The Smallest Gesture by Sarah Russell

12 05 2015

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

Today our group of Champions was lucky enough to have been able to partake in Teacher’s Union Day as a part of Teacher Appreciation week here in Antigua. This event took place at the spectacular Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium. We were so honored to have been recognized and invited to this event, and were warmly welcomed there. To be included in this side of the education system in Antigua made each of us feel valued and appreciated. This experience personally made me see a whole other side of the school system, seeing teachers from public, private and high schools come together and to hear them speak about their experiences was very special. Dr. Colin Greene, Principal of Princess Margaret School in Antigua spoke about the Human Dimensions of Teaching, a topic that hit home with me. As a university student, knowledge and methods have been drilled into my brain over the fours years of my degree. However as a teacher this knowledge and these methods are useless if you cannot convey their meaning to students in a way that grabs their attention in a personally designed way. Teaching is not about how smart the teacher is or how many degrees they have earned. Teaching is about the education of others.

The past two weeks on this beautiful island have flown by. I am placed at the Adele School for Special Children and the Victory Resource Centre. Teaching students with Special Needs is not something that I had previous experience with, but I have really discovered my passion for working with children here in Antigua. I cannot wait to work with them every day! One young man in particular has really made my experience here special. He does not like to participate in PE despite my continued encouragement, and he does not verbally communicate. As a result, most of the time I imagine that he thinks I am a crazy Canadian teacher jumping around and trying to get him going. Then last week, he made the smallest gesture that made my whole week. I came up to him as I usually do each day and said “Hi Malcolm how are you doing?” This time, instead of hearing me and then looking away, Malcolm extended his fist for a fist bump. This tiny, unprecedented gesture made me realize that the jumping and cheering is all worth it. These students are learning and enjoying themselves.

The students and faculty at these two schools will forever have a special place in my heart. As a future nurse, I was unsure whether I would be able to transfer my passion for caring for children into a teaching setting. However I am so fortunate that Dr. Sheppard was willing to include me in this program. Through her help and guidance as well as my amazing teaching partners Rachael Adams and Marissa Lucas and each and every other Champion on this trip, I have become very comfortable in the classroom. Building relationships with these students teaching PE and health and integrating essential life skills is a surreal experience. Mitchell Hardington as well as all of the other Champions who have taught at Adele, I see the impact that you have had there every day. The children here in Antigua are so excited to learn and get outside and play with us. Their excitement inspires me to teach them to the best of my ability while I am here!

Champions for Health Promoting Schools is a program unlike any other that I have heard. Dr. Sheppard (Momma Jo) has poured her heart into this program which is why it continues to be successful after ten years. I like to think that her passion for health, teaching and the whole child shines through each of us as we teach. The relationship that has been established between the University of the Fraser Valley and the Antiguan education system is something that I am proud to be a part of.

Thank you for your support of the program!


Sarah Russell
Adele Primary and Victory Resource Centre



3 responses

13 05 2015

Sarah! While I was there with you I could definitly see the kids excitement and engagement while you were teaching them! I am a bit jealous that I didn’t get a fist bump… I still just got the star, but totally a good and friendly one ;). Miss you all!

15 05 2015
Susan Cox-Russell

Hi Sarah. It was a pleasure to read your contribution to the blog, and learn of the ” smallest gesture”. So glad to hear that you are loving beautiful Antigua and this life changing experience ! I am sure your enthusiasm is enjoyed by all. Thank you to Dr. Sheppard and all those who have contributed to this incredible educational opportunity !

Love you,and miss you !


18 05 2015
Don Bauerfind

Glad to hear you are having a great experience. We are so impressed with what you are doing. The blogs and pictures have been a great way for us at home to feel a little bit of what you are experiencing. Thanks for sharing.

Rochelle and Don Bauerfind

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