Trust the Process by Jenais Ludwar


Hello friends, family and other followers of the Champions for Health blog!

My name is Jenais (the one on the right!) and I am one of the Teacher Candidates from UFV’s Teacher Education Program. So much of what I had learned so far in this program had to do with translating theory into practice and effective pedagogy, so I was very eager to join my fellow Champions for this international teaching opportunity!

Just two short weeks ago, my colleague Ash and I arrived on this beautiful island. We were warmly greeted into the Champions for Health family with open arms (and a team cheer, of course). After an exciting weekend trip to the emergency room after slipping off a rock and into a cactus at Shirley Heights, we got right to work! I was so eager to meet and get to know the students I would soon be teaching.

At Potters Primary School, I had the pleasure of teaching and learning alongside champions, Jordyn and Jas. It was a privilege to work with and mentor these two; both were filled with enthusiasm, dedication and an eagerness to push their practice. At Potters, I got to work right away, making as many meaningful connections with the students as I could. The students’ acceptance of me into their classrooms and steadfast willingness to learn is something I will never forget.

This may not come as a surprise to you, reader, but teaching in Canada and Antigua are very different! Teaching in Antigua has pushed my practice for the better, forcing me to adapt and refine my teaching practices in ways I hadn’t experienced before.

As I look back at these past two weeks, I can’t help but feel emotional. This experience has been a remarkable opportunity for me to appreciate Antiguan culture, make meaningful connections with both my students and colleagues and also grow as an educator. Participating in this intercultural exchange has allowed me to open my mind to different ways of thinking and learning. I find that I learn best when I am pushed outside my comfort zone and challenge myself and I think that this project has allowed me to do just that.

I’d like to sincerely thank Dr. Sheppard and my fellow colleagues in the Champions for Health program. Your passion for experiential learning and dedication to pushing your practice was inspirational and I feel honoured to have been a part of your family. Enjoy every moment of this last week!


Potters Primary School
UFV Teacher Candidate


There is no one alive who is you-er than you by Jen Cooper


Hi everyone, I am Jen, and this is my second year with the Champions for Health Promoting Schools program. Last year, I was at S.R. Olivia Primary School. This year,  I am fortunate to be able to be at Urlings Primary School this year. Urlings has so many amazing teachers, students, and one heck of a gorgeous view of the ocean, that I am unbelievably lucky to be a part of. The students give me so much to look forward to everyday from hugs, jokes, learning their hand games, learning their lingo, to being impeccable students while I teach them Health, and Physical Education. I call Urlings the place of never ending hugs, because the students just won’t stop attacking me with love since the moment I had arrived at the school, until the moment I leave every day. I know for a fact my last day, next week, will be a difficult experience for myself, and my students.

We collectively ,as a group, teach a variety of life skills from the lesson plans we created before arriving on the island. This year, Krystal and I were the curriculum coordinators, meaning that we look over all the first years lesson plans and ensure they were quality plans for our Antiguan students. Watching these plans come to life with our students has been quite a treat. The students have so much fun with our lessons, which makes me have a great deal of fun as well.

Even though we have many life skills to teach, I have personal intentions of what kind of impact I’d like to give my students as well. I struggled many years, when I was much younger, to be who I was, and accept myself for who I wanted to be. Additionally, I never truly was okay with being myself or being confident with how I looked, and I wish that I had the opportunity for something or someone to open my eyes and change my perception of myself. As much as I hate to share my feelings, or talk in depth of how things are going, here I find myself always sharing every part of my day with either my roommates, teaching partner, other champions, or even at our red couch meetings every night. This sort of communication from last year has really helped me to open up who I truly am without any judgment, and has pushed me this year to continue to do so. I use every chance I get with the students at lunch to show them that it’s okay to be yourself, and let them know they should be okay with themselves. One younger girl had come up to me and had said how much she wanted to look like me and have my hair. I said, “You should never want to look like anyone but yourself, because you are perfect in every way.”

Today I had the life skill of positive relationships, and many of my students today truly succeeded at this life skill through the activities we had planned for them. One girl in kindergarten, named Radiance, had instantly helped up two of her classmates when they had fallen. It is these types of moments that really show that we have a positive impact on these students, and makes me want to stay forever. Since literally day one the students have been telling us that they are going to miss my teaching partner, Erin, and I when we leave. Now the time crunching down to when we leave, and my heart is crunching down as the time does. They have filled my heart with such amazing moments, memories, and laughter, that I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Dr. Joanna Sheppard, you have been amazing to let me in to the program again this year, and I am forever grateful. I will cherish everything I have learned, and continue to progress my skills for years to come. Antigua round two has been splendid, but the journey has almost come to an end. Until next time!

