About Michael

Michael leads a poster session on SelfDesign Learning at Learning and the Brain Society conference, San Francisco

2019 update

In 2019, Michael is initiating the Personalized Learning Academy via the US-based SelfDesign Foundation,

In 2017, Michael began a PhD in the faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University, focusing on Personalizing Learning.

Professional Background: Michael brings 28+ years as an innovative and award-winning educator, researcher, coach, workshop leader, tutor and author to his consulting services. Frustrated as a classroom-based teacher, Michael joined SelfDesign Learning Foundation (formerly Wondertree) in 1992, helping to found and direct the award-winning, innovative SelfDesign and Virtual High Learning Communities (2002 and 1993, respectively). In 2006, Michael received a Prime Minister’s Award for teaching excellence and an award of merit from the BC Ministry of Education for his work in helping launch and grow SelfDesign.

Michael’s special focus as an educator has been nurturing and advocating personalized, holistic learning and and he is committed to serving the emotional wellness and balance of clients, learners and families. From 2002 – 2017 Michael was  engaged in learning consulting, research and advisory work to SelfDesign Learning Community, which he helped co-found. SelfDesign has grown to one of BC’s largest online schools with 3,000+ K-12 and Special Education learners, as well as other clients. Michael is also a faculty member in the SelfDesign Graduate Institute.

Michael receives a Special Merit award from BC Premier Gordon Campbell, in conjunction with Prime Ministers award, with SelfDesign colleagues Brent Cameron and Kathleen Forsythe (2007).

In his career Michael has contributed to the development of engaging and effective learning communities, he has lead many professional workshops and presentations, particularly on ‘Personalizing Learning’, and he has created many curricular and learning resources.

Professional Summary


  • SelfDesign Learning and Leadership (2002 – 2017)
  • Learning Consultant / Educator / Instructor (since 1987)
  • SelfDesign Special Education Consultant
  • SelfDesign Graduate Institute: Faculty member, course instructor (since 2012)

Formal Education

  • (PhD) – SFU, started Fall 2017; Faculty of Education
  • MA – SFU, 1997; Faculty of Education
  • BEd – Queen’s, 1987; Science and English specialization
  • BA – Ryerson, 1985; Journalism
  • BSc – UBC, 1981; Geology and Chemistry
  • ESL (1990); Special Education (1 of 3, 1987)

Recent Professional Development

  • DIR Floortime (certification, level 1; 2015)
  • ‘EdWeb’ webinars – Personalized Learning (x10), Special Education (x7), Gamification (x6), Neurobiological Learning (x4), Data Use (x8); (2017-15)
  • ‘Gamification’ MOOC (2015, Wharton School, Penn State University)
  • SelfDesign Special Education Training  (2014)
  • Interpersonal Neurobiology, 4 courses, Mindsight Institute, UCLA (2012)
  • Learning through technology – multiple workshops, etc. (ongoing)

Professional Memberships

  • BC College of Teachers (lifetime certification)
  • Learning and the Brain Society
  • International Coaching Federation
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)


  • Began PhD program, Simon Fraser University (fall 2017)
  • Faculty course instructor, ‘Neurobiology & Learning’; ‘Languaging for Empowerment’; ‘Personalizing Learning’; SelfDesign Graduate Institute (2016 – 2018)
  • Co-founder, executive leadership and educator: SelfDesign Learning Community, BC (2002-2017)
  • Founder, Director: Surpass Leadership Development Camp for youth (2007-2017)
  • Author: SelfDesign Essential Elements course (2016)
  • Personal Ecolography – an original, lifestyle (‘element’) assessment tool
  • Founder, Choose News advocacy project, seeking to reduce violent content of TV and radio news, to help protect children’s mental health (www.choosenews.org); started 2015
  • Author: Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want, Starting Now, (2011)
  • MA thesis: Virtual High, Toward an Ecology of Being (1997, SFU)
  • Co-founder, ongoing executive leadership and educator: Virtual High Learning Community, BC (1993-1997)


  • Prime Ministers Award (Canadian Federal Government), for SelfDesign Learning (2006)
  • Special Recognition for Contribution to Education (BC Ministry of Education), for SelfDesign Learning (2006)

