Exceeding my Expectation by Dr. Jaslyen Singh

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Dear Champions Alumni, Family, Friends and Followers of the Champions Program,

My name is Jaslyen Singh, I am a UFV alumna and recent Doctor of Physiotherapy graduate. I was very fortunate to join the 2019 Champions as a physiotherapist at both the Adele School for Disability and the Victory Center.

Throughout my degree I heard nothing but amazing things about Dr. Sheppard’s program in Antigua. Still, the program exceeded my expectations.

In my first few days on the island I quickly realized that the Antiguan teachers were friendly and welcoming individuals that genuinely wanted what was best for their students. I also realized that resources were limited for all students, specifically young children with impairments.

I was able to sit down with parents, teachers and support staff to discus student specific goals that were functional at home and at school. It was evident that parents and teachers fully cared for the children and wanted to do whatever was necessary to help them. They simply needed guidance as to where to start.

I had the opportunity to take part in some amazing projects while on the island. I collaborated with Dr. Sheppard to make a walker out of PVC pipe for a young girl with Cerebral Palsy. I also teamed up with a number of the Champions to develop an outdoor balance area at Victory Center. Both projects were a success and were so much fun to be a part of. The students were so appreciative, smiling from ear to ear and ecstatic to share their joy with their loved ones. It was an experience of a lifetime.

I was so fortunate to be a part of a program that made such an impact on the students and school staff. The Champions embraced the culture and worked together with Antiguans to make sustainable changes.

I hope to return with the champions in the future and continue to work with children and their families on the island as a paediatric physiotherapist!

I would like to thank the Champions for having me on this trip and Dr. Sheppard for sharing her passion for education. I am in complete awe of the program that you have worked so tirelessly and passionately these last 14 years. I hope to one-day touch as many lives as you have!!

Best regards,

Jaslyen Singh

 

Final Farewell by Dr. Joanna Sheppard

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Dear Champions, Family, Alumni Champions and Friends of the Champions Program,

As I wake up to prepare to leave for the airport,  I can only thank you all for your dedication and support towards the 2019 Champions Program.

It has been many months of planning, preparing and organizing, and I want to thank each and every one of you for being with me every step of the way.

Thank you to all of you who donated your time, resources and financial contributions to the Champions Program. Without your support, this program would not be so successful.

To my colleagues and friends in Antigua, thank you once again for welcoming my students into your schools with open arms. I know the experiences they had will last a lifetime!

I would also like to thank KIN Professor Brian Justin for his Sixth annual Coaches and Athletes Certificate Program and collegial support as well as Dr. Jaslyen Singh for her dedication to our program and flying all the way from Australia to be a part of it!

I would also like to thank our UFV Teacher Education Department, but more specifically Dr. Vandy Britton for dedicating her time to sustaining this impactful collaboration

And last but not least, a big thank you to my 2019 Teaching Assistant Julia Nord-Leth for your passion, and positive energy for this program throughout the entire year.

So family and friends, thank you for allowing me to be a part of each of your children’s/friend’s lives. I have watched them grow from students to successful young professionals that I am very proud of.  I look forward to watching many of my students walk the convocation stage this coming June as well as guiding those still at UFV towards their goals and aspirations.

Champions on two…..one…two….CHAMPIONS!!!

Sincerely

Joanna/Momma Jo

New Year New Experience by Julia Nord-Leth

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Dear Champions Alumni, Family, Friends and Followers of the Champions Program,

My name is Julia Nord-Leth (Teacha Nord-Leth to the students on island) and I have been involved with this program for the past three years. This program is a huge piece of what has made me who I am today, and I am always so proud to be a part of it. This year I have had the opportunity to come back as Dr. Joanna Sheppard’s teaching assistant, which I am so grateful for. Working alongside Dr. Sheppard has been such an incredible experience that has allowed me to view behind the scenes of this program and really shown me how much dedication, love and passion she truly puts into making this program what it is today.

