that student mental health an well-being is critical to achieving this goal.

Chas Desjarlais

District Principal of Indigenous Education

My name is Chas Desjarlais and I am a nêhiyaw/ Métis educator and scholar working for the Vancouver School Board as the District Principal of Indigenous Education.

Learn more about Chas

My traditional name is Helper of Thunderbirds, I am a member of the Cold Lake First Nations and a Treaty Six iskwew. I am the mother of two beautiful girls Paige and Kaylyn. I learning to walk back into ceremony with the help of my guides and elders. I am currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Studies, pursuing a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy focused on Indigenous women’s leadership at the University of British Columbia.

B.F.A., B. Ed, M. Ed and doctoral candidate Ed.D (UBC)

Laura Dixon

Chair - BCSTA Ad Hoc Working Group on Mental Health, Trustee SD37 (Delta)

Laura Dixon has been a Trustee in SD37 Delta for 11 years and currently serves as Chair of the BCSTA Mental Health Working Group, which serves as a support to the board of directors.

Learn more about Laura

As a trustee delegate to the BC School Centered Mental Health Coalition, and former chair of the BC Healthy Schools Committee, Laura believes that supporting student health and well-being is a key pathway to improved student outcomes.

Davita Aphrodite-Lee Marsden

Lead Indigenous Education Teacher, Vancouver School Board

Aniin, my name is Davita Aphrodite-Lee Marsden. I am Anishenaabekwe ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᒧᐎᓐ and Lakota on my maternal side and English and Irish on my paternal side. I was born in Winnipeg, MB and I am a 60’s scoop baby.

Learn more about Davita

I have one beautiful son who is my light and love. My ancestral roots are from Mississaugas Scugog Island First Nation in Ontario. I am traditionally trained and walk in Indigenous ceremony. I’ve been an Educator for over 30 years. Presently, I’m an Indigenous Lead Educator with the Vancouver School Board (VSB), an Indigenous facilitator with the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF). Previously, I have worked with the Justice Institute (J.I.) for complex behaviors and Indigenous youth.

B.F.A., Cert. Ed., Coun. Psych, E.C.E., & M. Ed.

Jen Mezei

Chair - English Language Learners Consortium

Jen is a first-term trustee and currently the Vice Chair in SD41 (Burnaby). Jen previously was a working co-owner for a company in the renewable natural gas market.

Learn more about Jen

Jen has been a strong advocate for Inclusive Education and served as the President of BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) and the Burnaby DPAC.

Doug Sheppard

Superintendent of Schools -SD37 (Delta)

Doug Sheppard is currently the Superintendent of Schools for the Delta School District. With a BSc in Zoology from UBC and a Masters of Educational Leadership from SFU, Doug has over 25 years in public education.

Learn more about Doug

As Superintendent in Delta, Doug is focused on achieving the District’s mission “To Enable All Learners to Succeed and Contribute Their Full Potential to the Future”. The district’s focus on inquiry as a method of investigating both student learning and educator practice is central to the achievement of this work.

Val Windsor

Past Chair - English Language Learners Consortium

Val is a third term Delta School District trustee. She chaired the English Language Learners Consortium for the last four years.

Learn more about Val

The Consortium advocates for support for refugee and immigrant students and their families and it operates in a unique way that will be further explained at the Academy!

Karen Zimmer

Partner - Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP

Karen R. Zimmer is a partner at Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP with extensive experience in providing risk management advice designed to avoid actions.

Learn more about Karen

She is also experienced in defending professionals in contentious defamation, privacy, business and governance related disputes. Ms. Zimmer appreciates that her areas of practice frequently require quick action, and she responds accordingly.



Therese Mickelson

Internationally Accredited Business Communicator

Therese Mickelson is an internationally Accredited Business Communicator who has managed a wide range of public relations issues and initiatives in both the public and private sectors over the course of more than 25 years.

Learn more about Therese

She has expertise in the full spectrum of communications, ranging from public relations and engagement to media relations and crisis communication.

Eli Mina

Registered Parliamentarian

Eli Mina, M.Sc., P.R.P., is a Vancouver based Board Effectiveness Consultant and Registered Parliamentarian.

Learn more about Eli

Since 1984, Eli has advised his clients on chairing contentious meetings, demystifying the rules of order, achieving excellence in decision making, dealing with disputes and boardroom problems, and minute taking standards. Eli’s clients come from boards of education, local governments, libraries and library systems, aboriginal communities, credit unions, regulatory bodies, and the not for profit sector.

Eli is the author of five published books, including “101 Boardroom problems and how to solve them” and “Mina’s Guide to Minute Taking.”

Eli’s web site is Check for over 100 free articles at