The Treasure Trove-Bridging the Divide by Jennifer Gray

12 05 2016

Dear friends, family, colleagues, champions and followers:

On my first week back in Antigua a grade four student at Jennings Primary School greeted me with a riddle and I would like to share it with you:

What is greater than God?

What is more evil than the devil?

What does the poor have?

What does the rich need?

The answer to all four questions is “Nothing”.

This is a very common perception for students when the champions arrive in Antigua. The last two questions struck me the most because I look at the students and teachers in Antigua as mountain movers, not with nothing but rich with so much culture and passion. This is the reason I wanted to return with the Champions for Health and Promoting Schools Program.

Landing in Antigua gave me the biggest shivers and smile on my face while others next to me on the plane contemplated the pronunciation of the country. Returning to the island two years later has made it feel like my home away from home. My two weeks has flown by at warp speed but what an experience it has been. On my first trip to Antigua I was a student in the Teacher Education Program at UFV and I returned this year as a fully certified teacher from the Mission School District. Being a student teacher during my first experience was challenging as I had been transitioning out of a student teacher role into a teacher mentor. However, the role as a “STAMPER” was not to become my teacher mentor. I think it took a second trip to Antigua to fully understand my role and the importance of this collaborative mentorship program.

Last week I attended the 90th Antigua & Barbuda Union of Teachers General Conference of 2016.  It had been called a momentous milestone for the contributions that teachers and administrators have made and the foundation they have paved for all others. The President of the Parent Teachers Association and the President of the Teachers Union stressed the importance of a teacher’s passion. The passion that lit up the conference that day was inspiring. It was contagious around the room and especially amongst the champions. One point mentioned was the need for teachers having the passion to educate and take new teachers under their wings. This is a similar issue in British Columbia. In fact, the rate of teachers retiring is much higher than the rate of students going into teacher education programs. Very often there is a lack of teachers who wish to not be a part of a mentorship program. However, as the President of the Antiguan Teachers Union stated, passionate teachers can pass along knowledge to beginning teachers through collaboration and mentorship. This is the role of a teacher, to inspire knowledge and continuity for learning. ALL HAIL LIFE LONG LEARNERS!

This really hit home for me because I have experienced levels of encouragement, collaboration and mentorship from both ends of the spectrum, especially as a beginning teacher during my training. When there is positive collaboration and mentorship it can be incredibly effective. My experience this year in Antigua has been most defining. While working with two amazing undergraduate students I was able to stay connected. I collaborated with my teaching partners and remained a mentor by teaching alongside them. My advice once I left the island was for my teaching partners to continue to work alongside the teachers at Jennings and ask for as much feedback as possible. RUMOR HAS IT that the outcome so far has been awesome! Way to go Teacher Shopland and Teacher Northgraves! The president of the teachers union recognized this as an unlimited supply of learning, much like a treasure trove. To keep building passion at home and in Antigua I think teachers really need to come together and tap into this system, a system that has the potential to thrive. Looking back on my experiences, I am reminded of this passion each day. It must be ongoing and at the heart of what we do, not only for tomorrow but for today. Let’s bridge the divide.

Jennifer Gray
Jennings Primary School



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