This year I have had the opportunity to teach within four different primary schools including: Mary E Pigotts, T. N. Kirnon, Golden Grove and Jennings Primary. Each and every school I had the opportunity to teach at was extremely welcoming by the students and staff as always, and I instantly felt as if I belonged there. Bouncing around from school to school has allowed me to grow in so many ways and foster countless connections between the staff and students on island as well as with my UFV colleagues. In each school we are teaching multiple life skills such as respect, empathy, conflict resolution, patience, etc. in the form of physical and health education. It is always so exciting to get the chance to collaborate further with the teachers here in Antigua in order to build best-practices. Because I had the opportunity to move from school to school throughout this month, I taught with so many different individuals, and got to see an abundance of different teaching styles, classroom management techniques and the chance to work with so many different types of students. That experience has allowed me to grow professionally and will benefit me while pursuing a teaching career.

I titled my blog “New Year, New Experience” because that is one of my favorite components of this program. Each year may look similar on paper; however, arrives with so many more building blocks that encourage you to ‘push your practice’ by expanding your current skills and knowledge to grow even further. Looking back at the person I was three years ago versus who I am today always reminds me how far this program has pushed me to grow and further my personal and professional goals.

Today we wrapped up our 2019 champions program by spending our morning soaking up our last moments on the beach beside our hotel. Once we walked home from the beach, the champions quickly packed up their last items and jumped onto the bus headed for the airport. Departing the island is always filled with an array of emotions starting from excitement to head home, to heartbreak from leaving our students and schools. After our final goodbyes, hugs, and tears, another amazing year came to an end.

This island truly feels like a second home for me, because of all the support and love I feel from my fellow champions, as well as the warm welcomes and connections we build with all of the Antiguans we encounter.

One final cheer,

CHAMPIONS ON 2… 1, 2 CHAMPIONS

Julia Nord-Leth

Teaching Assistant

Selling the Unity Games Sizzle by Cassidy King

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Hello friends, family, and supporters of the Champion’s for Health Promoting Schools program.

My name is Cassidy King (the one on the left!), I am a second year Champion in the Unity Games Coordinator position alongside Selyen. This year I had the opportunity to teach at Antigua All Girls High School alongside my amazing teaching partners Kara and Emily. Since this is a new school to the program, I was unsure of what to expect and how the collaboration between their curriculum and our program would tie together. On the first day of school I quickly discovered how I would be pushing my practice as they are learning the same content within their theory portion of PE that I learned in my first year of kinesiology. This month I taught human anatomy, exercise physiology, athletic injuries, and identity after sport. Although I was unsure at the beginning, I quickly realized that I was competent to teach this material because of the outstanding professors that I had within the Kinesiology program at the University of the Fraser Valley (Shout out to Amber Johnson). For the practical portion of their PE program we had to modify the lesson plans that our first-year champions created to focus on the skills found within their football (soccer) and basketball units. It was awesome to see the change in the girls’ motivation to participate in PE when we created a fun, engaging atmosphere where they could still focus on developing these skills. By taking a classic ‘drill’ and adding creativity and passion, it ignited a spark within the girls to find their joy in participating in physical activity. Even to the point where we were told by other teachers that we were distracting their class.

The life skill that we primarily focused on during our time here was self-esteem. This was a very powerful life skill to teach and I saw the direct impact that it had on all the other life skills that we taught. The first time introducing this life skill to a class I found that my CCRs were very surface level amongst the group; however, once I shared my own experience with self-esteem I found that the girls started to feel more comfortable sharing their personal struggles with this life skill. Working with my students everyday allowed me to see their growth and how self-esteem impacts their life outside of our lessons. On the first week one told me that she had low self-esteem. When I asked her to share one positive thing about herself, she couldn’t say anything; however, on the last day she told me that because we taught her about self-esteem she now believes that she’s beautiful and knows that no one can take that away from her. This is one of the many examples of how this program empowers our students through the teaching of life skills. This program doesn’t only impact our students, it also impacts us because its moments like these that remind us that everyone is capable of making a difference.

Today was our last Unity Games Day where we had the opportunity to go to Adele and T.N. Kirnon. Although I woke this morning pumped for UG and ready to sell the sizzle, it was bittersweet as today was our last day of teaching. Adele in the morning was a blast. Once again Adele was one of the most memorable Unity Games for me. The students’ energy and enthusiasm is contagious and was a fantastic way to kick off our last Unity Games Day. After a break for lunch and a team picture we headed over to T.N. Kirnon. A portion of our day is instilling a leadership role within the grade 6 students at each school. As I walked around the field today, I was very impressed with the students who stepped up to be leader at their last Unity Games before moving on to secondary school. After spending the semester before creating these games with Selyen, being able to pause within this day and see these games come to life and reach their full potential is a moment I’ll always hold on to. I want to thank all my fellow champions because this wouldn’t be possible without their hard work and dedication to Unity Games.

