Virginia Hunt Newman International Award
Virginia Hunt Newman
has been called “The Mother of Infant Swimming.” She pioneered and focused worldwide attention on the non-forceful, non-traumatic method of teaching infants and preschool-age children to swim, earning great respect as an innovator in the field. She began her swimming career at the Indianapolis Athletic Club. From 1940 to 1948 she was a diver for the Los Angeles Athletic Club, winning swimming and diving titles. She performed in water shows with Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe for the USO. In 1950, Virginia wrote and directed a series of springboard diving films while working as an aquatic director and swimming coach at the Black Fox Military Academy in Los Angeles.
In 1962, she gained international attention when her star student, Bing Crosby’s daughter Mary Frances, passed the Red Cross Beginner Test at age two – the youngest ever to be awarded the certificate. Red Cross Honorary Chairman Johnny Weissmuller presented the certificate to Mary Frances on national television, with coverage by “Life,” “Look” and “Time” magazines. This was the catalyst for Virginia to compile her methods of non-traumatic teaching in her 1967 book, Teaching an Infant to Swim, a bestseller published in England, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Italy and Japan.
Teaching Young Children to Swim and Dive was published in 1969. Its method of teaching swimming by distracting children from normal fears associated with learning has been emulated by thousands of instructors worldwide. Some of the thousands of children taught by Virginia include those of John Wayne, Bob Hope, Alan Ladd, Bob Newhart, Sonny & Cher, Shari Lewis, and Danny DeVito & Rhea Pearlman. She has conducted numerous national and world clinics and workshops on teaching children to swim.
Matronatacion® is a creative and original approach to aquatic initiation for babies that involves human integrity and respect for the child and the family.
Up to the present, 17,000 babies, toddlers, and young children, even as young as 15 days old, have learned to swim and enjoyed the Matronatacion® method. Cirigliano’s school, whose motto is “Swimming is learnt by playing” is at the very core of learning.
Cirigliano graduated in 1960 as a National Teacher of Physical Education (from INEF, Argentina), and currently, chairs the General Board of “Instituto Superior de Educacion Fisica” (ISEFI), which was founded jointly with her husband Hugo Quinn in 1976. Their innovative project included the novelty of Prenatal and Early Childhood in the Syllabus of Physical Education. In 1976, she graduated with honors as a post-graduate Psychologist from the Universidad del Salvador, Argentina. In 1981, she graduated as a Sociologist from the Universidad de Belgrano, Argentina. Her thesis on “Critical Analysis of Aquatic Methodology and A Child´s Utmost Individual Rights” was based on 30 years research from over 23 countries and 54 different systems.
In 1983, Patricia Cirigliano created a unique anti-panic program addressed for those who suffer from “water panic,” with multi-discipline focus.
Matronatacion® research on early childhood in average and disadvantaged children, the family relationship and mother – child dyad, learning human potential, maternal breastfeeding, mother-child dyad bond, enabling and rehabilitation, cardio frequency monitoring of the swimming baby, survival score, prematurity, avoidable injuries, infant and adolescent drowning, have been exposed in educational and pediatric congresses in Argentina, Brazil, Santo Domingo, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, the United States, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Greece, Sweden, Japan and Thailand.
In 2001, she organized and chaired the World Aquatic Babies Congress in Buenos Aires with the attendance of Virginia Hunt Newman herself, who was welcomed with honors and affection.
In 2008, she designed the “Acquamor Program” a community extension program by the First Argentine Swimming School for babies: together with her Medical – Educational team, they provided multiple free activities for parents, specialists and professionals engaged in health and education.
Cirigliano is a member of a great number of associations such as, the International Physical Education Federation and the Panathlon Club in Buenos Aires and the National Swimming Schools Association in U.S.A.
Robert Strauss (USA)
Professor Robert Strauss, M. Ed. has dedicated his professional career to aquatics. Through aquatic education, he has enriched the lives of babies, toddlers, school-age children, teens and adults, assisting them in discovering how to be safer and stronger swimmers. Coach Robert is well known for the development of instructional skills based on soft-touch and soft-voice; these skills have been taught to thousands of teachers around the world.
Coach Strauss and his life partner, Jennie, founded Swim Gym in 1984; re-inventing the swim school business in a warehouse. After several moves, in the fall of 2012, the Swim Gym Swim School opened its doors at the Galbut JCC in Miami Beach, its present home and only location.
Swim Gym is one of the Top 25 authorized providers of the American Red Cross in the South Florida Chapter, and includes certification of water safety instructors and life guards, as well as the learn to swim program, that teaches an average 500 children per week during the school year and approximately 1000 children per week during the summer camps.
Most educators teach their subject in a classroom; Coach Strauss teaches water wisdom in a warm water pool, and coaches in a semi-Olympic pool, fast swimming.
