The Last Cheer by Ashley Townsend

27 05 2017

Dear family, friends, Alumni Champions, and supporters,

My name is Ashley Townsend and I am a STAMPER at Urlings Primary School.  I heard about the Champions For Health Promoting Schools’ program while studying at the University of the West Indies in Barbados a couple of years ago from an Antiguan teacher.  This program had an incredible impact on her pedagogy and now I can say that is has on my own as well.

I will be graduating as a BC certified teacher this upcoming June and I feel so privileged to have finished my long practicum teaching in Antigua.  Next year, I am looking forward to having a grade 6 classroom at a BC offshore school in Cairo, Egypt and it has been very valuable during my time here to experience how education operates in a different cultural context. I have to admit, nonetheless, that teaching in Antigua has been very similar to what I have experienced in Canada, albeit much sweatier! The students are just as funny, genuine, and loving; the staff are just as collaborative, appreciative, and inspiring; and my passion for teaching only grew with every lesson, just as it does back home.  My favourite lesson was showing the Grade 5 and 6 students the pen-pal letters that my practicum students from Robertson Elementary wrote for them and then helping them write a letter back. It was fun to see how both sets of students were so excited to interact with a kid their age from a different country and discover all the similarities that they share.  I will also always treasure our last day at Urlings. The children and staff went above and beyond to show their appreciation for our time there by presenting us with an assembly where some students read out letters that they had written for us.  It was followed by a delicious lunch that we enjoyed with all the staff.

My main motive for deciding to come to Antigua was to have more experience for delivering high quality physical education lessons.  While I have greatly enjoyed and learned from teaching the lesson plans I was given, I have added so much more to my teaching toolkit than simply the content I taught.  Firstly, co-teaching alongside my teaching partners Amy Davidson, Emily Jude, and Kirsten Lee was an amazing experience.  Each of them brought such a dynamic energy to our collaboration efforts and I loved how our teamwork ensured that we were able to connect with each of the students during every lesson.  I also received a lot from observing the Antiguan teachers; I was so inspired by their humorous and energetic teaching presence and I’m excited to try and integrate more music in my own practice after seeing how it fostered such a sense of community and joy within their classrooms. Finally, Dr. Joanna Sheppard has taught me a lot about being a strong role model through her enthusiasm, humour, humility, and devotion to creating unity through circle work (daily ‘red couch’ meetings).

For our last day, we spent our time with Adele School For Special Children and T.N Kirnon Primary School.  It was a great way to culminate the trip as students and teachers alike gave it their all, although it felt very bittersweet cheering with my final group as it marked the finale of this trip and my certifying program.  I will miss all of the students and fellow champions as we depart for home tomorrow.  Thank you to every one that contributed to the success of our time here, and especially to Jo for facilitating such an impactful program.

Ashley Townsend

Urlings Primary School



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