Dr. Joanna Sheppard

What a month!!! I would like to take this opportunity to thank each one of my past Antigua Champions for   sharing your memories!! As I always say, every program year is different and special and it is because of all of you!! Your passion, perseverance and dedication to the Antigua Champions Program was/is an amazing opportunity for this prof to be a part of!! As we wrap up this month, I wanted yo thank all of my colleagues and friends in Antigua, West Indies who open their classrooms and hearts to my students. With optimism we will see you next year!!! So for now I ask you all to stay healthy and happy!! Champions in two….one…two…CHAMPIONS!!

Kirsten Lee

My name is Kirsten Lee and I have had the opportunity to be a champion for many years. A long, long time ago a friend convinced me to go to an info session and I had no idea what the program was. To be honest, when I got accepted to go, I still had no idea what the program was. Little did I know, it would make a huge impact for the next 5 years of my life. I would learn so much about myself, about teaching, and eventually find myself in the middle of the UFV teaching program. Along the way I have gained so many lifelong friends, mentors and an extra Momma (Thank you for everything Momma Jo)! I left a piece of my heart with the children in Antigua and they replaced it with the wonderful memories that I take with me.

Throughout the month that we are there, these children welcome us into their lives as if we have known them since birth. I remember one student who I had built a connection with and I will always remember. He would constantly come find me and always wanted to give hugs. The teachers at the school said he was so attached that it was as if I had gained another limb. On our last day at the school I remember his friends all crowded around him and he looked up at me with tears in his eyes. Our short time there makes such a big impact! Not only on the students but also on yourself. This memory and MANY more remind me of the things I am passionate about and help drive me to become the best teacher I can be.

Jenelle Stolberg

When I first signed up for Antigua, I thought it would be a great experience to have on my journey to becoming a physiotherapist.

That was my plan anyway until I met a woman that we all know and love, Dr. Joanna Sheppard. A woman, who when I told her I was going into physio said to me, “Pfft you’re not a physio, you’re a teacher” to which I replied, “ya right.”

Fast forward to the end of the first day of school in Antigua, Mamma Jo came to pick us up. I hopped into the front seat of the White Knight, she looked at me and then turned her eyes back to the road. After a moment she said, “I told you so.”

And she was right. I felt like (now this might sound cheesy) I had truly found my purpose and my passion. I ended up going back to Antigua with the Champions three more years after that.

This program changes you whether you want it to or not. Those kiddos change you. That Island changes you. Being a part of the Champions teams changes you. There are no words to describe it but the moment you get back home to Canadian soil, you just know.

Since then I have moved to Alberta with my fiancé. I now teach Grade 3/4 with an amazing team of educators and I am loving every second of it. I hope everyone is safe and healthy.

Champs on two…

Jade Wierks

I got to be a part of the Champions for Health program in 2016 and again as an alumni in 2018. Both years I got to teach at Adele and Victory school, which are both schools that teach children and young adults with disabilities. Throughout my two years with the program, I learned the importance of community, resilience and collaboration to bring the most to the students that we were teaching. One moment that stands out to me the most was during my time in Antigua in 2018, where I got to go sailing with one of my classes. One student shared with me that he was afraid of water and had never been sailing but wanted to try. Together, we were able to face his fear and go sailing and it was a day I will never forget!

Since the Antigua program and my time at UFV, I have been working as a Kinesiologist in geriatric care as well as a physical literacy teacher at Squiala Elementary. Most recently I have been on maternity leave with my newborn daughter Piper, whom I am excited to bring physical literacy to her life as soon as possible 😊

Selyen Singh

Hi! I’m Selyen and I was a champion in 2018 and 2019. I chose to be a champ due to the stories I heard from alumni and the opportunity to improve my pedagogy practices for coaching basketball in my community.

Along with a transformation in my teaching practices, I am grateful for improvements in my leadership and happiness. Growing up I had a clear identity and purpose but once I got to university I wasn’t as vocal, became more shy, and increasingly stressed with the uncertainty of my future. Throughout my time in Antigua with a little help from the Space Jam theme music, my teaching partners, and my students I was able to find joy and confidence I was lacking. By running around uninhibited every day, pushing through chaotic lessons, acting out crazy animals with kindles, and playing hand games countless times I was able to channel my inner child while soaking in the culture in Antigua and the challenges educators face.