Tonight we were invited to Principle Hyacinth Barrero’s house where we enjoyed a delicious Antiguan BBQ. We enjoyed good food with great company. It was a great way to wrap up our experience here with the team on this amazing island of Antigua.

Sincerely,

Cassidy King

Antigua All Girls High School

Make It or Braich It by Jas Braich

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Dear family, friends, past champions, and followers of the champions program,

My name is Jas Braich and this is my second year being a part of the Champions for Health Promoting Schools Program. I was fortunate enough to be placed at Potters Primary School for the second year, and I got the oppurtunity to build on the relations I developed last year and collaborate with three teaching partners (Cole, Jordyn, Jenias). This year I have come back as a Second Year Leader and a Primary Researcher. The specific research area I am interested in is mindfulness and physical activity and its impacts on the body as one unit. This young concept of mindfulness that has been introduced in the west is growing and is known to be able to have effects on the mind, body and soul. Originally this is a Buddhist concept and the west has adopted it without the religious component. I believe that mindfulness is a quality of presence that’s innate in all human beings. Awareness is a natural and beautiful quality of being human that can’t be limited to one tradition or country. With the sole purpose to end suffering. I read this somewhere and thought wow this is a huge statement, but it is this huge statement that holds lots of power. We are all hardwired to be mindful of our present situation regardless of where the tradition originated, this is a concept that should be widely used and accepted by all humans whether it is for maintaining, or improving the mental, physical and emotional health. And with a curious mind I start my research to study its influences, originally in the general population and gradually progress towards a more clinical population.

My study is called THE EFFECTS OF MINDFULNESS AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ON THE MENTAL WELLBEING OF CHILDREN. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of mindfulness and physical activity on children’s well-being. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, at least 1 in 5 youth aged 9-17 years has a diagnosable mental disorder with varying degrees of impairment (ACOG, 2017). Putting those statistics into consideration, it is very important to set up a way to prevent and control such symptoms for arising in to the first place, rather than treat a diagnosed mental illness. This study will assess the wellbeing of children in grade four and five when important lessons in mindfulness and exercise at a young age are integrated into their weekly routine. These children will have received one of three conditions: mindfulness exercises, physical activity or none. I want to see how this can impact the youth and adolescents and see if applying these ideas and practices early in life can build stronger more resilient minds.

The coolest thing about my experience this year is when I came back it felt as if I had never left the island. Now it is the last week and the second last day of school. Last year this program introduced me to a what being a competent physical education specialist entails through experiential learning. This year I get to expand my knowledge and boundaries even further to grow personally and professionally. I think that I have taken the #PushYourPractice very literally and have made everything that I am doing this year very intentional. Starting with bringing all my creativity in my teaching, including using my tone of voice to help with themes, or even making up themes to keep the students engaged. Additionally, keeping my head focused on the purpose of my research and having mindful conversations with my colleagues about its applications and purpose. Lastly the one on one interactions I have had with all my students, that molded into purposeful connections has really helped shape my experience and made it that much more special for me. I believe that if we make connections we continue to teach even after we are gone.

I feel that my true purpose is to be useful to those around me, constantly thinking what I can do to drive change. Be a catalyst. This for me isnt about changing the world (although that would be great) but more about leaving it better than how I came to it. Through this opportunity I truly feel like I have started to mend my own path of building positive relationships with each and everyone that crosses my path.

I have appreciated that Dr. Joanna Sheppard has given me the chance to continue to paint my own picture of what learning should look like. I am thankful for all the relationships that I have created throughout this experience, including those with the Champions team and my fellow colleagues/students at Potters Primary. I know forming these connections with the students and teachers has left its mark on me, and I hope this feeling is mutually reciprocated on their end. Goodbyes are hard but,

“The truth is that you learn more from the things you love than the things you hate. From the broken things than the perfect ones. From the things that move on than the things that stay. And, you will discover more from the very last goodbye than you ever will from the first hello.” – The Wanderer

