Organized Chaos Take 1 by Selyen Singh

Hello to our parents, extended family, friends, supporters and past Champions. Thank you for coming along this journey with our 2019 Team of Champions. My name is Selyen Singh (the one on the right!) and I am a second year Champion stationed at Villa Primary with my amazing first year teaching partner, Chelsea. I’m also lucky to be working with Cassidy as co-Unity Games Coordinators.

After a jam packed year with stressful courses, I cannot begin to describe how comforting it has been to be back at Villa Primary and to lead our Champs through our first action packed Unity Games day.

To see the smiling faces of students running towards Chelsea and I first thing Monday morning allowed me to feel right back at home at Villa. In that moment all the things I had discovered and learned last year from Villa Primary students and colleagues trickled back into the forefront of my thoughts. They truly showed me that in a life full of expectations and the pursuit of perfection, when on the island try to find joy and beauty in imperfect moments. I am thrilled to have three more weeks with our students to soak in all the perfect and imperfect moments while working on bettering ourselves through our application of life skills.

Today was a special day as we worked through our very first Unity Games. Cassidy and I are very proud of our team for their energy and outpouring of passion while teaching and interacting with students at Golden Grove Primary and Jennings Primary. Our team came prepared in the morning at Golden Grove with excitement to get the day going. After chugging some Gatorade and powering up with snacks and lunch, the Champs re-energized and ran new games for different age groups at Jennings.

Leading the champs through Unity Games gave me a new perspective this year of our action packed Friday’s! Being able to observe every champ bring their personality into the games Cassidy and I created made me unbelievably proud. To further push their practice, the Champs lead meaningful CCR (Check, Connect, Reflect) conversations that were insightful and had students running up to Cassidy and I to explain what life skills they learned today. I would like to give a special congratulations to our first year Champs for the resiliency and passion they exhibited throughout their first UG day! For a day that is known as “Organized Chaos” I am so pleased with how we executed today and I look forward on building and improving our activities for next week.

Lastly, I’d like to thank Dr. Sheppard for welcoming me back to be a part of this family. Seeing Dr. Sheppard continue to further this program and display her passion is incredible. I truly hope I am able to live out my passions as ambitiously as you. Thank you for pouring your soul into this program, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Thank you,
Selyen Singh

Push Through By Erin Threlfall

Dear Friends, Family and Followers of the Champions Program,

Oh hey there! My Name is Erin Threlfall I am a first year Champion with red hair who has managed not to burn in the beautiful Antiguan sun. I have the pleasure of working with the beautiful Jen at Urlings Primary.

This school is like nothing I have ever seen before. Urlings Primary is right on the beach; the windows are all open and the cool ocean air just wafts through the classrooms as you teach these small faces who are just so darn excited to see you. The educators here are kind but firm, and I have already learned so many tips and tricks about teaching and effective methods to help interact with their students. The respect they have gained from their students is amazing to watch and I am keen to be a part of it. I came into the program making it my goal to create and encourage that every student feels important and wanted. Although, I have to tell you when you walk into these schools and groups of students run to hug and greet you, you’re the one who also gets to feel important and wanted. I cannot wait to spend the month giving that love back to them as we learn our life skills.

Although my first couple of days here I had lesson plans that didn’t quite work out, today was successful and a whole lot less stressful. The lessons went smoothly and our Check, Connect, and Reflect sessions with our students were filled with student driven knowledge about responsibility and respect. The students give us answers that are creative and honest, I have been extremely impressed with the minds and personalities of our Antiguan students.

I am beyond grateful that Dr. Joanna Shepard brought me into this program and has given me the chance to be educated on this magical island. The Wi-Fi is awful, the showers are cold, but the education we are receiving is something that can’t be replaced. The life skills we teach are also the ones we are absorbing. We learn the life skills respect, responsibility, self-control, and patience just as much as we teach them. Even though we are still in our early days it is an honor to spend time with these Antiguan students and build up not only our relationships with them, but their own self-motivation to be the best people they can be.

We spent the morning in a grade 3 class with Miss Aaron, and she is nothing but wonderful. She was motivating, encouraging, and informative. The control she has over her class is impeccable. Although in our short week here, I don’t think there is a teacher at Urlings that I haven’t admired. During Miss Aaron’s class she introduced us to a poem she presents with the kids to push their practice; I thought I would share it with you, because even though she created it for the students, I needed it too. Being new to teaching can be really tiring, and there are moments where giving up seems like the easiest thing to do. Yet, you push through, you push through for the students, your push through for UFV, you push through for your fellow champions, and you push through for yourself.

What if it’s hard?”

“I’m going to push through!”

“What if it’s too tough?”

“I’m going to push through!”

What if it’s too rough?”

“I’m going to push through”

“What if your just to young?”

“That’s just not true!”

“What if you’re not good enough?”

“That’s just not true !”

“Why?”

“Because I can do anything I put my mind too!”

I BELIEVE IN YOU!”

“Chin up! Believe in yourself, and head high. We push through anything we put our minds too.”

We are the Champions of 2019 and we can do anything we put our minds too.

