Three wise, warm Antiguan teachers joined University of the Fraser Valley Kinesiology instructorJoanna Sheppard — and her students — in elementary schools across the Chilliwack school district this month.
It’s the first visit by Antiguan educators since Sheppard began taking students to the Caribbean island seven years ago (including five expeditions with UFV students and two during her time as a doctoral student at the University of Toronto) in conjunction with the Champions for Health Promoting Schools program. This year, Sheppard will bring 21 UFV Champion students (including six students from the Teacher Education program) to Antigua April 27 through May 26. The UFV students will focus on teaching life skills such as teamwork and listening through lessons and games.
After arriving March 29, the three Antiguan teachers from Five Islands Primary School (Andrea Douglas, Chetisha Jacobs, and Denese Parker) expected to learn some skills for teaching physical education. Instead, they’ll leave April 13 with a far wider spectrum of teaching practices thanks to their experience with UFV.
“I knew I would find out about more than P.E. but have been impressed with what I’ve discovered about best practices,” said Jacobs.
“We’ve been shown a different way of teaching the same subject or skill. You choose the pedagogy that works.”
Students need the same skills and information, but each learns slightly differently than the next. Utilizing pedagogical practices, or teaching methods, that they’re observing and practising in Chilliwack schools, the Antiguan teachers have new and exciting ways of reaching students back home in their school of 436 students.
“They’re so confident, the children here. They don’t have to give the right answer, they give ‘my answer,’” Jacobs said.
The Antiguans were met with a warm welcome at Watson Elementary in Chilliwack April 8 (they’re visiting eight schools in all), where a gymnasium full of inquisitive children lined up to ask questions ranging from: ‘Is Antigua as hot as Mexico?’ (yes); ‘How many people live there?’ (80,000); and ‘What do you eat?’ (starch, starch, chicken, and starch).
Fourth-year UFV Kinesiology student Jessica Barwig flies out April 26 for her first Antiguan experience.
“It’s something out of my comfort zone but from what I’ve heard from past champions, they’ve taken this experience and ran with it,” she said.
“Getting kids active and having fun while they’re learning is a huge passion for me.”
That sentiment was echoed by Parker, a vice principal and assisted learning educator with 21 years of experience.
“This visit has exceeded my expectations,” she said.
“At first I thought it focused on physical education only but being here has been an eye-opener to what I’m able to learn and bring back to my classroom.”
So while the Champions’ footprints might wash away from Antigua’s 365 beaches, impressions made by those UFV students are sure to last a lifetime.