From 1979 to present, Strauss has contributed to learn to swim and competitive swimming conferences around the globe: México, his country of birth, numerous countries in South and Central America, Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China & Iceland. He is a well sought-after speaker, as he is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese and German.
Strauss’ vision, is that every person should have the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to safely enter and exit a body of water; he believes, the value is through the art form of swimming, people learn to pay attention, to share, to cooperate, to wait their turn, to become valuable team members, and most important be safe in, around and under water; his mission is ‘To eradicate drowning from our communities, through education’; his objective, is to assist all participants to discover swimming in order to find the joy and passion coupled to the benefits inherent to swimming in particular and water sports in general.
And lastly, his Goal: Everyone should be Water Wise.
Johnny Johnson (USA)
Johnny Johnson has journeyed from being a student in 1959, to teacher, and now owner of the Blue Buoy Swim School in Tustin, California. In the past 51 years, he has taught thousands of children to swim and is now teaching many third-generation students.
Blue Buoy is a charter member of the United States Swim School Association, and Johnny is a past president, having served on the Board of Directors on two occasions. In addition to seven years of board service he co-chaired the USSSA Infant Toddler Committee and co-authored the teaching course, along with Virginia Hunt-Newman, that has been taken by thousands of instructors worldwide. Johnny was awarded the USSSA Guiding Light Award in 1996 and in 2004 he was recognized for his lifelong contributions to swimming and water safety with his induction into the USSSA Hall of Fame. Johnny and his wife Cindy were awarded the Humanitarian Award in October 2010 for their contributions to drowning prevention.
Johnson has coached four different age group swim teams, synchronized swimming as an assistant to ISHOF inductee, Dawn Bean, taught scuba and coached water polo and swimming at Villa Park High School where both his sons achieved All-American honors. Many Blue Buoy students have achieved elite status in competitive swimming and water polo, including Olympians, Amy White (Baladis)1984, Gavin Arroyo 1996 & 2000, Jason Lezak 2000, 2004, 2008 & 2012, Michael (Milorad) Cavic 2000, 20004, 2008 & 2012, Ryan Brown 2002, Jessica Hardy 2012 and sisters Makenzie and Aria Fischer 2016. Johnny also taught ISHOF Honoree, Chad Hundeby who held the English Channel world record for 11 years.
It is Johnny’s love of teaching infants and toddlers that keeps his passions burning after 51 years in the pool and still counting. He has always advocated for a nurturing, fun and positively reinforced methodology that provides each student with the ability to preserve their life in the water and reach their full aquatic potential. Johnny believes in developing a foundation of breath and balance control, followed by control of movement. All this is made possible by a bond of love, trust and fun! Blue Buoy’s slogan is: “Great beginnings…….lead to great finishes!”
Johnny and his wife Cindy have presented their methods and philosophy of teaching internationally at conferences in Monterrey and Acapulco, Mexico, Wellington, New Zealand, and Uppsala, Sweden.
Julie Zancanaro (AUS)
Julie Zancanaro married accomplished swim coach, Deny Zancanaro, and soon became involved in his successful swim schools. A novice swimmer herself, she decided that she needed to learn to swim properly. In 1987 she began her journey and quickly proceeded to her lifeguard certification that enabled her to ultimately train teachers for the rapidly expanding Zancanaro Swim School.
Trained in developmentally based therapeutic approaches in education and health, Julie was shocked to see swim programs that forced and distressed babies and young children. She could not understand how force had any place in learning to swim, and strongly believed in child centered approaches and learning through play. In response, Julie sought guidance from the international learn to swim community and found one of Virginia Hunt Newman’s books as a refreshing change. She also found support and inspiration from Laurie Lawrence, Forbes and Ursula Carlile, Claire Timmermans, Cookie Harkin, Sharron Crowley and Rob McKay.
After publishing numerous articles on developmentally based approaches, Julie was soon being asked to speak at National and International Swimming Conferences. In 1995, she presented at her first International Conference in Melbourne. She was the Australian delegate to the World Conference in Oaxaca, 1997; a speaker in Toulouse, 1999, Wellington, 2007, and Vancouver, 2009. In 1996, Julie was an inaugural recipient of the Meritorious Service to the Teaching of Swimming in Australia Award. She was a major contributor to the two Australian accreditation courses for baby and preschool swimming. Julie is a contributing author of the first AUSTSWIM Manual for infant and Preschool Aquatics, and more recently the Swim Australia Teacher of Baby and Toddler Swimming. Since 2014, she has contributed to the first curriculum and teacher training program for indigenous communities in the Pacific, Let’s Swim.
