Mackenzie Vleeming

I was a Champion in May 2016.

I always knew I had a passion for working with kids, but it wasn’t until I discovered the pedagogy stream of kinesiology at UFV that I realized what I wanted to do. I was able to put my love for being active and working with kids together, and Antigua was the cheer on top. Antigua was an experience that helped shape me into the educator I am today. I am now an elementary school teacher in Langley, currently teaching grade 4.

I remember teaching at a new school we were thinking of including in the program the following year. We were only there for two weeks, but the genuine hugs and feelings expressed from both myself and the kids is something I will never forget. We can make an impact on someone’s life in only a few interactions. That is something I carry with me to this day.

Antigua and this program will always have a special place in my heart

Sydney Hewitson

I was a Champion in 2015. After hearing Jo and past Champions talk about this incredible program, I thought it would be an amazing experience. I already knew that I wanted to be a teacher and thought that this trip would give me great teaching experience. It provided me with so much more – the ability to be pushed outside of my comfort zone, the chance to learn from other teachers, the importance of collaboration and the ability to reflect on my practice. The most important things I learned however, were from the kids, that having joy every day will get you through anything and building relationships with peers and students will get you further than anything else.

My favourite memory was arriving at school every morning and being swarmed by the students. And then having the opportunity to play with them during recess and lunch times and learning from the students. This trip brought me so many friendships and opportunities that I am eternally grateful for.

Jennifer Gray

Hi everyone! I am a past Champion from 2014, & 2016 – 2017. I discovered Antigua on the first day of the Teacher Education Program when we were given notes from previous STAMPERS. One of them said, “Go to Antigua”. I was immediately hooked. The first year I went during my last 2 weeks of my teaching practicum and the experience was more than incredible. I stepped out of the role as a student teacher in an attempt to mentor 2 awesome teaching partners at Jennings Primary School. After teaching for a couple years I returned to Antigua twice more to work with new amazing undergrads and the Champions with some classroom management extraordinaire strategies hah! The exchange of learning between teachers, undergrads, and students was life changing. I will never forget having one of the teachers and principal from Jennings in my very own classroom in Mission and the lasting memories from our student’s pen pal letters. I am now a teacher in Coquitlam, currently working with ESW children during these unprecedented times. “Striving for Excellence Through Sustained Effort” always. See you one day soon Antigua. CANTIGUAN FOREVER 🇦🇬🇨🇦💚

Inder Bring

1st year champion in 2013 and research assistant in 2014.

I initially learnt about the program through my classmates. The idea of an international program focused on health and physical education sparked my interest. Hearing past champions speak about their experiences made me realize that this was something I had to do!

It turned out to be a life changing experience! Memories were made, personal and professional growth occurred, and skills were learnt not only by students but us as teachers! The impact this program has on the community in Antigua and vice versa, is such a surreal experience to be a part of. Having gone back to the island for two back to back years, it was so great to see my past students be able to remember me and our experiences.


I am now a physiotherapist and the skills I have acquired teaching continue to play a role in my day to day life as I educate others about their health. Antigua will always hold a special place in my heart 💕

Marissa Lucas

Hi, my name is Marissa and I was very fortunate to be a champion with the program from 2014-2017. Each year brought a different experience and solidified my passion for teaching. I believe teaching at Adele and The Victory Center for three consecutive years helped grow my love and passion for special education.

There are so many wonderful memories to look back on but one of my favourites was going sailing with students from Victory Center. It’s not every day you get to share an experience like sailing the Caribbean Sea with a student. I absolutely loved showing up to the schools and students remember who I and we were each year. I felt overjoyed and special when students remembered me. This feeling always reminded me I was doing something right. The relationships and connections made on the island will stay with me forever.

Antigua holds a special place in my heart. From the first days of school, to our red couch meetings, to our unity games, each element of this program brought laughter and tears. This program has helped shape me as an educator and I will continue to share these experiences with my students in the future.

I want to thank Dr. Joanna Sheppard for giving me this opportunity and having faith in me to be her TA. We may have had troubles starting the stove and getting to school without a flat tire but we did manage to pull off a proposal.

Blair Cummings

My name is Blair Cumming, I am currently a teacher in the Langley School District where I teach Physical and Health Education at Walnut Grove Secondary School. Over the course of my undergraduate degree journey, I had the privilege of being a Champion for 3 years (2016, 17, and 19) working in 3 different schools. Each year brought different challenges and new sets of experiences that have shaped the way I approach teaching and learning today. Reflecting back now as an alumnus, my highlight was having the privilege of being the 2017 Unity Games Coordinator. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to organize (with the help of all Champion teammates) hundreds of students into small sided activities, and step back to watch all of your teammates bring joy to the energetic students. Helping students find their love and purpose to move is a passion of mine, a passion that was shaped through my Champion experiences. Thank you, Dr. Sheppard, for being a lifelong mentor, colleague, and friend.

Ashley Maynes

Hi Fellow Champions, my name is Ashley and I was a Champion in 2012 and again in 2013 as a Lesson Plan Coordinator. My drive and goal throughout my Kinesiology Degree was to be a High School Physical Education teacher, little did I know that when you enter a classroom with Jo Sheppard your world and views align and change at the same time.

I knew I had passion, patience and advocacy but with Jo and her dedication to the Champs program, it elevated ever ounce of what I wanted to do in my life for others.

Oh a memory… There are so many but I’d love to spread a laugh at this time of Global uncertainty.

Have you ever wondered why you may have been the favourite in school? Was it because you were punctual, smart, creative, and truly trying to the best of your abilities …. or did you have the biggest brown eyes and were so sweet that I believed you when you told me your friend stole your mother’s day card and said it was your own! To this day, she is the most vivid in my memories, I got tricked by a small 5 year old!

As I say, there were so many good memories! Earning respect from the 6th graders, children coming to you for advice and being so thankful that you are there for them.

I’m so thankful for the experiences I’ve had and the knowledge I’ve gained  through the Champs Program

With Jo and my peers, I am forever thankful, without you I would not be where I am today. I miss you all and hope you are staying safe and healthy.

Since graduation in 2014 I’ve been apart of 4 Agencies within Community Living British Columbia working the Front Lines with Youth and Adults with Adverse Abilities

And four weeks ago I became   a Manager for a group home on Vancouver Island