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

Embrace Every Moment by Brianna Mackenzie


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

My name is Brianna Mackenzie and this is my 3rd year being apart of the Champions program. This year I have the opportunity to teach at Golden Grove primary school, which is the school I have taught at my previous years. I am so grateful to be able to return to Golden Grove and continue teaching the life skills to the students here with my teaching partner Krystal. We both taught together last year and when we returned to school last week, we fell right back into it and it felt as if we never left. We were welcomed back with open arms by both the students and the teachers, which once again solidified how much this program means to the schools here and the importance of what we are doing.

When we arrive at school, our morning soon becomes filled with hugs, hand games, races, and endless smiling faces. In these small moments with students, I find myself so thankful to be back and surrounded by such pure joy. After morning prayers, we head out to the field and start our classes. Today was filled with energized students from start to finish and at one point we had 70 kindergartens on the field. Even in what I’m sure looked like chaos, we were able to teach them the life skill, play the games, and have a good CCR. It’s in moments like these where I see how much I have grown in Antigua and all the things that I have learned and discovered along the way. This experience pushes you outside of your comfort zone and teaches you so much about your self and your abilities; sometimes right away and sometimes a year later with 70 five year olds.

I am always amazed at how willing the students are to participate and how creative they can be. Today the grade 3s were coconut kings and the grade 1s were astronauts trying to get a space ship to the moon. As we were collecting our coconuts on to put on our ships and accomplishing a mission in space, the students were not only learning the life skill but also building that, ’I can do this’ mindset which is what I want to leave with them. They always give 100% of themselves into what we are teaching them and I want to give it all back to them by making every moment I have with them intentional and meaningful.

Teachable moments can be found anytime during the day, not just during scheduled classes. The semester leading up to this trip Jo has told us to push our practice. For me that means bringing the life skills out of class and using them in every interaction I have with the students. If there is one thing that I could leave behind with the students it would be that I believe in them wholeheartedly that they can be successful with the life skills and I hope that I can help them find that belief in themselves.


Brianna Mackenzie

Golden Grove Primary

Investing in Education by Melanie Manson


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

Thank you for following along on our journey, we are very happy to have you with us, though these words will never do justice to our experiences.

My name is Melanie Manson, a first year champion.  I heard about this program about a year ago when Dr. Joanna Sheppard told me about it, I thought it was a very interesting and appealing opportunity and completely outside my comfort zone, which is exactly why I knew I should apply and see what happens.

Fast forward a year and here I am, along side many other fantastic champions, moving into our second week of working in the schools. I have had the pleasure of working at Jennings Primary School with my teaching partner Nick, who has very graciously shared his extensive knowledge of the school, teaching and the program with me.  He continues to impress me with his dedication, patience and passion for teaching. The poor guy is also forced to listen to me sing along to every song all the way to and from school everyday, he deserves a medal.

Each and every day when we arrive at Jennings we are greeted by students who are so eager to give us hugs, carry our equipment, play shame shame and have races.  The children are so welcoming and make you feel like the most important person in the world.  They enthusiastically ask us when we will be going to their class, which helps us, knowing they are just as excited to learn as we are to teach.

During the day we are fortunate enough to go into classes and teach the students valuable life skills using our custom made lesson plans that the first year champions have worked so diligently on. We get to be in the company of so many hard working Antiguan teachers and we get to learn from them and with them.

We come home from school covered in dirt and sweat, we put our equipment away and hangout in the pool with our colleagues to talk shop until it is time for our nightly curriculum meeting and red couch discussion. Though tonight was a little different, we skipped the meetings and instead were lucky enough to attend a cricket match.

Dr. Sheppard was able to get us tickets to a game, where we learned the ins and outs of the sport. After the game we had the privilege of going on to the field and getting pictures with the team.

I am very excited and optimistic about the weeks to come.  This has been an eye opening experience and it would not be possible without the passion and dedication of Dr. Sheppard.  I would like to  thank Dr. Sheppard for creating and sustaining this program, none of us would be able to have this hands on experience if it wasn’t for you, so thank you for allowing us to be apart of this program and legacy.  Based on what I have seen, I am confident that this program will have a very successful and long life here on the island and will have a positive impact on all of the citizens who are able to see the great work that the University is committed to doing.

Lastly I would like to thank Nick, my amazing roommates, my co-champions, friends and family for their continued support throughout this journey.