Julie produced a video on a developmental approach to baby swimming in 1998, and has made over 100 presentations at Australian national conferences in 25 years. She has directly facilitated the accreditation of thousands of swim teachers in Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and the Pacific.
In 2001, Deny and Julie built Hills Swimming, a customized indoor swim centre to cater to children from three months to national swimmers, focusing on the world’s best practices in early childhood aquatic education. Of the 2500 students each week, over half are under five, and many have individual learning programs to cater to Sensory Processing Disorders and other learning challenges. The team of 65 at Hills Swimming inspires her, and allows her time to assist national accrediting bodies to raise standards in early swimming. A champion of respecting rights of young children in aquatic education, Julie is continuing to campaign for stronger industry self-regulation. She delivers accreditation courses for Royal Life Saving Australia, AUSTSWIM and Swim Australia, and has always remained bipartisan. Sitting on national committees and working groups across the industry helps achieve the best outcome for the children they serve.
In 2016, Julie was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Swim School Hall of Fame for contribution to swimming education. She is currently on the Pedagogy Committee of the Australian Swim School Association and has recently been appointed to the Board of Advisors of the International Swim School Association.
Lulu Cisneros (MEX)
Lulu Cisneros began her love of water as a competitive swimmer, went on to be a teacher, coach and finally became the owner of a model swim school in Monterrey, Mexico and spokesperson for aquatic programs for babies.
Lulu was a national age group butterfly champion in her home country of Mexico in the 100 and 200 meters and an exchange student and swim team member at Clearwater High School on Florida’s west coast. Her degree from the University of Monterrey in business administration and studies in pre-school education and infant psychology were a perfect prelude to her future career in baby swim schools. She was also the first swim coach at Monterrey and led her team to a national championship among private universities.
In 1989, Lulu and her husband, Mauricio Hernandez founded the Lulu Cisneros Educación Acuática. She created a system for babies and toddlers based on what she called “Early Aquatic Stimulation Program”. The program combines water, music and games to learn to swim in a cheerful environment putting the youngest children together with their parents in the pool. Lulu was also one of the first to create a Spanish video on teaching babies to enjoy the water and eventually learning to swim.
Cisneros attended the 1991 National Swim School Association (NSSA) conference which introduced her and opened her up to a whole new group of associates in her field, as well as baby teaching strategies. Her new colleagues soon became friends and many exchanges followed, two important contacts were Robert Strauss of Miami and Beatriz Esesarte of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Lulu’s next big advancement in the world of baby teaching was in 1994 when she created the course book, “Natación Para Bebés, Una Propuesta De Acercamiento Afectivo”: Baby swimming, a proposal for an effective approach. Lulu created the course book after she received the NSSA Infant-Toddler teacher certification course.
Cisneros realized the value of attending the conference and clinics and meeting with others in the baby teaching world, so she was instrumental in bringing the World Baby Congress to Mexico, which as she imagined, sparked much interest and growth in baby swimming. As an encore, she brought the 2002 annual NSSA Conference to her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, the only time it has ever been held outside the United States to date. A very proud achievement for Lulu.
The Lulu Cisneros Educación Acuática received the 1996 Nuevo Leon Quality Award (Mexico), being the first swim school to receive this honor, and in doing so, Cisneros was given the opportunity to meet Mexican Preident, Ernesto Zedillo. In 2002, she received the Guiding Light Award from the USSSA, and in 2011, she was presented with the Kelly Ogle Memorial Safety Award, given by the World Waterpark Association (WWA).
The comment from one of his mother’s swimmer’s sums up Jim Reiser’s teaching style and how beloved he is: “It’s like having Mr. Rogers teach your child to swim. Only a parent could teach with that much love!
Jim Reiser is a third generation teacher and coach. He began to teach swimming under his father’s supervision in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. After eight years of coaching with his father, he went away to college, and after only one year, he was leasing the pool at the California University of Pennsylvania to run swim lessons. This ambitious and very busy undergrad taught 1400 children from 1990 to 1993.
After the success and initiative of his time at California University, he was offered a teaching assistantship in Aquatics and Physical Education at the University of South Carolina by graduate director, Dr. John Spurgeon. He moved to Columbia and earned his Master’s degree.
While at USC, Jim served as a graduate assistant to Dr. Richard Hohn, where he would learn to train, develop and assess the effectiveness of the undergraduate physical education majors. Jim also taught the undergraduate aquatic courses. After earning his Master’s degree in 1995, the department hired him to be its “Swim Professor”, where he served as a faculty member until 2005.
