Stay In the Fun Zone by Brianna MacKenzie

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.

Much love,
Brianna MacKenzie
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.





Saying Goodbye to our STAMP CHAMPIONS: A Stamp in Our Teacher Education Passport by Libby, Kam, Sarah and Shelby

Hello everyone my name is Libby Biln and I am in Antigua participating in the Student Teachers in Antigua Mentorship program (STAMP). As I complete my Bachelor of education to be a high school teacher in BC, I have had this amazing opportunity to work, teach, mentor and sweat alongside UFV students as a part of the Champions for Health program lead by Dr. Joanna Sheppard.

Throughout my two week journey working alongside champions at S.R. Olivia primary and the All Girls Antiguan high school I have had the opportunity to analyze my personal perspective on education and what teaching means to me. As a trained highschool teacher coming into this experience I was extremely excited to immerse myself in an elementary school setting. I’ve always enjoyed working with younger students and a part of me thought that maybe I was suppose to be a primary teacher. I loved my experience at S.R. Olivia, the staff were inviting, the children enthusiastic and my teaching partners fabulous. It was sad to leave the relationships I was starting to build after one week but excited to embrace the amazing opportunity to teach at the All Girls Antiguan high school, the first time Champions for Health would be at this school.

After my first day at the highschool I was blown away. The teachers and staff were so welcoming, the students were interested in what we had to say and the environment felt like home, it felt right. This experience has reaffirmed my desire to be a high school teacher however, the more time I spend in different education systems the more I see my perspective on education being shaped. One transformative observation I have had is that students are students everywhere. The students here in Antigua, are just like the students at home. They want to learn, gossip, and play, the only thing different is the surrounding environment and available resources. As a fellow STAMPer said, it is a “resource desert” here. This has been one of my most shocking realizing, not the fact that they lack elaborate resources but the fact that students can still learn effectively and efficiently without them. This makes me question how necessary resources are to learning and if there is a saturation point where the pros no longer outweigh the cons? This question I will continue to pursue as I venture into my career as teacher in BC. In the end, being welcomed into the Champions for Health family is an experience I will never forget, especially as I continue to reflect on my learning here and its influence on my perspective of education. I hope that I have been able to provide some insight and advice on teaching to all of the amazing UFV Champions I got to work alongside, I know that they have taught me so much!

Libby Biln

Teacher Candidate
University of the Fraser Valley


Hi, my name is Kam Taylor and my time in Antigua has come to a close. Coming here, I was informed that we have a full schedule and that was so. It took a couple of days to get a routine established and know the “Cantiguan” way of doing things. Knowing how our undergrads carried out their lessons and followed up with their CCR’s (Check, connect, reflect) and contrasting with my teaching style I had developed in my EDUC 492 long practicum.

In schools and out in the community I was immersed in the Antiguan culture and it was one of the best experiences of my life, making connections with primarily K-5 students and teaching partners. “The Antiguan way of life” I found to be a very slow paced (my job at the beginning seemed fast) mentality and reminded me of back in my hometown of 100 Mile House, B.C. which I have a deep love for. In my second week of my teaching experience I found myself getting back into the swing of things after parting from my practicum school in Abbotsford (ATSS). I had used the tools I had developed in my teaching program thus far and tweaked them just a little to adapt to educate my elementary students as I had educated high-school students previously back in Canada. Classroom management was the main skill/goal/strategy that I had to alter a bit to meet the needs of my students. I found my niche with these students and connected with them right away; Keeping them engaged in my teaching lessons with my enthusiasm and radiant personality. All these kids will truly melt your heart, it really sucks I am leaving them. If I get a chance, I will want to come back here to reconnect with them at Mary E. Piggots Elementary. I should probably talk with Doctor Joanna Sheppard to see if we could make this happen !

#thosekidsthough #cantiguans #antiguanscanadians #love #sunrisesunset #family #teaching #amateacherwhat

Kameron Taylor
Teacher Candidate
University of the Fraser Valley


Hi there, my name is Sarah Harrison and I was very fortunate to be a part of Dr. Joanna Sheppard’s mentorship program in Antigua, West Indies. As a STAMP I was able to work at 3 different schools with several teaching partners. I started my journey at Urlings Primary School with my teaching partners, Amy and Jasmine, who were so welcoming and showed me “the ropes.” During my time at Urlings I soaked in as many experiences as possible, from the enthusiastic students, the morning prayers to the cricket lessons. I soon realized that although the environment was different and the classrooms didn’t resemble those at home in Canada, kids are kids. They love to play with their friends, play football at lunch and they love to learn! One of the biggest things I took away from being at Urlings was how much students can learn despite the lack of resources in schools. These teachers are doing a phenomenal job at educating the youth of Antigua with the minimal resources available. My highlight from Urlings was working with the grade three class who responded to the pen pal letters that my practicum students in Canada wrote to them. As the students read their letters and responded, I could see the joy on their faces and the many similarities to my students back home.