Professional Interests

  • Personalized, holistic learning
  • Special Education – reaching and engaging all learners, empowering parents
  • DIY / Maker’s movements
  • Gamifying learning
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Neuro-linguistics
  • Personal empowerment and wellness
  • Optimizing learning through technology and virtual learning environments
  • Curriculum development (particularly oriented to optimizing learning and meaningful learner engagement)
  • Stress reduction, especially in children and youth

Work Summary

Educational Consulting, Leadership, Teaching

  • Faculty member – SelfDesign Graduate Institute, 2012-present, teaching:
    SD 513 – Neurobiology and Learning (Course and Pro-D workshop)
    SD 518 – Languaging for Self-Empowerment
    SD 528 – Our Learning Ecology
    PM 538 – Personalizing Learning
  • Co-founder, Executive Coordinator – SelfDesign Learning Community (BC), 2002-2017
  • Learning Consultant, SelfDesign Learning Community & SelfDesign, 2002-2017
  • Founder, Director: Surpass leadership camp for teens 13-17 years (BC), 2007 – 2017
  • Course Mentor-Instructor, SelfDesign High, 2009-2017
  • Learning Consultant – Virtual High/Wondertreee, 1992-1998
  • Co-founder, Director – Virtual High Learning Community (Vancouver), 1993-1997
  • Conventional classroom teacher (Ontario, Colombia, Vancouver), 1988 – 1991
  • Teaching, Instructing, Learning Consulting, Mentoring Clients
  • SelfDesign High – 2008-2012: Learning Your Way (Planning 10, SelfDesign Praxis)
  • Virtual High Learning Community – SelfDesign Learning Community – Simon Fraser University
  • Wondertree Centre – Vision Home & Community Program (Colorado)
  • St. John’s International School (Vancouver) – Colegio Nueva Granada (Bogota)
  • Welland Secondary School, Niagara Falls Secondary School


  • Volunteer Mentor: Cool School (Gibsons BC), 2015 – 2018
  • Voluntary Board service: Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival, 2004-2016 Coast Cultural (Arts) Alliance, 2003-2006; Sunshine Coast Recycling Society (Treasurer), 2001-2004
  • Blue Energy Canada (Communications & Research, 1997 – 2004)
  • Geologist, 1976-1983

Writing & Publications

  • Learning Your Way (blog, this site; 2005)
  • SelfDesign Essential Elements course for SelfDesign Graduate Institute (2016)
  • Gold Mad (novel published 2013, MW Books; see goldmad.ca)
  • Learn Your Way! (book published in 2011, SelfDesign Learning Systems Inc.)
  • Numerous resource modules for learners to assist with stress reduction, testing, optimizing learning, communication, personal ecology, SelfDesigning
  • Georgia Straight (feature writer, 20 articles, 1997-2002; education, health and natural resource focus)
  • Vancouver Sun (11 Op-Ed columns, education focus, 1993-2012)
  • News reporting: Ottawa Citizen, Science Dimension magazine, Canadian Science News Service (numerous articles)
  • Blue Energy Canada Inc. (Communications Director, 1997 – 2006)
  • Coast Garibaldi Health Services (Eat Up food guide)
  • Western Canada Wilderness Committee (3 special reports)
  • Carleton Productions (documentary scriptwriter, “The Right To Be You” series)
  • BSc thesis (1981, Geology, UBC)

On the side, I …

Play guitar and sing, stay fit through hiking, skiing, swimming, garden, ‘shroom (I’m a mycophile!), DIY-it-up, really enjoy being a parent, dream big, contribute to and volunteer in my community, live with dogs, advocate for environmental sustainability and socially progressive policies.

Mentors along the way:

The following is a list of the inspirational people whose books and ideas, conversations and memes have inspired me: Brent Cameron, Mac Freeman, Johann Goethe, Richard Hanson, John Holt, Jean Houston, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Nel Noddings, Mary Oliver, Lee Pulos, Carl Rogers, Robert Root-Bernstein, Tim Galwey, Rumi, Gregory Cajete (Tewa), Daniel Siegel, Rick Hanson, Temple Grandin, my colleagues in SelfDesign, the many learners, children, young people and parents I have met and who, in turn, have nurtured much learning in my heart. And especially my wife Lisa and my daughter Robin.


Michael with a group of teens attending ‘Surpass‘, a week-long leadership camp/program Michael began in 2007 on the Sunshine Coast, BC.