While in graduate school, Jim also launched the Swim Lessons Company, and he began to design a template for training swim instructors which would eventually become known as Swim Lessons University. The Swim Lessons Company not only has four locations, but Jim’s swim school has also been teaching nearly 2000 second graders every year since 2005 through a contract reached with the Richland School District One in Columbia, SC. In 1995, Jim wrote and produced his first video, “Teaching Swimming Effectively” which served as his Masters Degree project. In 1999, Jim produced “Home Swim School” which eventually became known as “Swim 101”, a video-based certification course for teaching preschoolers to swim. The video received rave reviews from the likes
of Olympic coach, Richard Quick, and author and renowned coach, Ernie Maglischo.
Jim Reiser has been honored over the years by different organizations in his field. He has been the recipient of the Adolph Kiefer “Water Safety Person of the Year” award presented by USA Swimming; the “Community Lifesaver Award” by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance and the “President’s Award” by the World Aquatic Babies
and Children’s Congress.
Torill Hindmarch, M.A.
Torill Hindmarch first started with baby swimming in 1975 in Bristol England. She believes her most important work was done in Norway in the early 1980’s when she pioneered aquatic activities for babies and toddlers in the Oslo region. In 1982 Torill developed a teaching program for her local branch of the Norwegian Lifesavings Society (NLS) that moved away from “training” babies.
Since 1988 she has worked to promote and change the methodology in Norway away from the dive orientated methods that prevailed at that time. Torill was strongly influenced by Daniel Zylbeberg and his work in Paris after the conference in 1988. This led her to rethink the practice in Norway which created quite a stir at the time. She saw that not all babies were happy in classes and the approach was still too forceful for the more sensitive families. Torill was putting tools into the hands of inexperienced parents with little background in aquatic education. This lack of experience and understanding meant that parents were exceeding the limits of safe activity which resulted in negative reactions from babies and children with lasting consequences. She had to change their approach even if it alienated her from many swimming instructors at the time.
Torrill Hindmarch has a Master’s Degree in Early Years Education and has managed two preschool and child care centers in Norway, promoting Forest School methodology. Her passion and knowledge of the advantages of movement in water was instrumental in developing programs in these centers for weekly sessions at the pool for the preschoolers, and in particular, those children that were developmentally challenged. This pedagogical approach was effective and enhanced speech and motor skills development as well as social skills. This background has been a great advantage in developing a child centered approach in baby swimming.
Early Childhood Education has been an important part of Torill’s working life; her experiences gave her an appreciation of the importance of strong relationships between teacher and pupil. By listening to the pupil, the teacher becomes a more effective teacher. The advances in research into child development and learning have been central to the development of her teaching philosophy in aquatics for young children in Norway. From Vygotsky through Meltzoff, Kuhl and Gopnik to the work of Trevarthen, she found inspiration and wonder at the power of social interaction and the child’s desire to communicate. The tiniest baby is ready from birth to communicate with its closest careers and is ready to learn if only we take time to make that connection. This interactive communication is an important part of the aquatic learning process. This and the sheer joy of being at one with the aquatic environment is the cornerstone of her pedagogical approach.
Torill now works for the Norwegian Life Saving Society as an education consultant at the head office in Oslo with responsibility for education in water safety and drowning prevention (Section for families and children), curriculum development, instructor qualifications and teacher support.
Torill has a background in competitive swimming and lifesaving, and parallel to her work with babies, she has been educating swimming and lifesaving instructors for the NLS and the NSF since the 80’s. She helped establish sport lifesaving in Norway, serving two terms as chair of the sports committee and was the national coach for life saving for four years. She has also gained inspiration from several teachers in the field of antenatal aquatics, following programs from France and Australia that focus on preparing the mother for birth, breathing and relaxation exercises and encouraging the connection between mother and child at this early stage. Torill believes all this has helped her develop a holistic approach to teaching swimming, survival and water safety to young children and their parents
Beatriz Esearte Pesqueira
Beatriz is an educator who specializes in the role of aquatics in psychomotor development. She is the founder and general director of Acuarela Natación Formativa in Oaxaca, México (Acuarela). The seed for Acuarela was planted in 1988, when Beatriz rehabilitated an abandoned backyard family pool, founded her swim school, Acuarela, Escuela de Natación, and launched her dream with an initial class of 26 students and 3 employees.
Throughout its evolution, Acuarela’s story is one of meeting challenges, confronting obstacles and nurturing and spreading the enduring belief that water can be a very powerful tool in educational development, helping to create better human beings and societies. In developing Acuarela, she has come to learn and appreciate the wisdom and experience of her pre-Hispanic ancestors of hundreds of years ago, who accorded special honor and respect to the water as a being and understood the strength, vitality and emotional and physical health that we can derive from natural, confident and wise movement in the water.
She designed a very unique pool where babies and young children can naturally adapt to water through their own sensations, feelings, thoughts and movements; generating awareness in the parents of the importance of communication in the present moment with the water and their babies.