Sincerely,

Jas Braich

Potters Primary

The Final Week by Megan Rust

Dear Family, Friends, and Followers of the Champions Program,

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My name is Megan I am a first-year champion (the one in the middle!). I heard about this program through a past champion who was promoting it to classrooms, I knew I wanted to be a part of the program from then on. Prior to coming, I was checking the Champions website, constantly emailing Dr. Sheppard and anyone linked on the website just to get more information. I desperately did not want to miss the application date. This program spoke to me as I have been working towards becoming a teacher throughout my time at UFV. Having the opportunity to gain experience teaching children at a variety of grade levels seemed like the perfect way to explore my future career path, not to mention doing it in the coolest way possible. I find this is a once in a lifetime opportunity… or maybe 2nd or 3rd-time opportunity, as past champions continue to come back year after year and I can see why. The children here overflow with personality and love. Their enthusiasm to learn and be engaged in our lessons encourages me to push my practice. Before coming to Antigua, us first years made lesson plans for both physical education and health classes. To see those lessons come to life and actually resonate with each individual student is so fulfilling.

Champion evaluations have started today, this is the time where Dr. Sheppard and associates go around to each school videoing a PE lesson taught by each champion that will later be evaluated. Dr. Sheppard will be looking at professionalism, classroom management, and creativity and a few other things for this evaluation. Mine is tomorrow, which is nerve-racking, but I feel proud of all the progress I have made here.

Time has honestly flown by, I cannot believe we are already at our last week! Every day has been a new adventure jam-packed with new experiences and challenges. While it hasn’t always been easy, I found it worthwhile to push past old limits as I have seen changes in both my personal and professional growth. Going into the first week I didn’t know what to expect and at times I found it to be overwhelming and exhausting as I spent much of the first week just trying to get into the swing of things. Luckily, I have had amazing teaching partners throughout my time here who have helped me along the way. Today marks the beginning of our final week, you will be happy to know I have found my stride, feel way more confident in my teachings and only feel the tiniest bit of exhaustion. With only two more teaching days left I plan to make the most out of that time by continuing to connect with the students, emphasizing our life skills and teaching with intention. I know I’m going to have a hard time saying goodbye to the wonderful students here and this beautiful place. Being here has taught me so about the educator I would like to become, and about the impact one can have.

Finally, I would like to give a massive thank you to Dr. Joanna Sheppard for making this experience as wonderful as it is, her passion for this program inspires me as well as many others. She has put her heart and soul into this program to make it all that it has become, and I know it will continue to change the lives of many people long after my time here is up.

Sincerely,

Megan Rust
Mary E. Piggots

 

Comradery by Ashlyen Singh

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Dear Friends, Family and Followers of the Champions Program

My name is Ashlyen Singh (I am the one on the left!), I am a Teacher Candidate at UFV and I just completed my certifying practicum before hopping on a flight to Antigua with my colleague Jenais.

After so many weeks without enough sleep, it took me a while to process the fact that I had made it to Antigua because it didn’t feel real. Now we are sitting in the airport, two weeks later and I can’t believe that it’s over. When Dr.Sheppard came to speak about the Student Teachers in Antigua Mentoring Program (STAMP) for short, I thought that I knew what I was getting myself into because my younger sister, Selyen had been a Champion for Health the year prior. However, this program has far exceeded my expectations and pushed me to grow my teaching practice in many ways while also carrying out my role as a mentor.

I was lucky to be paired with two awesome mentees during my time at Mary E. Piggots Primary School. Hannah, who is driven to be the very best at everything that she does, and Megan, who poured her heart and soul into the experience with the hope that it would help her determine her career path. Both Hannah and Megan have shown tremendous strength and resilience over the past few weeks through some very challenging experiences. They were also very gracious when I made mistakes and faced challenges as a result of working in a completely different environment. I am proud to have been a part of their professional growth, but I am also very thankful to them for helping me push my own practice in order to be an effective teacher to eleven different classes rather than just the two that I was accustomed to.

One of the most remarkable things about this experience was not the incredible students, nor the wonderful Antiguan people and culture, but the comradery and support that the Champions offer to each other as well as anyone else who joins them on their journey. It has been a privilege to work alongside Dr.Sheppard and her Champions for Health in Antigua and I wish them all the best in their final week of the program.

Sincerely,

Ashlyen Singh
UFV Teacher Candidate

p.s. Thank you to Dr. Sheppard for allowing a full Singh sister takeover!