Make It or Braich It by Jas Braich

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Dear family, friends, past champions, and followers of the champions program,

My name is Jas Braich and this is my second year being a part of the Champions for Health Promoting Schools Program. I was fortunate enough to be placed at Potters Primary School for the second year, and I got the oppurtunity to build on the relations I developed last year and collaborate with three teaching partners (Cole, Jordyn, Jenias). This year I have come back as a Second Year Leader and a Primary Researcher. The specific research area I am interested in is mindfulness and physical activity and its impacts on the body as one unit. This young concept of mindfulness that has been introduced in the west is growing and is known to be able to have effects on the mind, body and soul. Originally this is a Buddhist concept and the west has adopted it without the religious component. I believe that mindfulness is a quality of presence that’s innate in all human beings. Awareness is a natural and beautiful quality of being human that can’t be limited to one tradition or country. With the sole purpose to end suffering. I read this somewhere and thought wow this is a huge statement, but it is this huge statement that holds lots of power. We are all hardwired to be mindful of our present situation regardless of where the tradition originated, this is a concept that should be widely used and accepted by all humans whether it is for maintaining, or improving the mental, physical and emotional health. And with a curious mind I start my research to study its influences, originally in the general population and gradually progress towards a more clinical population.

My study is called THE EFFECTS OF MINDFULNESS AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ON THE MENTAL WELLBEING OF CHILDREN. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of mindfulness and physical activity on children’s well-being. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, at least 1 in 5 youth aged 9-17 years has a diagnosable mental disorder with varying degrees of impairment (ACOG, 2017). Putting those statistics into consideration, it is very important to set up a way to prevent and control such symptoms for arising in to the first place, rather than treat a diagnosed mental illness. This study will assess the wellbeing of children in grade four and five when important lessons in mindfulness and exercise at a young age are integrated into their weekly routine. These children will have received one of three conditions: mindfulness exercises, physical activity or none. I want to see how this can impact the youth and adolescents and see if applying these ideas and practices early in life can build stronger more resilient minds.

The coolest thing about my experience this year is when I came back it felt as if I had never left the island. Now it is the last week and the second last day of school. Last year this program introduced me to a what being a competent physical education specialist entails through experiential learning. This year I get to expand my knowledge and boundaries even further to grow personally and professionally. I think that I have taken the #PushYourPractice very literally and have made everything that I am doing this year very intentional. Starting with bringing all my creativity in my teaching, including using my tone of voice to help with themes, or even making up themes to keep the students engaged. Additionally, keeping my head focused on the purpose of my research and having mindful conversations with my colleagues about its applications and purpose. Lastly the one on one interactions I have had with all my students, that molded into purposeful connections has really helped shape my experience and made it that much more special for me. I believe that if we make connections we continue to teach even after we are gone.

I feel that my true purpose is to be useful to those around me, constantly thinking what I can do to drive change. Be a catalyst. This for me isnt about changing the world (although that would be great) but more about leaving it better than how I came to it. Through this opportunity I truly feel like I have started to mend my own path of building positive relationships with each and everyone that crosses my path.

I have appreciated that Dr. Joanna Sheppard has given me the chance to continue to paint my own picture of what learning should look like. I am thankful for all the relationships that I have created throughout this experience, including those with the Champions team and my fellow colleagues/students at Potters Primary. I know forming these connections with the students and teachers has left its mark on me, and I hope this feeling is mutually reciprocated on their end. Goodbyes are hard but,

“The truth is that you learn more from the things you love than the things you hate. From the broken things than the perfect ones. From the things that move on than the things that stay. And, you will discover more from the very last goodbye than you ever will from the first hello.” – The Wanderer

Sincerely,

Jas Braich

Potters Primary

The Final Week by Megan Rust

Dear Family, Friends, and Followers of the Champions Program,

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My name is Megan I am a first-year champion (the one in the middle!). I heard about this program through a past champion who was promoting it to classrooms, I knew I wanted to be a part of the program from then on. Prior to coming, I was checking the Champions website, constantly emailing Dr. Sheppard and anyone linked on the website just to get more information. I desperately did not want to miss the application date. This program spoke to me as I have been working towards becoming a teacher throughout my time at UFV. Having the opportunity to gain experience teaching children at a variety of grade levels seemed like the perfect way to explore my future career path, not to mention doing it in the coolest way possible. I find this is a once in a lifetime opportunity… or maybe 2nd or 3rd-time opportunity, as past champions continue to come back year after year and I can see why. The children here overflow with personality and love. Their enthusiasm to learn and be engaged in our lessons encourages me to push my practice. Before coming to Antigua, us first years made lesson plans for both physical education and health classes. To see those lessons come to life and actually resonate with each individual student is so fulfilling.