Acuarela first gained attention as a result of Beatriz’s social work, in which she invited some of Oaxaca’s homeless
and abandoned children – street children — to experience water and take swim lessons. In just one year, these children reduced their use of prescription and non-prescription medications to treat various ailments by 75%.
She presented at the 2nd World Aquatic Babies Congress (WABC) in Los Angeles, California in 1993, where she spoke about her social commitment to providing access to swim lessons to children from all economic backgrounds and not only to the privileged members of society.
In 1997, Beatriz was the lead organizer of the 4th World Congress of Baby Aquatic Education attended by 450 professionals from 23 countries, with 26 leaders in the field of baby and child psychomotor development in the aquatics who presented.
Thereafter she has focused on studying and sharing information and knowledge with other professionals as a featured speaker at many conferences and workshops in numerous countries through the reach of the World Aquatic Babies & Children Network, including bringing that knowledge to her beloved country and her city of Oaxaca.
Niko Saito is among the first to introduce baby swimming in Japan. She studied baby swimming with Esther Williams and Crystal Scarborough in Los Angeles in the 1960’s then established her own program for babies, young children, and pregnant women under the name Saito Aquatic Academy in Nagoya, Japan.
In the years following, she put a title to her aquatic instruction philosophy and methods calling them “Aquamics”. This system makes use of the water and rhythm to help children develop mentally as well as physically. Class activities pair swim activities with other learning and child development activities.
Live music flows as a musician plays a special keyboard poolside during classes. Students focus on special cards called “Pettanco” as they learn their colors, shapes, and musical notes as they also move about and swim around the pool. Songs are sung to the happy music, games are played among parents and their children, and toys grasp the attention of even the unsure student. There is plenty of pleasant stimulation for students during their Aquamics class.
Aquamics has brought forward in Japan the use of aquatic activities including baby swimming as a beneficial part of early child development. A child’s physical development as well as his or her personality and vitality can be enhanced by participating.
Niko has authored numerous books. She wrote Baby Swimming (1976) which received designation as a “Book of the Year” by the Japan Library Association. She authored Baby Swimming and Maternity Swimming (1987). She is also a respected author of history books in Japan – she has ten to her credit!
Niko has made presentations at scholastic meetings and conferences including the Japan Physical Pedagogical meeting, the Pediatrician Symposium for Pediatric Sports, and several times at the World Aquatic Babies & Children Network conferences.
As a youth, Niko was a competitive swimmer and held a Junior National freestyle record in Japan. She earned a degree in nursing which has help in working with handicapped children in the pool as well with those with conditions such as asthma and autism. She earned a Graduate degree from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Nagoya City University.
Niko has always had an affectionate way of teaching. Virginia Hunt Newman, an ISHOF Pioneer Honoree in baby swimming, said, “Aquamics is a brilliant way to teach babies and young children with care and gentleness.”
It seems that Laurie Lawrence may have a touch of chlorine in the blood and was always destined to be a teacher and coach of swimming. As a young boy his father managed the Tobruk pool in Townsville, NSW. The family lived above the pool entrance where he was exposed to Australia’s dominance of International swimming when the Australian Olympic team trained there prior to the 1956 Olympic Games. In those early days he hunted and treasured autographs from Australian swimming legends Dawn Fraser, Jon Henricks, Murray Rose, Lorraine Crapp, David Thiele, and other Australian Olympians. Laurie fondly remembers giving his bed to Jon Henricks when the Lawrence family billeted Henricks during the 1956 Olympic training camp.
As a young man he left the pool to complete his studies a Diploma in Physical Education. He represented Australia in rugby before becoming a swimming teacher and coach. His quest for perfection saw his swimmers win world championships, break world records and win Olympic gold medals. He was Australia’s sports coach of the year and inducted into ISHOF as an Honor Coach in 1996.Since his first Olympic Games in 1984, he has been an integral part of the Australian Olympic team now through London in 1912, his eighth Games.
His passion for baby swimming began with the birth of his first daughter Jane in 1975. He purchased Virginia Hunt Newman’s book and the journey began. After seeing Jane’s success, he documented Kate, his next daughter’s progress on film. Emma his youngest continued the passion and research into baby swimming and now as young women Jane, Kate and Emma all work in the family business.
Emma and Laurie spent five years documenting and creating www.worldwideswimschool.com as a resource for swimming teachers all round the world with a particular emphasis on infant aquatics based on progressive skill development determined by the growth and development of the child. Laurie’s first grandchild, Evie, has inspired the creation of a newly released iphone, ipad app for swimming teachers and parents. This app will add to the three video Dads , three books, and online swimming teaching resources already created by Laurie.
