Warm smiles, Warm weather and Warm experiences by Nicola Esau

Dear Friends, Family and Followers of the Champions,

My name is Nicola Esau and I am a first year Champion teaching at Golden Grove primary school. I have just completed my third year as a Kinesiology student within the Pedagogy stream at the University of the Fraser valley. Though I have completed my third year of University, I am still on the search to discover what I want to do with my future. Most of my life I have wanted to become an art teacher up until my last year in high school. In my twelfth grade I took an Honors Human Anatomy course, which I absolutely loved and realized this is what I wanted to learn more about in university. Since I started at UFV I have loved and learned so much from every class I have taken. When I heard about this program, I realized I can apply what I have learnt and hopefully discover if teaching physical education and art is the direction I want to go with my future. What better place to discover your future than in the Caribbean!

Currently we are within our third week of our Program and I have yet to have a bad day. There are days that are more challenging than others, but often that is due to a day I am being stretched out of my comfort zone and faced with a new situation I have not yet come across. I am however incredibly thankful for these experiences because it is these days I have learned the most about myself. I am learning everyday how to become a better teacher through these moments. Through these moments I am challenged to modify lessons on the spot to create the most optimal learning experience for the students. Through these moments I am learning how to be more aware of every word or action I make and how to further strengthen relationships with both students and teachers. These ever-developing relationships we are building it is incredible to have the opportunity to collaborate on such an influential topic such as health and teaching.

As many have mentioned before, you will never really know what to expect when going on this trip until you experience it, since it is different for everyone, every time. This even applies to every class you teach. Today was evaluation day for part of our team. This is part of our course when we are videoed and evaluated on our teaching. Once Dr. Joanna Sheppard has watched the videos of us teaching, we will be provided with constructive feedback to further enhance our teaching. Since teaching in Antigua has been my only experience teaching, I can say I was quite nervous for today. However, as the time came to be evaluated, the stress disappeared, and I managed to just focus on the students, teaching the lesson and having the best time while doing it.

Overall, this trip has left me so full. I have learnt more about myself, teaching and health, but one of my most favorite aspects of this whole trip is the Antiguan people and their country. As I was flying in my jaw dropped at the beauty of this country. The turquoise waters, the green “mountains”, the 300+ white sandy beaches and colourful buildings. The people are so warm hearted, generous and lively. Being immersed within this school setting has given me the opportunity to experience this culture every day, which I am so grateful for.  For these next 10 days, I hope to continue to try new things, continue to learn from them and take in every minute.

Nicola Esau
Golden Grove Primary School

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Making Connections by Cassandra Furey-Cameron

Dear Family, Friends, & Followers of the Champs Program,

Hey everyone, for those of you who don’t know me my name is Cassandra Furey-Cameron, but at my school T.N. Kirnon I’m Teacher F.C, which the students relate to either football club or K.F.C, but that’s alright, at least they remember my name. I just finished my third year of my kinesiology degree at UFV and have taken classes through the pedagogy stream such as KPE 221 and KPE 360 which have prepared me greatly for this experience. This is my first time with the Champions program. I applied for the Champs program because after teaching abroad in South America and Africa I fell in love with the work. Also, after taking numerous classes with the incredible and knowledgeable Dr. Joanna Sheppard, I knew that this would be an impactful and beneficial experience for both myself and the students I am teaching. Dr. Sheppard has been an excellent leader for us all here on the island.

We are just over the half way mark here in Antigua and I can not believe how quickly the time has gone by. The first day of school seems like it was ages ago, but at the same time it feels like we just arrived at our home here at the Anchorage Inn. It has been a wonderful experience so far. It is true that time fly’s though, especially when you’re having fun and learning as much as we are. Today sadly though we had to say goodbye to one of our teammates, Tsandlia as she heads back to Canada. Safe travels T!