Jennifer Cooper

It Takes a Village by Chelsea Parmar


Dear Friends, Family and Followers of the Champions program!

My name is Chelsea Parmar and I am a first year Champion! I have been placed at Villa Primary School with Selyen as my teaching partner. It has been an amazing experience so far as Selyen and I have been able to really connect and collaborate in teaching our lessons. This week we have also had the privilege of having Kirsten join us! This experience has really #pushedmypractice and pushed me out of my comfort zone as we primarily teach PE lessons at Villa and I am more familiar with a classroom setting. It has been really awesome to see how we can use physical activity to teach life skills. I am not in the Kinesiology department but heard about the program through a friend and I knew I had to be a part of it. Because I don’t have the background in Kinesiology, I have had to do some catch up but I have learnt so much from Jo, Selyen, Kirsten and everyone else on this journey.

I can’t believe we are already half way through the third week of this trip. During my time here I have really been purposeful about creating strong connections with students, starting with getting to know their names. This has been no easy feat with 300+ students, but I have noticed the difference it makes in my lessons as well as interactions during break times. The students at Villa have stolen my heart. They love big time. A phrase their principal, Mrs.Felix, often says to them “I love you all big time.” Villa Primary welcomed us in with open arms and open hearts. Admittedly, I started the first week feeling quite overwhelmed, and I experienced a little culture shock. But over the past few weeks I have grown more comfortable and confident teaching PE with the help of my teaching partner as well as our P.E. specialist Mr. Otto. It takes a village!

I am so grateful for the support of this awesome team, Momma Jo, my teaching partner, as well as friends and family back home. This has been a wonderful learning journey, that has helped to push me to grow in my abilities as a future teacher, a professional, and a person. A big part of this learning journey is the community we are surrounded with. From the amazing students and teachers at Villa to our wonderful team. Our community is often expressed in a variety of ways including our red couch meetings. These are meetings we have every night, except for Saturdays, to debrief and reflect on our experiences as well as how we can continue to push our practice. We also have community in our roommates. Momma Jo told us before we left for our trip that she put us in specific rooms for a reason, and I am definitely grateful for my roommates Jordyn and Mel. It has been a blast getting to know them more, cooking together, and laughing hysterically when we are over tired. Finally, car rides are a time for community as well. Before school it is a time to get pumped and ready for the day, then after it’s a time to connect and debrief.

As we are nearing the end of our time here, I am trying to soak in every moment I can with the students. I will definitely miss them so much. For this next week I am really looking forward to Unity Games as it will be at Villa! As well I am excited for the Teacher Appreciation Barbeque that we are currently planning.

Again, I would thank Dr. Joanna Sheppard for taking me on this amazing journey, even though I am not a Kinesiology student. Jo has been so encouraging, helpful, and has truly taught me a lot. Her passion and joy for this program is so clear and inspiring. It shines through her actions and intentional conversations. Thanks Momma Jo!

Chelsea Parmar

Learning to Let Go by Kristen Cobb


Dear Friends, Family and Followers of the Champions program,

Don’t worry bout a thing, cause everything will be alright.
Bob Marley

The lyrics to this song have followed me everywhere on this island. I’ve heard it while dancing in the rain, on the radio on my early mornings, and even in my CCRs that I’ve had with my students. It has been a constant reminder for me, while being here in Antigua, to let go. For someone who worries a lot and needs to know what we’re doing and when, this experience has really forced me to embrace the moment. The good and the bad.

I first heard about the Champions for Health Program many years ago, but was never able to fully commit to it back then. When I graduated from UFV, I was honestly heartbroken to have never taken advantage of this opportunity. However, low and behold, last fall I returned to UFV to complete some required courses and I finally had my chance!

When I was first told I was going to be placed at T.N. Kirnon I had no idea what I should expect. However, once I walked onto school grounds I received so many hugs and greetings from students before they even knew my name. I knew after twenty minutes that this would be my school and that it would run through my veins. Or maybe it was the complete wipeout I made while playing Marco Polo that did me in.

We’re in our third week of classes and I can’t believe the time has flown by this quickly. There has been so many incredible learning moments I have experienced around the island and at our schools that it feels like it’s been more than two weeks, but at the same time it feels like we just arrived here yesterday. Today, my teaching partner Justin and I had the chance to walk to Victory Centre and help with the painting of their outdoor therapy playground. It was such a beautiful design that Kaylin, Kenton, and Dr. Singh created for the area and I’m so happy that I was able to partake in it. After a tough day at school, being able to have a couple of hours to enjoy my own type of therapy was much needed. Each day brings its own challenges that at the beginning seemed daunting to face, but I’ve been so grateful for the numerous teaching partners (Justin, Kirsten, Julia & Cole) that have helped to guide me along the way.