His internationally acclaimed Water Safety Program “Kids Alive Do the Five” has seen drowning in Australia plummet from 63 in the year 2000 to 33 in 2010. His latest Kids Alive Water Safety DVD “Living with Water” has been done in conjunction with the Australian Government as a drowning prevention measure for children under five. It is being given to the parents of every newborn in Australia for four years as a drowning prevention measure. To date more than 800,000 DVDs have been distributed in Australia and he eagerly awaits Australia’s drowning statistics later in the year to judge the success of this latest project.
Daniel Zylberberg, Ph.D.
Daniel Zylberberg is a clinical psychologist in Paris, France. He works with children in a psychiatric hospital and teaches infant psychology at the Medical University of Paris XIII.
In the early 1980’s he established an experimental babies swimming program using his training as a clinical psychologist. France had few such programs and awareness of their benefits. He conducted research focused on observing the natural and spontaneous behaviors in infants while participating in an aquatic classroom environment. With friends, doctors, teachers and students, programs were established at additional aquatic centers and were well received.
Zylberberg has been a leader in educating teachers and program directors as they establish and operate infant aquatic programs. In 1974 he was a leader in the founding of the French FAAEL (Awakening and Leisure Aquatic Federation). Today there are over 1000 aquatic centers throughout France with baby programs and many times more certified baby swimming teachers. Daniel was the French delegate and a lecturer at the 2nd World Aquatic Babies Congress (WABC) in Los Angeles in 1993 speaking on integrating babies with disabilities into aquatic programs. He spoke at the 3rd WABC in Melbourne (1995) on making curriculum more physically active and enriching as well as the 4th Congress in Oaxaca, Mexico (1997) on the researched benefits of babies being active in the unique environment water provides.
Zylberberg was the moderator and lead organizer of the 5th WABC Conference in Toulouse, France (1999)
– attended by over 500 professionals from 27 countries. He has consulted on teacher training programs in Italy with the WISP, in Spain with the SEAE, and in Argentina with FAEP – all national swim teacher education
organizations. He has lectured in Norway, Finland and Germany.
Daniel is the author of numerous books and articles. “The Babies in the Pool” (title translated in English) has been translated also into Japanese and “The Ages of Swimming” (translation) is published in French and Italian. He has been seen on numerous French television programs featuring swimming babies. Since 2008, Zylberberg has served as expert advisor to the French Swimming Federation’s special commission on baby and children learn to swim programs.
He has been inspired by Dr. Maria Montessori’s learning philosophies and theories including the importance of teachers and parents working to shape the learning environment and help the baby or child do things for themselves. Daniel’s approach encourages spontaneous behavior and positive interaction between babies, young children and their parents.
Francoise Freedman, Ph.D.
Françoise Freedman, with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, has more than twenty years experience teaching and educating instructors in water babies programs from her London area home base. She founded and operates Birthlight, an organization focusing on a holistic approach to pregnancy, birth and babyhood that includes an original water babies program and a pre and postnatal aquanatal program.
Growing up as a competitive swimmer in the central region of France, Françoise credits her coaches with instilling a drive for excellence without losing the fun of swimming. As a teen she spent summers teaching swimming to reluctant children and learned that gentle progressions helped children to happily relax and float in preparation to learn more advanced skills.
As a young fieldworker in Peruvian Amazonia, swimming was again a useful and natural activity; whether diving down to catch fish in the streams that flow from the Andes or as a daily recreational treat for all children or for bathing. She saw older children teaching little tots to swim as part of looking after them, as well as parents crossing rivers with babies on their backs. Françoise was very much in a natural water environment and thereby also observed the movements of pink dolphins, otters and other water creatures swimming with their young.
Returning to London to continue her education academically as well as aquatically, she set up a small group of families who were interested in “swimming with their babies” and incorporated the gentle playful ways witnessed in the Amazon. The water sessions became the highest of each week in Cambridge, Françoise then having children of her own. Virginia Hunt Newman’s book, Teaching an Infant to Swim was an early inspiration for her to teach babies and young children.
The presentation of her first film Water Parenting in 1995 launched the Birthlight approach to infant aquatics with a focus on effective communication between parents and babies in a water environment. The film conveyed the message that water could be conducive to an easier birth, in the water or not, and that it could also help parents bond with their babies at any time by finding ease together in the
Her video Swimming with Babies came next, followed by her book Water Babies. Working at the time also as an academic medical anthropologist at Cambridge University, Françoise’s university colleagues were surprised to see a two-page article on Birthlight Baby Swimming
in the Times, and again on the front page of the Daily Mail, both leading UK newspapers.
Françoise continues to impact gentle ways through her Birthlight organization, making sure teachers always create a wave of warmth and a good time in the water for children and parents.
