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Keynotes that Engage, Inspire, and Instruct

Topics & Combinations

When you bring me out for a keynote, you have the cost-free option of using me for a same-day breakout session or two. Keep in mind that, prior to my speaking engagement at your school or conference, we will speak on the phone, through Skype, or over email to help me customize my remarks for your unique audience, theme, and other needs.

With that said, here are some keynotes that I have given in the past.

Never Finished: Continually Becoming the Teachers We Want to Be (and Staying Sane in the Process)

never-finished-cover-3dThere is a critical point in all of our careers when the honeymoon period wears off and we’re left with a simple, brutal fact: teaching is hard. This is the key juncture in every teacher’s career; in it, we either decide to embrace the challenge and the “never finished” nature of our work, or we decide to resent it. The former path leads to a fulfilled career, impactful teaching, and, more often than not, above-average student achievement results. The latter path leads to, at best, leaving the profession, or, at worst, staying in it while being actively disengaged.

Is there a framework that allows teachers to reach this juncture with a large probability of coming out better on the other side? I think so. That’s what this keynote unpacks.

These Five Things 3d cover no shadowThese Five Things, All Year Long: A Non-Freaked Out Approach to Literacy Instruction Across the Content Areas

Which instructional skills and curricular emphases matter most for long-term student flourishing? That’s a question I’ve been exploring in my classroom and on my blog for years. This keynote is shares key insights from my all-day literacy workshop on the five instructional habits that make for powerful, impactful classrooms and schools. As I lay out the elements of my literacy framework — argument, reading, writing, speaking/listening, and character — I share student stories and clips from the classroom to keep the discussion grounded in the real world.

This keynote’s material can be explored, in depth, through my ebook These Five Things, All Year Long: The Non-Freaked Out Literacy Framework.

Long-term Flourishing and the Science of Success

In this address, I inspire your teachers to keep their eyes on Everest and become teacher-researchers in the realm of character strengths. My work with character strengths has progressed from haphazard to fairly scientific — and in this address, I share why that’s not something just for science types. In the Summer of 2015, I was fortunate enough to travel to Philadelphia as an inaugural recipient of a national Teacher Innovator Grant with Character Lab, and that trip included a 3-hour “mini-PhD” in psychological research given by none other than Angela Duckworth herself. My classroom research during the 2015-2016 school year, thanks to the guidance of smart people at Character Lab, makes me uniquely speak with your staff on this topic.

The Administrator’s Challenge: One Staff, Dozens of PD Needs

There’s nothing simple about the challenge administrators face when trying to plan and facilitate professional development for the spectrum of teachers in their buildings. Some teachers need the simplest development in the most basic of areas; others could literally be leading professional development for other schools — that’s how much they’ve mastered their craft.

So here’s the question: what’s an administrator to do to optimally provide for the growth needs of each teacher? In this keynote, I tell my own story, some of the successful PD approaches I’ve seen administrators use, and what I feel are the best ways to provide for each teacher’s unique needs.

My story: How a small-town high school teacher used the Internet to conquer his professional bucket list (and how you can, too)

The Internet has been around for awhile, but very few teachers and administrators realize its potential for changing the way we view our careers and our professional development. In this keynote, I tell my story, which starts with a fifth-year teacher feeling fairly comfortable and stagnant in his job and ends with where I’m at today: writing for 35,000 visitors each month who span the globe and the spectrum of education.

It is amazing how ripe the potential for this work is — I believe every school in the country contains teachers who could easily do what I do… and much more.

Feedback & Experience

Keynote for the Fire Up Conference for Student Teachers

On October 17, 2016, I gave a brief keynote to an audience of several hundred hard-working people in the midst of their student teaching experiences. The talk, “The Four Non-Negotiable Teacher Mindsets,” highly Camille Farrington’s work and its ramifications for the inner work of teaching.

“Never Finished” Keynote in Grafton, WI

On August 26, 2016, I gave my eighth of eight August 2016 talks, this time to the excellent secondary staff of Grafton, Wisconsin. In this event, we started with the “Never Finished” keynote and wove that into a literacy workshop.

Opening Keynote for Genessee County Catholic Schools in Flint, MI

On August 25, 2016, I gave a “Never Finished” keynote at the beautiful Powers Catholic High School in Flint, MI. It was a great joy to speak with the staff here, many of whom have since become colleagues in follow-up Lab Classroom professional development experiences.