My next journey began during week two of our trip and I was placed at two schools for children living with disabilities. In the mornings I went to Adele School for Children with Disabilities and the Victory Centre, where I had the pleasure of working with two alumni students, Jade and Janelle. The experiences that the students at both schools gave me have influenced my teaching philosophy and strengthened my stance on social justice in schools. The students are so capable, funny, loving and caring. My experience at these schools has influenced my classroom research topic as well. I have decided to research the differences between inclusion and segregation in relation to the education of students living with disabilities. My overall highlight at both of these schools was on my last day when the students who would not participate previously all participated! I hope this was partially due to the connections that I have built with them over the week.

I am so glad that I challenged myself to be a part of this program. I am bringing home a suitcase full of memories and a full heart but most of all I am bringing home affirmation because teaching is my passion and it is where I belong.

Sarah Harrison
Teacher Candidate
University of the Fraser Valley

Sara H.jpg

My name is Shelby Koop, and I am eager to say that I am in the final weeks of UFV’s Bachelor of Education program. I am “certification-ready” to be an elementary teacher and I can’t wait for my new career to begin!

It has been an honour to be a STAMPer these past two weeks in Antigua. I can truly say that each moment has been invaluable. From living with my roomie Sarah, to joining a large dynamic team, to mentoring my teaching partners Sara E. and Taylor, to teaching off of other people’s lesson plans while in a foreign country….It truly has been a whirlwind of an adventure! Although, there are so many experiences and moments I could share, I’ll stick to a highlight and a surprise.

One of my highlights has been collaborating and teaching alongside my teaching partners. The students are so enthusiastic. They love to be at school, and they certainly love doing P.E. with us. Coming straight from my teaching practicum at home, to teaching at Pigotts Primary was an interesting transition. It took me a few days to settle into the new environment, but as soon as I began to understand the school’s culture and routines, I felt my teacher presence emerge more and more. A new dynamic was added when I began to mentor Sara and Taylor. As they began to request for feedback and classroom management strategies, I realized that I needed to become aware of the strategies I was modeling. It felt good knowing my strategies have became more natural in my teaching style, but it was also challenging to always be aware of what I was doing. I believe this experience has helped me become more thoughtful during my teaching.

On my first day at Pigotts Primary, I was surprised. Coming to a new school, in a new country was exciting to me. I had heard stories from Champ alumni, and I was expecting to experience many differences. Of course there were differences, but what stood out to me was how similar these students are to my students back at home. They love to play with slime, they love the game Fortnite, they have a hard time sitting in a desk all day, and they like to ask you many questions! Although, the students weren’t familiar with my clapping patterns and “call-backs” (ie: Teacher: 1-2-3 eyes on me. Students: 1-2 eyes on you!), they learned them quickly and could respond without missing a beat. I loved how well my management strategies worked with these students and I believe it helped me build connections with the classes I taught.

Although my time in Antigua was short, it was filled with impactful experiences and memories that I will cherish. Pigotts Primary…thanks for having me! You challenged me, energized me, gave me new perspective and enriched my practicum experience. You will continue to impact me as I enter the teaching profession. I also want to thank Dr. Joanna Sheppard for everything she has done for the Champions program. I’m so glad I got to experience teaching physical education in Antigua!

Shelby Koop
Teacher Candidate
University of the Fraser Valley


A Feast with Friends by Elizabeth Oliva

Friends, Family and Colleagues,

My name is Elizabeth Oliva and this is my second year in the Champions Program. First of all, let me say what a joy it is to be back on this island that holds such a special place in my heart!

My role as a second year champion was to be one of the curriculum coordinators along with Brianna Mackenzie. As the Canadian lead, I was specifically responsible for editing and helping develop all the Physical Education and Health lesson plans that would be used throughout the program at all our schools. Even before I had arrived on this island for a second time, I had already learned so much not only about myself on a personal and professional manner, but it was always a great opportunity to begin to connect with all the first year champions and begin the collaborative process of which this program thrives on.

This year I was lucky enough to be placed in the same school as last year, T.N Kirnon Primary School. Of all the reasons in coming back for round two, TNK was definitely at the top of the list. The connections that were developed at this school reignited my passion for teaching and reassured me of the career path I want to pursue. I am able to further grow alongside my two teaching partners, Cassandra Furey-Cameron and Justin Dhaliwal. They have made my experience thus far at TNK so memorable and I have enjoyed watching them become the teachers they are today.

We have already been teaching for a few weeks now and while I felt comfortable at the beginning the program, I couldn’t help but feel nervous for the first day of school. Everyone at home knows that I refer to the students at T.N Kirnon as ‘my kids’. I remember driving to school on the first day and feeling my heart explode with emotions of nostalgia and excitement as I was finally about to see my kids again. We arrived at school and we were greeted by so many familiar faces, as my eyes teared up I could hear students saying Teacher O! This is a moment I will never forget. TNK is a place that continuously cultivates my growth, passion and joy.