Melanie Manson,
Jennings Primary School

An Island Full of Surprises by Kalyn Head

Hi, my name is Kalyn! I’m a first-year champion and am loving all of the experiences we’ve had so far.This year I am teaching with Kenton at the Adele School for Special Children and the Victory Centre. It was great to make some connection with my students right off the bat because some of the students just got back from Special Olympics Nationals in Abu Dhabi where they competed with athletes I’ve been working with back home. I’m learning new names and making new connections every day and can’t wait to continue to do so in the next couple of weeks!Our school day starts off at Adele in the morning and then we get a ride to the Victory Centre at lunch. It’s been challenging and rewarding adapting our lesson plans as we go to fit the needs of our students who have a variety of abilities to teach the life skill we’ve planned out for the week. This past week we worked on the life skill “team work”. We really got to see the life skill at work when our students taught us how to play cricket on our last day before the weekend. Our students showed tremendous sportsmanship and teamwork throughout the week and made Kenton and I feel like a part of their team too. They encouraged us and helped us throughout the game even if we were making their team lose which was such a great feeling. Seeing your lesson plans come to life and hearing your students apply the life skill to their school, home and community life during our CCR questions (check, connect, reflect) is pretty amazing. I really wanted to focus on being intentional during this experience. I hope that while we’re having so much fun with the students we also leaving them with life skills that they will never forget and to come home with a new perspective on teaching health and physical education.Every day in Antigua is packed full of events and activities. This weekend has been especially busy but so fun. After a night full of dancing and singing in the rain at Shirley Heights last night we headed out for Mojo’s Magical Island Tour this morning. Everything on this island is a surprise. I was totally expecting a tour bus but what came was even better. Turns out Mojo is our Momma Jo. The crew came prepared with a soundtrack perfectly timed with our adventure. We car karaoke’d and tried to guess where our next stop would be based on the song. First, we drove past the famous cricket stadium where we’ll go tomorrow to watch a real cricket match. I’m pretty excited for that because my students taught me all about it. Then we went to the historic Devil’s Bridge. I like that this trip is authentic, we aren’t just tourists. We are trying our best to live among the Antiguan people authentically and learn about their history to really understand and be able to teach their children. The history of the island is so rich and important to understand. Our last stop was to a beach where we got to let our inner child run loose on their inflatable water park. We played tag, had races and laughed the whole time.I would like to thank everyone for their continued support throughout this experience and a huge thank you to Dr Joanna Sheppard. I thought it would be really hard being away from my family but having all the other champions throughout this whole journey has really made me feel like I am at home.Sincerely,Kalyn Head

Shoot for the stars so if you fall you will land on a cloud by Justin Dhaliwal

Dear Friends, Family and Followers of the Champions Program!

I choose this title for my blog because it has stuck with me throughout life (I am a sucker for a corny quote). More importantly I choose this title because it applies to a wide range of goals and professions. I am a firm believer that if you try your best nothing can stop you other than yourself. This is important because Dr. Sheppard expects our best; we can’t call ourselves “champions” without justification.

I would quickly like to thank my friends and family for all that they have done for me and continue to do. I also would also like to thank Jo for the difference she makes not only in my life but in all of her students, not every professor has a profound effect on their students.

Today we didn’t have school, but we still wanted to make a difference. We went to Paaws (the local pet adoption centre) and while here we cleaned the enclosures and helped out the staff with their duties and of course, we pet the cute doggos and kitties.

As I write this we are getting ready to attend a tea party hosted by Adele (the school for students with disabilities). Rooming with Kenton I have had the pleasure to hear about his and his teaching partner, Kalyn’s experience working with these wonderful students. The tea party was a pleasant experience and our hosts were so polite. The point of the smile café is to help the students learn skills that will help them run the café.

I contemplated being a teacher in grade 12, but ultimately settled for a different career path. Then as I took Kinesiology classes I decided I needed to change the path of my education. When I felt unsure of my future, career wise, Jo pointed out my strengths as a teacher and more importantly the areas that needed improvement (not weaknesses because we can improve on them!) It has been a great experience using the teaching skills that I developed at UFV, and working in a country vastly different than Canada has only added to my tool box.

I have had the pleasure to work at the school that I was placed at last year and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to work with the same kids and teachers that I have already created a relationship with. I can’t stress powerful it was talking to kids I met last year and calling them by their names and just seeing the emotions exuding from them. I want to cry every time. I love our inside jokes and calling them by the nicknames I gave them last year. As little as these moments may seem I hope the children realized they have claimed a spot in my heart. And when I have to wake up early knowing that I going to see them is what gets me up.

After last year I decided I needed more experience working with kids so I started volunteering at a school back home. I did this because I wanted to be as helpful and supportive to my teaching partner as my mentor, Liz from last year was for me. I just hope that I am half the mentor that Liz was to me as I am to my teaching partner Kristen, who is amazing as well!

Anyways I will leave the readers with my favorite quote that has made a huge difference in my life and I hope it does the same for you.

T.N. Kirnon