“Never Finished” Keynote in Dubuque, IA

On August 22, 2016, I gave an opening keynote at an excellent, all-day, district-wide professional development event in Dubuque, IA.

“Never Finished” Keynote in Berwyn South, IL

On August 19, 2016, I was privileged to be a part of BSD 100’s dynamic professional development day. (They were also very generous tweeters!)

“Never Finished” Keynote for District Literacy Day in Round Rock, TX

On August 18, 2016, I gave the largest keynote I had given up to that point — over 700 teachers in the audience of this very large, very smart district in Texas.

Opening Keynote for Leadership Institute in Dublin, OH

On August 2, 2016, I was honored to be a part of a strong initiative at Dublin Schools in Ohio: a two-day leadership institute, planned and operated by a hard-working committee of teachers.

Keynote for Virtual Disciplinary Literacy Workshop in Oshkosh, WI

What a great privilege it was, June 21, 2016, to virtually “travel” to Oshkosh, WI, to speak to teacher literacy leaders there. At this event, I was also humbled to be the great Jeff Wilhelm.

Keynote for Virtual Education Symposium for the American College of Education

I was thrilled to give remarks at the first Virtual Education Symposium put on by my M.Ed alma mater, the American College of Education on October 3, 2015.

Back-to-School “Never Finished” Keynote in Plainwell, MI

Close to home, on August 31, 2015, I got to speak to the staff of schools in Plainwell, MI, at their district opening event. This was one of the first times I gave the popular “Never Finished” keynote.

Keynote for Literacy and Language Conference in Vancouver, WA

On August 17, 2015, I had a blast giving my first character-related keynote, titled “Long-term Flourishing and the Science of Success.” It was a privilege reminding my audience of hard-working educators why it was that they got into this work in the first place and how the strong science behind character strengths gives us permission and encouragement to experiment in our own classroom with dual-purpose approaches to instruction.

Keynote for Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL

On June 10, 2015, I spoke to educators attending a conference at EIU. Our topic was the Non-Freaked Out Approach to Literacy Instruction Across the Content Areas. It, like all of these opportunities, was fun!

Keynote for Attica School District in Attica, NY

On April 22, 2015, I spoke to the secondary staff of Attica School District. Our topic was the Non-Freaked Out Approach to Literacy Instruction Across the Content Areas. I then led two breakout sessions.

Keynote for Turlock School District in Turlock, CA

On April 3, 2015, I spoke to 500+ teachers in the gymnasium of Pitman High School. Our topic was the Non-Freaked Out Approach to Literacy Instruction Across the Content Areas.

Keynote at the Small School Districts Association of California in Sacramento, CA

On March 12, 2015, I had the privilege of addressing 300 superintendents and school board members from the small school districts of California. These folks taught me that, as a Cedar Springs, MI, resident and teacher, I can’t go anywhere in the country and say that I teach in a small town 🙂 I am very thankful to Dan Moore and Debbie Pearson for bringing me out to this great event!

Keynote at the Breakthrough Schools Network PD in Cleveland, OH

On August 6, 2014, I gave a keynote to the 300+ teachers of the Breakthrough Schools Network. These energetic, high-impact professionals represented grades K-8 and every subject area, as well as administrative and coaching personnel.

Below, you’ll see their unsolicited feedback as some of them live-tweeted the keynote presentation.


Alumni Achievement Award Speech, Summer 2014

alumni-achievement award On July 19, 2014, I received a great honor from the institution that gave me my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction: the American College of Education. Upon receiving the award, I gave a five-minute mini-speech that emphasized the importance of focus in our work as educators.

Keynote at the Fire Up Conference, Fall 2013

On October 21, 2013, I gave a keynote to 200+ pre-service teachers from colleges and universities around West Michigan. As Fire Up is the first conference I ever spoke at, I consider this one of the biggest honors I’ve received professionally.

High School Commencement Address, Spring 2013

On May 30, 2013, I was blessed to have the chance to feel more scared than I ever have in my life. It is one thing speaking in front of many people — for an introvert like me, that is nerve-wracking enough. Skydiving would be a little more relaxing! But speaking at a graduation is terrifying as graduation is a key life landmark for all in attendance. Thankfully, the audience was gracious; students of the Class of 2013 still thank me for the words I shared in my “Hard Work and Humility” address.

Contact Dave about Rates and Dates

I would be honored to speak at your event. Be in touch below.