“We can, We should, We will!’ –

Erin Urlings Primary

Expect the Unexpected by Kara Williams

Dear Champions Alumni, Family, Friends, and all Followers of the Champion’s Program.

My name is Kara Williams (the one in the middle) and I am proud to call myself a first year Champion of the 2019 program. First and foremost, I would like to send out a big “thank you” to everyone that has supported this program and to everyone that has supported me throughout my journey so far. I would also like to send a very special “thank you” to Dr. Joanna Sheppard for providing me with the opportunity of a lifetime where I can grow both as a teacher and as a human being.

For this experience I have been lucky enough to be placed in the only All Girls High School on the island. This is the first year that Champions have been placed at a high school for the entire duration of our stay here in Antigua, and it has been an amazing experience thus far. In my studies back in Canada I am currently working towards becoming a secondary school teacher, and I really believe that this placing will be the best opportunity for myself to grow by presenting these life skills to an older audience. The students that attend this school are young women with such big personalities and dreams, and it has been eye opening learning about the Antiguan culture through their eyes.

The lead up to the first day of school was a nerve-racking time. Full of so many different emotions I found it difficult to focus on one for too long. I was feeling uneasy as we prepared the night before and on the car ride to school that first day, but the confidence my teaching partners had really helped me believe in what we could do here. Working with Cassidy (a second year Champion), and Emily (a returning TEP form UBC) has been an amazing learning experience. I am learning so much from the knowledge that they share, the advice they give, and the innovative ideas that they use to extend and better my lesson plans. On that first day of school we attended the Monday assembly and seeing every single student in that school standing under the same roof and to know that we would be integrating into their lives and studies for the next month, although intimidating, made an immediate impact on me as it displayed how real this experience truly is. The excitement those students showed us on that first day really got all three of us excited to work with these young ladies.

Being stationed in the high school, our day ends quite earlier than the primary schools, but not to worry we are kept busy as we whip off to Villa Primary school to support our fellow Champions there. Having the opportunity to learn from second year Champion Selyen and fellow first year Champion Chelsea has been so wonderful as well. Watching these Champions interact with the younger children and integrating into these classes ourselves has been beneficial in preparation for Unity Games on Friday. The contrast we get to see between the high school students and the primary students every day has been another experience all on its own. The high school ladies, although interested and welcoming of us seem to be quite more reserved. Aside from the form one students (equivalent to grade seven back home), who are more inclined to approach us, more times than not we find ourselves reaching out in order to form those connections. This is completely opposite to the young students of Villa who immediately ran up to us on day one, reaching for our hands and wrapping their arms around our waists for hugs. The love that these students show is so powerful and raw, unlike anything I have ever been a part of back in Canada. Having the opportunity to be involved in both environments has been something I will not take for granted. I feel like I am really getting the full experience and have now so many more ways I can grow while working with ad learning from all ages.

Teaching itself has been full of ups and downs where we have had to do lots of last minute planning, changing and adjusting plans as we go. In the high school, there is a lot of stress on exams and meticulously following the curriculum and more times than one so far this week we have found ourselves prepared to teach a lesson, arriving at school and having to adjust and tweak our lessons to cater specific sports such as basketball and soccer (or football as they call it down here on the island). Although this has really been pushing us to get creative with the lesson plans while still fitting them to our life skill, we have been very successful so far. On day two we even had to create a lesson plan for the physical education theory class about sport injury and prevention. With very limited time, we were able to put together a lesson and tie everything together with a life skill which is what the Champion’s For Health program is all about.

Growing up I have always been a big planner, and I have always found it difficult to accept changes to the plans I make and to adjust to the unexpected. This aspect of myself has been something that I have really been trying to work on and it has been a goal of mine to learn how to be ok with such changes. So this experience thus far, with last minute changes of lesson plans and basically having to roll with the punches has been both extremely challenging and so rewarding. To be a part of what happens behind the scenes in creating the lesson plans, and then watching them come to life through the students right in front of our eyes has been so rewarding and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

As a closing I would like to share with you all a quote that was read out by one of the students on stage during Monday morning’s assembly. The student cited

“Life is like a camera. Focus on the important things, capture the moment, and develop the negatives. And if things don’t work out, take another shot.”

To me this quote describes the art of teaching so perfectly and moving forward I would like to make this sort of my own personal motto for my experience in the Champion’s for Health 2019 program. Through this program I will strive to be really intentional in the following: to focus on the things that are important, such as my own personal growth as an educator, and the connections with my students and teammates that come every day and will only get deeper and deeper as the month goes on. To capture every single moment with the students and with my peers, no matter how small. It could be a single smile one day and I want to make an effort to remember it forever. However, I know that things won’t always go right and that mistakes will happen and sometimes plans just don’t work out. This is bound to happen. But the only way to really grow is to take these mistakes and learn from them. So moving forward I want to really try and accept and develop those negatives, understand why something didn’t work, take another shot and turn these missteps into positive learning opportunities.

Although I am beginning to feel more comfortable as time goes on, and I am feeling more confident with my teaching abilities, I still woke up on Day 3 with butterflies. I don’t think that that will ever go away for the duration of this experience because you never know what to expect, but I am so excited to see what happens next.