Today was our annual Cantiguan Teacher BBQ, which is an event we hold to show our appreciation for all the teachers we collaborate with on island. The BBQ helps make those connections that are created in schools so much stronger and just further adds to our Canadian and Antiguan collaboration. As we all ate our delicious dinner, sang our hearts out and danced the night away, I looked around and saw smiles on our guests faces. While we are here to work with Antiguan students, this would not be possible without the collaboration of all the Antiguan teachers, principals and staff members, so this is just another big thank you to all of you. In addition to all our Antiguan colleagues we were also honoured to have Dr. James Mandigo from Brock University join us today in our celebration.

This program really pushes you out of your comfort zone to become the best version of yourself. I am forever grateful to have had this opportunity not only once but twice. I have grown so much in the past year from this program alone and I am excited to see how my experience this year will keep pushing my passion for teaching. Throughout my experiences I have always had two words in my head to further motivate and push me to be better and those are to ‘live boldly’.

Much love,

Elizabeth Oliva

T.N Kirnon Primary School

Let Life Happen To You by Justin Dhaliwal

My name is Justin Dhaliwal. I have been a student at UFV for many years. I am graduating with my undergrad in Kinesiology next year (I am super pumped). I would like to formally thank Jo for teaching me so much during my time at UFV and more importantly for just genuinely caring for all of her students. I first heard about this program last year when Jo said she would like for me to apply, but I declined because I was too scared of change. I am a very shy and tentative person who loves order and structure in my life, so leaving everything I held so dear and close to my heart was a no go. Evidently I have started to emerge from my shell because guess what, I am in Antigua right now!!!

The reason this blog is titled “Let Life Happen To You” is because this experience is happening to me. It is slowly making me more confident as a human and a teacher by subjecting me to things that have shaken my sheltered and structured world. As cliché as it sounds I have noticed personally development as a teacher each week. My dad said it best before I left, he said something along the lines of since I am so introverted and I am used to doing things my way and at my pace this trip will change me. Whether he is right or wrong, only time will tell (He usually is right).

All my life people have told me I have a way with kids, this is true. The reason I came on this trip is to learn to be a more firm teacher because as of right now I am not firm with the little ones. This trip really shows you your flaws so you can learn from them.

During this trip I have been trying to get my teacher voice rocking. In Jo’s classes I have had the opportunity to develop to develop my teacher voice. KPE 302 also really helped me with the creating curriculum portion of this trip.

Today was our third unity games (basically like a sports day). Today was absolutely amazing for me. I ran a game solo in the morning. I really think my kids were having fun. I was able to use the plethora of skills the professors at UFV, especially Jo have helped me develop and craft. Next Friday our team comes to TNK, the school where I teach. My students have been asking me when I am going to bring all of my friends for unity games. I can’t wait to see the looks on all the students who have had a profound effect on my views of the world. Honestly I just want to walk into school and be the superstar teacher my kids deserve. When I first got here I wasn’t 100% confident in my ability to teach by myself and after three weeks I think I did well, however there is always room for improvement.

I would like to leave everyone with two quotes. One for my philosophy of why I came on this trip and the latter is my life philosophy.

“If you are offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on” – Sheryl Sandberg

“Never give up” – John Cena
Justin Dhaliwal
T.N. Kirnon Primary


Accept any challenge By Sara Erickson

Dear family, friends and followers of the Champions,

Let me start off by introducing myself, my name is Sara Erickson and this is my first year being a part of the Champions for Health Program in Antigua. For the past three years I have heard nothing but great things from friends who have previously been a part of this international experience. After taking KPE 221 with Dr. Joanna Sheppard, this class opened my eyes to what it really takes to become a physical education specialist. Jo has helped to rekindle my passion for teaching and physical education. KPE 221 has equipped me with the skills to properly lesson plan, manage my time, and create the most effective ways to teach fundamental movement skills.

I have been fortunate enough to be placed at Pigotts Primary where I have been teaching health and physical education lessons ranging from Kindergartens to Grade 5 students. Throughout a short three-week time period of teaching, I have already created such strong bonds with the students and staff. I remember getting out of the car on my first day feeling nervous, which quickly disappeared as we were happily greeted with hugs and smiling faces from the students. Through such a warm welcome I was happily reassured that this next month would be filled with fun activities and laughter.

Throughout this experience I have been faced with many challenges that have pushed me beyond my comfort zone, providing me with opportunities for personal growth. One of the biggest struggles that I work on every day to improve is my self-confidence. During my first few days of teaching I felt some discomfort through my voice and body language during my lesson plans. Through the weeks of collaboration with my teaching partners, I feel as though I have begun to find my teachers voice, becoming more comfortable in a classroom setting. Even when I have a lesson plan that didn’t go so well, I am constantly reminded of the positives as the students at Pigotts are always overflowing with laughter and good vibes.

Tomorrow is Unity Games where we all work together to run different activities. Each week I look forward to meeting all the new students among other schools and creating those connections. We will be busy tonight prepping our lessons and perfecting how we are going to teach each of the games. Our last Unity Games is next Friday and I am so thankful that Pigotts Primary will be a part of it as that will be the last time I will see my students before heading back to Canada. I hope to leave them with positive memories and words of encouragement that they will be able to cherish forever.

“Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

Sara Erickson
Pigotts Primary