Champion evaluations have started today, this is the time where Dr. Sheppard and associates go around to each school videoing a PE lesson taught by each champion that will later be evaluated. Dr. Sheppard will be looking at professionalism, classroom management, and creativity and a few other things for this evaluation. Mine is tomorrow, which is nerve-racking, but I feel proud of all the progress I have made here.

Time has honestly flown by, I cannot believe we are already at our last week! Every day has been a new adventure jam-packed with new experiences and challenges. While it hasn’t always been easy, I found it worthwhile to push past old limits as I have seen changes in both my personal and professional growth. Going into the first week I didn’t know what to expect and at times I found it to be overwhelming and exhausting as I spent much of the first week just trying to get into the swing of things. Luckily, I have had amazing teaching partners throughout my time here who have helped me along the way. Today marks the beginning of our final week, you will be happy to know I have found my stride, feel way more confident in my teachings and only feel the tiniest bit of exhaustion. With only two more teaching days left I plan to make the most out of that time by continuing to connect with the students, emphasizing our life skills and teaching with intention. I know I’m going to have a hard time saying goodbye to the wonderful students here and this beautiful place. Being here has taught me so about the educator I would like to become, and about the impact one can have.

Finally, I would like to give a massive thank you to Dr. Joanna Sheppard for making this experience as wonderful as it is, her passion for this program inspires me as well as many others. She has put her heart and soul into this program to make it all that it has become, and I know it will continue to change the lives of many people long after my time here is up.

Sincerely,

Megan Rust
Mary E. Piggots

 

Comradery by Ashlyen Singh

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Dear Friends, Family and Followers of the Champions Program

My name is Ashlyen Singh (I am the one on the left!), I am a Teacher Candidate at UFV and I just completed my certifying practicum before hopping on a flight to Antigua with my colleague Jenais.

After so many weeks without enough sleep, it took me a while to process the fact that I had made it to Antigua because it didn’t feel real. Now we are sitting in the airport, two weeks later and I can’t believe that it’s over. When Dr.Sheppard came to speak about the Student Teachers in Antigua Mentoring Program (STAMP) for short, I thought that I knew what I was getting myself into because my younger sister, Selyen had been a Champion for Health the year prior. However, this program has far exceeded my expectations and pushed me to grow my teaching practice in many ways while also carrying out my role as a mentor.

I was lucky to be paired with two awesome mentees during my time at Mary E. Piggots Primary School. Hannah, who is driven to be the very best at everything that she does, and Megan, who poured her heart and soul into the experience with the hope that it would help her determine her career path. Both Hannah and Megan have shown tremendous strength and resilience over the past few weeks through some very challenging experiences. They were also very gracious when I made mistakes and faced challenges as a result of working in a completely different environment. I am proud to have been a part of their professional growth, but I am also very thankful to them for helping me push my own practice in order to be an effective teacher to eleven different classes rather than just the two that I was accustomed to.

One of the most remarkable things about this experience was not the incredible students, nor the wonderful Antiguan people and culture, but the comradery and support that the Champions offer to each other as well as anyone else who joins them on their journey. It has been a privilege to work alongside Dr.Sheppard and her Champions for Health in Antigua and I wish them all the best in their final week of the program.

Sincerely,

Ashlyen Singh
UFV Teacher Candidate

p.s. Thank you to Dr. Sheppard for allowing a full Singh sister takeover!

Trust the Process by Jenais Ludwar

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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!

Sincerely,
Jenais

Potters Primary School
UFV Teacher Candidate

 

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

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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

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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

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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