We are the Champions by Kenton O’Donnell

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Hello to all of you out there following this amazing program!

My name is Kenton O’Donnell, and this is my first year as an Antigua Champion.

I still cannot believe that I am writing this blog while in my hotel room in Antigua. When I first heard about this program and decided to apply I had heard that there was a placement at a school for children with disabilities; I knew immediately that there is where I wanted to be placed. However, our professor and island mom, Dr. Sheppard, informed us that she would be choosing placements based on what she knew about us, and that in her 14 years of experience running this program, knew where we would fit best. Of course, she was right, and I am now spending this month at the Adele School for Special Children and Victory Center.

This past week and a half teaching these truly special children has been an experience where I am learning more than I ever could in any classroom. My first day of teaching was challenging to say the least. However, I am fortunate enough to be paired with my amazing teaching partner Kalyn, whom I immediately bonded with at the beginning of this program. I go into every lesson knowing that she is there to support me and that I can do the same for her whenever she needs it. Our fellow colleagues have already commented that we seem like brother and sister after only knowing each other for two weeks. As a person who becomes home-sick relatively easy, I can also say that having her and everyone else here with me is making this experience so much easier to be away from home (sorry mom and dad).

Today was also Unity Games day! We travelled to Urlings and Mary E. Piggots Primary Schools. This was our second Unity Games since we have been here and is a day I look forward to every Thursday night. For one day we get a glimpse into one of our colleague’s place of teaching for the month while also coming together as the team we are to teach fun and valuable activities to the entire school. Today made me feel like I was part of something that is much larger than any of us. This program has been coming down to Antigua for 14 years and each of the students can’t wait for the Canadian teachers to come to their school that Friday. It has really shown me why it is so important that we “push our practice” (a phrase Dr. Jo has burned into our minds) by immersing ourselves in such a stressful and unfamiliar environment that forces us out of our comfort zones so that we can not only teach these children valuable life skills, but to learn from them as well.

As I am writing this blog I am listening to the song We Are the Champions by Queen. While fitting for the title of this blog because we are the Antigua Champions, it is also a song that we performed at a talent show put on by the Victory Center tonight. During school yesterday, I was able to get a sneak peak of some of the other performances by students at the Adele School and Victory Center. Watching these students have the courage to sing, dance, and play instruments for us was very emotional. Although I have only taught these students for seven days, I care for them more than I thought I could. I want to know how their days went, what they dream to do and be in life, what they are feeling, and everything about them so that I can do my best to help them achieve these goals and simply live a happy, joy-filled life.

Tonight, at the talent show, I was able to finally see each of my students show off their talents that they have been practicing for weeks and even months now. One student in particular, Emmanuel, performed the song Halleluiah on the flute. If I am being completely honest it was the most emotional moment of this entire program so far. To see him up on the stage proving so many wrong when they use word can’t when talking about students or people with disabilities has inspired me to take this word out of my vocabulary moving forward and when I return home in two weeks. Each of these students greets Kalyn and I every morning with the biggest smile because they know that there are people who have flown all the way from Canada to teach them P.E. and Health, and that they are genuinely loved and cared for.

I lastly want to thank Dr. Sheppard for providing me and all of us with this amazing experience. I can’t believe how much I have already grown and learned after only two weeks. She cares so deeply for this program and wants to see each and every one of us succeed in everything we do. Thank you!

Kenton O’ Donnell
Adele School for Disabilities

 

6 thoughts on “We are the Champions by Kenton O’Donnell

  1. Hi Kenton…..I am so happy that you are enjoying your time with the students at the Adele School for Special Students and Victory Center. They have always had a special place in my heart ever since “my” Jo began the program in Antigua. You are totally right when you say that we should never use the word can’t when we are referring to these students…..rather perhaps “what if?” I have found that it just requires finding the key that unlocks the potential of each student…..sometimes that is easier said than done….and takes much persistence, but is so hugely rewarding when you find that key and see the smiles. I can only imagine how proud you were watching the performances of your students and especially Emmanuel at the Talent Show. I hope the Champions’ performance went off without a hitch! Congratulations to the Students of Adele School and Victory Center and to the Champions on a show that I am sure was a real blast!!!.
    Jenepher

  2. Way to go Kenton! This quote comes to mind from your blog post:
    “Champions are not the ones who always win races – champions are the ones who get out there and try. And try harder the next time. And even harder the next time. ‘Champion’ is a state of mind. They are devoted. They compete to best themselves as much if not more than they compete to best others. Champions are not just athletes.”

    Simon Sinek

    Maintain your champion mindset Kenton!

  3. Hi son … You have always had the wonderful gift of compassion … Your focus and confidence to help others throughout your life is something to be very proud of … You are a Champion in my eyes and the children could not have a better representative guiding them … It is exciting to know you are enjoying your time in Antigua … What a positive experience for you, the children and your colleagues … Enjoy and embrace your time there – all of you!

  4. Kenton,
    We are loving following your days and seeing the relationships that you are building in Antigua! Your compassion for and dedication to others is inspiring and we are so proud of how you always push yourself to learn and grow. Looking forward to seeing more of your adventures in the next two weeks!
    Love,
    Mom and Dad

  5. I am so happy for you Kenton. You deserve all of the wonderful experiences this life can give you.
    I am so happy to see how you engage and embrace life.
    Aunty Val💓

  6. Hi Kenton, growing up all through your boyhood and teenage years, you’ve always shown a caring and compassionate heart for others, even those you competed against in sports. You learned through those years that it takes teamwork to make the dream work. And you always had a heart to pass on what you’ve learned, by helping and teaching others to help them become all they can be too. You’ve developed a wonderful spirit of love, generosity, hope and joy that is contagious to all those you come in contact with. When opportunity and preparedness meet, the doors open and you always step up to greet and embrace whatever challenge is calling you. You have been chosen for your calling and your heart filled as confirmation of your acceptance. You have a bright future and will be guided and protected as you continue to dedicate your life to helping and uplifting others. So very proud of you, happy for you and look forward to hearing much more from your heart. Love you, grandpa O’Donnell

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