Dear Friends, Family, and Colleagues,
My name is Brianna MacKenzie and this is my second year in the Champions program. Being back in Antigua has been amazing and I have loved coming back to my second home.
This year I have had the pleasure to be curriculum coordinator and, along with Elizabeth Oliva, led the champions to create and use lesson plans. As the Antiguan lead, I have been working with the champs and their lesson plans throughout the month to continue to develop the plans so that when we leave them here at our schools, they will be ready for our Antiguan colleagues to continue using them for both physical and health education classes. This role has challenged me to be a leader among my peers and has allowed me to grow in both personal and professional ways that I will carry with me into school and a career.
I have had the privilege to go back to the same school that I was placed at last year, Golden Grove Primary. When I walked into school the first day, it felt like coming home and my heart was filled with so much joy. Seeing those smiling faces everyday, getting ample amounts of high fives, playing hand games with them, and watching them learn and grow in the life skills is such a wonderful joy. Returning to a place that has challenged and changed me, and that is filled with so much excitement and overflowing with love from the students, made for the most amazing month. Everyday I am reminded of just how much I love this place and why I wanted to come back. My students are always buzzing with enthusiasm and pure joy and I want to give it all back to them by being intentional with my interactions both in and out of class so that they have an good example of what the life skills look like and develop relationships with them so that they realize the potential within themselves to apply what we are teaching. Even though I am not in the pedagogy stream at UFV, when I knew I was returning to Antigua I tried to relate what I was learning in class to my students down here. Whether it was learning about movement, helping relationships, or mental health I kept my students in mind and made those connections between what I was learning in exercise science to teaching, which has assisted me in being more intentional with both my teaching style and my interactions with the students.
Today we spent the day at the beach, enjoying our time on the island, paddle boarding and swimming. Having time to relax and spend time with friends is refreshing as we all anxiously await our last week of school. This afternoon our stampers are leaving us and are heading back to Canada to finish school and become teachers! Having all four of them here has been great and I think everyone has learned so much from them by watching them teach and hearing various tips and tricks to use within the classroom. Even though I didn’t get to teach with any of them at my school, I still learned so much from them at unity games and hearing them talk at red couch that has furthered me as my role as a teacher. From the stampers I learned to have fun and to sometimes be cheesy to get them engaged, to notice the little things you do as you teach and reflect on how your words and actions are impacting the students, and to use things that may be distracting the students and roll with it, which helped me when a plane was flying over the field and I was able to find the connection between the distraction of the plane and our life skill of leadership.
This program has changed me in ways that I didn’t even know until I started teaching again. When I left the island last year, I knew I changed a little bit just from being in a new experience; however, when I got home, those around were noticing larger changes that I couldn’t see. This year, our very first class we had all three grade 4 classes and as I was teaching all 60 of the them and as they were all participating, being active within the game, and having fun, I hardly recognized myself. I kept thinking that this is crazy how I am doing this comfortably and confidently and finally understood the changes that others have seen in me. This program pushes you in the best way. If you let it, this experience will shape you into a braver, kinder person and you will find yourself believing in yourself and what you are able to do a little bit more.
Golden Grove Primary
P.S. Stay in the fun zone comes from our first day on the island during unity games practice. Because unity games is organized chaos, keeping the students within the boundaries of the game can be tough so I came up with the phrase “Stay in the fun zone” and it stuck.