Chloe Chapman

I was a champion in 2011 and 2014 and heard about the program because I was always very talkative in class and I got talking with Jo one day (and she mentioned Antigua). I didn’t know anything about the program, but I loved the passion, excitement and energy my professor Jo shared with the class; so I knew this opportunity had to be something special and applied.

One of my favourite memories was the first unity games I went to on my second trip (2014). To see the Canadian/Antiguan teachers working together, the flow of the unity games, the organisation of how far the program has come just melted my heart. It was one of those “wow look what Dr Shepard has created” moments.

Today I am a Doctor of Physiotherapy and completed my DPT overseas in Australia. I truly believe this program pushed me out of my comfort zone in 2011 and just inspired me to travel, teach, learn around the world and live life with open arms.

Elizabeth Oliva

I was a champion for 2 years in 2017 and 2018. I was inspired to go to Antigua my first year because of the way Jo spoke about the program. Her passion shone through and I wanted to see for myself what it was all about. As soon as I arrived to my school my first year I knew I would return. Upon arriving I felt overwhelming happy.

One of my most cherished memories was from my second year. There was a student in kindergarten that would always want to hang out with us during the breaks. One day he showed up with envelopes, he gave each of us an envelope and inside it contained a birthday invitation with his scribbling. It truly touched my heart the fact that he wanted his teachers to be present at his birthday party even though we only knew him for a short period of time.

My time in Antigua solidified my passion for teaching and inspired me to pursue a career in education internationally. This truly is a life changing experience 💕

Mackenzie Vleeming

I was a Champion in May 2016.

I always knew I had a passion for working with kids, but it wasn’t until I discovered the pedagogy stream of kinesiology at UFV that I realized what I wanted to do. I was able to put my love for being active and working with kids together, and Antigua was the cheer on top. Antigua was an experience that helped shape me into the educator I am today. I am now an elementary school teacher in Langley, currently teaching grade 4.

I remember teaching at a new school we were thinking of including in the program the following year. We were only there for two weeks, but the genuine hugs and feelings expressed from both myself and the kids is something I will never forget. We can make an impact on someone’s life in only a few interactions. That is something I carry with me to this day.

Antigua and this program will always have a special place in my heart

Sydney Hewitson

I was a Champion in 2015. After hearing Jo and past Champions talk about this incredible program, I thought it would be an amazing experience. I already knew that I wanted to be a teacher and thought that this trip would give me great teaching experience. It provided me with so much more – the ability to be pushed outside of my comfort zone, the chance to learn from other teachers, the importance of collaboration and the ability to reflect on my practice. The most important things I learned however, were from the kids, that having joy every day will get you through anything and building relationships with peers and students will get you further than anything else.

My favourite memory was arriving at school every morning and being swarmed by the students. And then having the opportunity to play with them during recess and lunch times and learning from the students. This trip brought me so many friendships and opportunities that I am eternally grateful for.

Jennifer Gray

Hi everyone! I am a past Champion from 2014, & 2016 – 2017. I discovered Antigua on the first day of the Teacher Education Program when we were given notes from previous STAMPERS. One of them said, “Go to Antigua”. I was immediately hooked. The first year I went during my last 2 weeks of my teaching practicum and the experience was more than incredible. I stepped out of the role as a student teacher in an attempt to mentor 2 awesome teaching partners at Jennings Primary School. After teaching for a couple years I returned to Antigua twice more to work with new amazing undergrads and the Champions with some classroom management extraordinaire strategies hah! The exchange of learning between teachers, undergrads, and students was life changing. I will never forget having one of the teachers and principal from Jennings in my very own classroom in Mission and the lasting memories from our student’s pen pal letters. I am now a teacher in Coquitlam, currently working with ESW children during these unprecedented times. “Striving for Excellence Through Sustained Effort” always. See you one day soon Antigua. CANTIGUAN FOREVER 🇦🇬🇨🇦💚