As a team I think we are all settled and comfortable here on the island and with the roles we are playing within our schools and our students life. We have been working hard over the past two weeks to develop connections to our teammates, the teachers in the schools, and most importantly the students. Personally, I have connected with one young student in my school who has different abilities. We have our own room in T.N Kirnon to store our equipment, have lunch, and review lesson plans. This one student would always sneak in and refuse to leave or listen to my teaching partners or myself. Over the past two weeks though I have seen major improvements in this student. Both inside and outside the classroom. Just the other day the student had entered our room yet again, but when asked to return outside the student left promptly without arguing, yelling, or refusing. I am learning quickly though that not everyday will go as smoothly. Sometimes students talk back, won’t listen, fight, or just completely disregard every single word I say. Honestly, today was not one of the best days I’ve had here in Antigua. But I am very thankful for my 2nd year mentor, Liz, for supporting me throughout the experience. Truthfully, there have been many ups and downs as I am learning to be a better teacher, (mainly ‘ups’) but I am learning to go with the flow and that each new day means a new opportunity.

Cassandra Furey-Cameron
T.N. Kirnon

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The Search for Meaning by Nick Guenther

Dear family, friends, and followers

My name is Nick Guenther and I have faced a number of obscure challenges in my life leading up to this point.

Growing up in Abbotsford BC, I played high level hockey for most of my youth. However, I was always on the bubble of making every team. One year I was cut from a team for being too small. Nothing to do with skill, just size.  My struggles continued when my family moved to Calgary for a few years. While I made many friends in Calgary, I never felt like I was an important part of a friendship group, as I’m sure many people have felt.

We moved back to Abbotsford and I felt similar feelings throughout my time during high school. I have been bullied throughout my life, even by close friends. They may have thought it was harmless, but I felt otherwise. As a result, I have battled depression for close to a decade. Because of this, it has been hard to find meaning in my life. I have been studying to become a Physical Education teacher since I started at the University of the Fraser Valley. I joined the golf team where I had success, but I had limited play time due to disagreements with the coach. During my four years, I felt pushed aside and neglected. I eventually quit which was a step in the right direction for me. Since I left the golf team, I have still struggled mentally and emotionally. I have recently opened up more to my parents and loved ones. This was another big step for me. It is incredibly difficult to tell the ones I love how I truly feel about how I feel about myself. I have been longing for a sense of fulfillment and meaning that has been incredibly difficult for me to obtain.

During my first two weeks in Antigua, I have discovered a newfound sense of purpose. Some days have been incredibly difficult. I even balled my eyes out one day from frustration. Despite this, I can feel the positive impact that I have on the children. I love showing up to school every morning and seeing faces light up as we pull in to the parking lot.

Today my teaching partners and I were given house shirts from the Principle of Jennings Primary. Some of the students were pumped that I was in their house and even chanted “Burgundy, Burgundy, Burgundy!” as I walked into class with their house shirt on. Others came up to me and said “you are no longer my favourite teacher.” It is amazing how the students react to the smallest things. We are not supposed to have favourites, but I obviously do.

This program has given me a sense of meaning that I have been lacking throughout the past decade.  I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but this trip has reaffirmed my thoughts. It is a lot of work, but the work we do has an impact on the lives of numerous children. This newfound sense of meaning has rejuvenated my attitude towards myself and towards my life.

“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.” – Joseph Campbell

PS. I cannot thank Dr. Joanna Sheppard and the rest of the 2018 Champions for being incredibly supportive of me and making me feel so loved and part of something special. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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Thank You Alumni Champions!

On Saturday, the Antiguan Champions said goodbye to our Alumni Champions Marissa and Kirsten. What is an Alumni Champion you may ask? These are past years Champions that have graduated from UFV and have chosen to take of time from work to support our program.
Marissa and Kirsten, on behalf of the 2018 Champions team, we would like to thank you for your dedication to the program! We miss you dearly but have absorbed into our teaching your passion and dedication to the students of Antigua!

Sincerely Joanna

Marissa