Shining Stars, Striving for Excellence by Jordyn Doi

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

My name is Jordyn Doi (I am the one on the right!) and I am a first year Champion. I want to start by thanking Dr. Joanna Sheppard for allowing me to be a part of this amazing experience and for showing me what true passion both looks and feels like.

The first couple of days on the island have been nothing short of amazing! I have been placed at Potters Elementary and I am extremely fortunate to have both Cole and Jas as my teaching partners. They have both been extremely supportive and have been instrumental in helping to develop my confidence, especially inside the classroom. I went into my first day of school pretty nervous about what was to come, but that all disappeared as soon as I stepped foot onto the school grounds. Right away, students ran up to Cole and Jas extremely excited that they were back and I could immediately feel the love. It was not long before a student took me by the hand and gave me a full tour of the school grounds. At the end of the day, that same student wanted to give me her pen as a token to remember her by. I have absolutely loved developing connections with the students and am excited to continue doing so.

The title of my blog post, Shining Stars Striving for Excellence, is Potters Elementary’s theme for the school year. The S within star stands for “striving for excellence”, the T stands for “take learning seriously”, the A stands for “always follow the rules”, and lastly the R stands for “respect and care for persons and property”. The Principal, Ms. Athill, really emphasized this message to the students during the first school assembly I watched and it is something that I will be trying to push to the students during my time at the school.

Today was my second day of teaching and I am already feeling much more confident. Our focus for this week has been conflict resolution and it has been amazing to put all of the lesson plans that I have put so much time into creating into action. The best part has been when students have been able to connect conflict resolution to both the games and to their lives in and outside of school. As expected, a couple things haven’t quite worked out quite as planned, but many others have. We started off by teaching a Health and Family Life Education lesson to a grade 3 class, which went extremely well. The students were fully engaged in the lesson and were excited to share their ideas. After break, Jas and I taught a grade 5 PE class, which didn’t quite go as planned due to some unforeseen circumstances, but we made the best of it. We finished off the day with a grade 3 PE class and it went amazingly well. The students brought a lot of energy to all of the activities, even having little dance parties to celebrate their successes.

I am very excited to push my practice and to hopefully grow as an individual and educator.

Sincerely,

Jordyn Doi

First Day of School by Kirsten Lee

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

First off, I would like to say thank you for checking in to see what we are up to as we begin our journey with the 2019 Champions! My name is Kirsten Lee (Teacha Lee to the kids) (the one in the middle) and I have had the opportunity to be apart of this program for 5 years. This program has made me who I am today. I am eternally grateful for Joanna Sheppard as she has supported me and kept this wonderful program running. This is year 14 of the program and you can feel all the passion and hard work that previous champions have left behind.

Today we woke up with mixed emotions as it was our first day of school! We were extremely excited to meet the students and be welcomed into our schools, however, even after so many years the butterflies and nervousness still sets in. Our morning started bright and early with our first day of school photos and then we were off on our convoy led by Jo’s van nicknamed the “White Knight”. As our white vehicles got dropped off one-by-one we could see the swarms of children racing up the car to meet their new Canadian teachers. I have the opportunity to go to T.N. Kirnon Primary School which has been in the program for the full 14 years. This is a new school for me and I was excited for the new experience with my new teaching partners Justin and Kristen. One of the best parts of this program is that each year is completely different and I get to see things as if it is new every time.

Our school day started with morning prayers, songs, the Antiguan anthem and reciting the schools mottos. We were welcomed by the principal and introduced ourselves to the school. I was excited to start our day and I could tell the students were excited as well because all of their little eyes didn’t come off of you, no matter where you moved. Each student you passed wanted to say ‘Hi’, give you a hug or play hand games. Our day was full of teaching physical education and H.F.L.E (Health and Family Life Education). We started off with the rambunctious Grade 1’s who could not contain their excitement and as a result tested our patience. Our life skill that we focused on today was Communication and we used our lesson plans created by first year Champ, Kristen. Since September the first years have been putting their blood, sweat and tears into these lesson plans and it is amazing to watch them come to life. The effort put into these lesson plans by the people who created them and the revisions by the curriculum coordinators is evident when you play them. The rest of our day went similar to our first class and by the end of the school day we were exhausted. But from experience I know that each day you build up more endurance and more patience which makes it easier and easier. It is overwhelming how interested the students are and how much they already want to be your friend.

Afterschool we got a special first day of school treat as Jo treated us all to well deserved ice cream! Just one of the many surprises that Jo has tucked in her sleeve. What I am most excited for is watching each Champion grow and find themselves as a teacher. Each day you are immersed into the culture and learn so much in a day.

Sincerely
Kirsten Lee

Unity Games Practice Day!

OOur Champions got prepared for our Unity Games days which happen every Friday. Unity Games days are models after Sports Days but with a twist. Our whole Champions team travel to one school in both the morning and afternoon and teach lifeskills games for the entire school.Thank you to our Unity Games Coordinators Cassidy and Selyen for guiding us through our 4 our practice!Check out the pictures below from our day!