Thank-you so much Dr. Sheppard for the fourteen years that you’ve dedicated to this program and allowing me to be a part of it. You have allowed me to fulfill this dream of mine that I’ve had since starting at UFV back in 2010 and I’m so grateful.

Kristen Cobb
TN Kirnon Primary

Cheeto Stained Fingers by Krystal Appeldoorn


Dear Family, friends and followers of the Champions program,

My name is Krystal Appeldoorn and I am a second year Champion! I have been fortunate to return for a second year to Golden Grove Primary School, which is one of the largest primary schools on the Island, located in the heart of St. John’s. I have also been fortunate to teach for a second year alongside my teaching partner Brianna who has continually been my backbone throughout this amazing journey. As a second year Champion, I have taken on the role of Curriculum Coordinator with my partner (and roomie) Jen. Jen and I worked hard reviewing all the lesson plans to bring high quality activities that teach life skills and fundamental movement skills, that are appropriate for all different age levels including high school students! On the Island, Jen and I meet every night with all the Champions to reflect on their lesson plans from the day allowing the Champions to reflect on things that worked or things that could be improved for next time.

After my experience last year, I decided to return to “push my practice” and take this incredible opportunity to continue my growth at both a personal and professional level. Last night at our nightly red couch meeting, the Champions and I were posed with the task to reflect on how we have grown at a personal and professional level throughout this program. Though I am not an emotional person, I fought back tears in front of my fellow Champions as I shared my journey throughout this program over the past two years. I shared my personal growth of how I have become more social and how I have developed lifelong friends and memories that will continue to make me smile for years to come. This program has given me the confidence, guidance and skills to one day become a teacher; additionally, I am more motivated to share my knowledge and passion of physical and health education.

The Champions for Health Program has pushed me far beyond my comfort zone. It has made me cry more times than I would like to admit, made me lip sync a Michael Jackson song in front of a Governor General and dive into a dumpster to retrieve a student’s toy car after another student threw it in. The students have shown me more love then I have ever received in my life (and that’s even before lunchtime). I could never put into words the impact my students have had on me. I am forever thankful for my Cheeto stained fingers (the students love Cheetos) from doing one hundred thumb wars a day. My students have taught me many things I now know over 10 hand clapping games. They have also taught me patience and resiliency, which are traits I will carry through my everyday life.

As I finish up my Bachelor of Kinesiology degree I am thankful for Dr. Sheppard giving me the guidance to “push my practice” to help me continue my education to become a teacher. The courses I have completed at UFV have prepared me to achieve my goals and have had an impact on my life beyond the content written in my notes. Thank you to my fellow Champions, Colleagues and Dr. Sheppard for teaching me so much, I am forever grateful!

Krystal Appeldoorn

Golden Grove Primary

We are the Champions by Kenton O’Donnell


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


Week 2…That’s a Wrap by Hannah Young

Dear Friends, Family and Followers of the Champions program!
img-20190503-wa00277640551046711502033.jpgipping ropes to let the kids play with at lunch. The students often come to us asking us to help resolve conflicts as they are still learning about sharing and sometimes need us to help them find ways to share the equipment. With 350 students in the school, it’s not surprising that it can be challenging for the students to share the 7 soccer balls and 15 skipping ropes we bring them. For them, these pieces of equipment that we find commonly in Canadian schools seem like luxury. 
The students here are so different from what I’m used to at home. They constantly want to hug and and hold our hands and most of them are not shy about it at all. It’s so fun to be greeted so warmly every morning when we arrive at school.
This week has been the first week we have had our two UFV Teacher Education Program teachers with us. I am fortunate to have Ashlyen (aka Teacher A) to help both my teaching partner Megan and I with our teaching at Mary E. Ashlyen has been invaluable to us, and we have seen our class management improve drastically over the past 3 days as she has coached us and allowed us to observe her teaching.
Tomorrow, we have our second Unity Games. I found the first one to be a challenging yet rewarding experience, and look forward to tomorrow. I am hoping some of the classroom management skills I picked up this week will be transferable to the Games. Unity Games will be at Mary E. Piggot tomorrow, and I know the students are really excited to be a part of it. I look forward to bringing them the best possible Unity Games experience we can!
Hannah Young