Swimming teacher José Fontanelli has a passion for baby swimming. ‘Affectionate’ describes his manner in having taught tens of thousands of young pupils over the past 40 years in his homeland of Sao Paulo, Brazil. ‘Fonta’ loves his babies!
Fontanelli uses research and technique in a variety of disciplines to speed the development and enhance the comfort of students and their parents who accompany them in the pool. Research has shown that children in vitro recognize different people outside the womb as well as their mother’s reaction to those people. Applying this, Fontanelli was among the first in the world to extend the ‘starting time’ for a baby swimming to the pre-natal period – where expectant mothers come to the pool for movement and exercise experiences. After the baby is born, the mother returns for ‘baby & parent’ classes, now much more at ease in the environment.
Fontanelli has authored the book Between Pleasure and Technique – focusing on aquatic development of babies and toddlers. He has been featured in newspaper and magazine articles and is often a presenter at swim teacher conferences throughout Latin and South America. José has trained numerous teachers in his affectionate, child-centered, non-traumatic methods and has been the organizer of numerous educational conferences and training clinics on baby swimming and water exercise for pregnant mothers.
A former club swimmer and backstroke state record holder in Sao Paulo, Fontanelli graduated in physical education with specialization in swimming and additional training in pediatric emergency care.
Yoko Yagishita exemplifies the spirit of the Virginia Hunt Newman Award and the pioneering, innovative spirit of Virginia herself. Both are little dynamos. Both share a special heart for babies. Both share the foresight, intelligence and conviction to foster teaching methods that allow the tiniest swimmers to grow and learn in their aquatic environment in tear-free and positive lessons. Yoko is both the first woman and Asian to receive the Virginia Hunt Newman Award.
Yoko graduated with college degrees from Nihon and Keio Universities. She is a licensed Japan Counseling Association Psychological Counselor.
After college, Yoko traveled through-out the provinces of Japan reporting on national political campaigns. Two of the young men she covered became her friends and eventually served as Prime Ministers of Japan. Under the radio name of Yoko Hamami, she continued her trail-blazing media career as a female disk jockey for Japan National Broadcasting, interviewing John Lennon, Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton and others. However, the birth of her son in 1978 led to a significant career change for Yoko. During her son’s baby swim classes, she realized what a wonderful experience it was to spend precious time with him enjoying the water. In 1980, she decided to train to become a baby swim teacher and received her “Baby Swim Instructor” qualification from the Japan Swimming Club Association. After meeting Virginia Hunt Newman ten years later at the World Aquatic Babies Conference (WABC) in Tokyo, Yoko was inspired to adopted a ”wait until the flower blooms” swimming program, spreading this joyous manner style of teaching in the parent/child group class format. Her tiny students are never forced to perform skills.
At the 1995 WABC Conference in Melbourne, Yoko became so inspired by a video showing smiling babies, above and under the water, that over the next 12 years, she made twelve, two-week trips to the United States to study under the direction of Rob and Kathy McKay’s Lifestyle Swim School in Boca Raton, Florida, to observe and absorb these gentle methods. Only a pupil during the first several years at the McKay’s swim school, she was soon acting as a guest teacher in the United States. To finance the trips, Yoko worked long hours at nights driving a delivery truck and days teaching her baby swim students.
Virginia Hunt Newman’s, gentle approach to swim teaching inspired Yoko to start a new chapter of her life. She became a woman on a mission becoming something wonderful in the lives of children, their parents and the teachers to whom she promoted the gentle, patient approach. She began to realize her dreams. Speaking only several words of English during her first trips to America, she communicated with her smile, playfulness and gentle manner. Nothing stopped her, not even a bout of cancer which she fought and survived with her typical strength and optimistic attitude. Her positive teaching techniques for babies, while also integrating special needs children into her classes, slowly began to spread to clubs and aquatic programs though-out Japan. She combined the best of Western and Eastern technique to make a culture and community of nurture, joy and fun for mothers, fathers and their babies.
Yoko has been featured in many Japanese media, including among others, mothering and baby magazines “Akasugu” and NHK Educational Journal. She has appeared on television’s “Good Morning Japan”. She swims three days per week, practices yoga, and has hiked the Grand Canyon. Yoko is also a licensed antique replica doll maker.
Like Virginia, Yoko is short in stature, but a giant among men and women. She is opening baby swim programs for the Tipness Group of Sports Clubs and has revamped or begun baby swim programs in multiple locations in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Yokohama and Kanto. She is scheduled to open a new program in the prestigious Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. She has trained over 500 teachers in Japan, creating positive shockwaves through-out the country with many thousands of happy babies and their parents smiling in the water from coast to coast. Yoko has, bravely and against all odds, given voice to those who have no voice, making Virginia Hunt Newman happy to know that her gentle legacy continues above, as well as below, the surface of the water.
