Teaching Life Champions

In the Fall of 2018, I entered my first year as a full-time teacher after my internship at Briercrest Christian Academy and was told that I would be teaching the U15 Hockey team ELA A10 at 8:30 am. I was filled with nervousness as I did not think that I, as a first-year teacher, standing a mere 5’2”, would be able to relate well with these athletes, let alone conduct a class that would keep their attention and interest.

Team – Embodied

The 24 young men that sat in my classroom day in and day out taught me one of the most important lessons I could learn as an educator: give people a chance. It was not very long until I learned that lesson for myself and found eager young men who were respectful, hard-working, and grateful sitting before me. Most importantly, this group embodied "team" in a way that I had never seen a class do. These men taught me more that year than I think I did as their teacher.

A Classroom Full of Life Champions

Prairie Hockey Academy exists to create life champions and from where I stood in that classroom, I saw the missional values coming to life. Although I was nervous that I would not hold the attention of these young men, they surprised me. Many of them removed their hats when they entered the room, handed in their cell phones as is our practice at the start of class, and they listened. They conducted themselves in a manner worthy of the PHA name and engaged in classroom devotions and “Thankful Thursday” traditions. They did not balk at assignments, and if they did, they were quick to remind themselves of GRIT and the things they were learning about in HumbleStrong.

By the end of the semester, it was clear to me that these young men understood that they were influencers and that they had the potential to conduct themselves worthy of the respect they desired both on and off the ice.

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Hard Work and a Lot of Fun

It is no secret that the life of a student-athlete is busy. This team was very successful that year and with that came grueling hours on the ice and in the weight room. They would often come into class commenting about being sore, or tired, but they did not stop.

When it came to road trips, every student was concerned with the assignments and work that they would have to do and complete. No one wanted to be behind. These young men willingly made it through a 420-page novel study during a road trip, all because they knew they had to put in the work to get the results. No one fell behind, and they made sure to help each other out and keep each other accountable. Not only did we complete the study, but we also had a lot of fun as we worked.

It was not uncommon to hear laughter in that classroom. It was comradery like I had never experienced, nor expected to see in the classroom.

It was at that moment that I realized, what we are doing here really matters. It's not about the hockey, it's not about the books, it's about lives.

Thankfulness That Makes all the Difference

I will never pretend to understand the mind of a hockey player. They, like no other group of athletes, seem to have an innate affinity for their sport. Every day that they entered the classroom after being on the ice I was met with grins. Young men, just happy to be here. Happy to have just gotten off the ice. Happy to be surrounded by their “brothers."

On Thursdays, I would ask the boys to share something they were grateful for and I was never surprised to hear “Hockey,” “PHA,” “to be here,” “ROBES” (a beloved hockey coach and mentor of many), “my coaches,” “my parents,” “my friends” – the list goes on. These men understood that their experience was one to be treasured. Albeit challenging at times, these young men showed me how passion really can drive you towards your goals.

Not only were they thankful for the opportunities they had on the ice, but they were grateful for the help and care they received in the classroom. I will never forget marking the final exam of one student who had written me a note saying, “Thank you Miss Alexander for all of your help this semester. I never believed I could do it—and you did. I wouldn’t have made it without you.”

It was at that moment that I realized: what we are doing here really matters. It's not about the hockey, it's not about the books, it's about lives. The opportunities that young men receive while being a part of PHA are shaping them into life champions and I cannot wait to watch where these men go both professionally and personally. I am positive that I can expect big things from these student-athletes because if they have taught me anything, it is if you give someone a chance, they might surprise you.

If you are interested in what life at BCA might look like for your student-athlete, start here at Prairie Hockey Academy.

Update: Prairie Hockey Academy Expands to include U15 and U18 Prep teams!

In the 2021-2022 season, Prairie Hockey Academy will be operating two new teams. This will allow young men to play for PHA from grades 9 through 12.

Find out more!

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Shayla Alexander

Shayla Alexander is an alumna of Briercrest Christian Academy who returned to BCA as a teacher after completing her Bachelors of Education at the University of Saskatchewan. Her high school experience at BCA was marked by caring teachers, life-long friendships, and dorm dance parties. As both a Teacher and interim Recruitment Representative, her goal is to help young people have the same great high school experience she had.