Terje represents Virginia’s philosophy not only in the pool as an instructor, but also in his conference presentations and uniquely in the theater as the producer of his one-man stage show of the evolution of gentle baby swimming. This ingenious production pays tribute to Virginia, and follows her vision of using play and kindness, not force and tears to teach babies to swim. His father was a swimming teacher for 25 years.
Terje traveled from his home in Norway to receive the award in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the Swimming Hall of Fame’s annual ceremonies, on May 12, 2006. Mr. Stakset is the third individual to receive this prestigious international recognition.
Terje, a graduate of the Business Academy of Oslo, is currently manager of the Norwegian Lifesaving Federation in Oslo and Baerum. He has been an instructor in swimming and life saving for 27 years and a teacher of baby swimming for 15 years. Moreover, he trains instructors in swimming, baby swimming, lifesaving, CPR and first aid and for 27 years he was the vice-president of the Norwegian Lifesaving Association.
In 1990 and 1991, his team won the Norwegian National Lifesaving Championship for male teams. In 1992, he represented Norway in the World Championships in Sweden.
Terje’s baby swim school is part of the Oslo and Baerum District of the Norwegian Lifesaving Association. He has been an advocate of Virginia Hunt Newman’s gentle approach to teaching babies to swim. He has been an international speaker at Newman’s World Aquatic Baby Congress conferences in France and Hawaii as well as a international conference in Helsinki, Finland. In October 2004 he was Director for the Nordic Conference on Baby Swimming in Oslo. In 2002 he produced a baby swim video “The Truthful Face of Baby Swim”. In April 2006 he completed a second DVD titled: “How to Teach Young Children to Swim.”
Terje is a wonderful example of Virginia’s gentle methods of teaching babies to swim, giving voice to those not yet able to speak for themselves. Terje’s leadership and commitment represent Virginia’s philosophy not only in the pool as an instructor, but also in his conference presentations. Through his use of poetry and unique theatrical acting when producing his one-man stage show, he “shows off” the evolution of the gentle baby swimming approach. This ingenious production – entitled “Baby Swim Fro the Very Start and Into the Future” pays tribute to Virginia, and follows her vision of using play and kindness, not force and tears to teach babies to swim.
Using a poetic verse to describe his feelings for Virginia’s method of teaching Terje writes:
Virginia Hunt Newman was a Pioneer,
And She Made It Quite Clear,
Non-Forceful is the Only Way,
And in That Direction it Has to Stay,
Be Gentle from the Very Start,
If You’re Going to be Smart.
Terje is 47 years old, married and has two sons.
For many years, Steve Graves has been helping to improve aquatic programs for young children on local, national and international levels.
Steve’s leadership and promotion of Virginia Newman’s non-traumatic style of teaching has been felt worldwide. In 1998, Virginia selected Steve to be President of her World Aquatic
Babies Congress (WABC), the professional organization for swim teachers working with infants and toddlers, which Virginia founded in 1993. He put together world conferences on baby swimming in Toulouse, France (1999), Buenos Aires, Argentina (2001), and Honolulu, Hawaii (2003), which were attended by representatives from 34 countries. He developed WABC’s website using it to send electronic, around-the-world newsletters on the subject of infant-toddler aquatic instruction. Hundreds of instructional articles were archived in several languages on the WABC website.
In 1988, Steve founded the National Swim School Association (NSSA), a trade association for swim school owners in the United States. He served as the swim school’s association President for the first five years, then as Executive Director through 2001. During this time, annual conferences included presentations by the leading international authorities on designing aquatic programs for young children.
In 2000 Steve received the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s Paragon Award for promoting Aquatic Safety by creating infant-toddler teacher certification and public awareness programs in drowning prevention for NSSA. These programs greatly benefited NSSA’s 1500 member swim teachers and the 160,000 students taught each year.
Since 1997 he has been part-time Executive Director of the Florida West Coast Chapter of the Florida Swimming Pool Association, an affiliate of the Association of Pool and spa Professionals (formerly NSPI).
When it comes to teaching young children to swim, Steve like Virginia, feels that the gentle, positive approach is best.
A Normal, Illinois native and a former college All-American freestyle swimmer for Coach Archie Harris, at Illinois State University also in Normal, Steve was a swim coach, teacher and aquatic program director from 1969 to 1988 in Illinois, Arizona and Florida. Beyond his current association activities, Steve still finds time to teach swimming ten hours a week in St. Petersburg, Florida, with his wife Kathy at their American Swim School. Says his university swim coach Archie Harris, “Steve did it on just plain hard work. He is a go-getter.”
Rob McKay has spent 23 years of his adult career devoted to teaching infants to swim. It is no accident that it was also 23 years ago that Rob first met and was inspired by Virginia Hunt Newman.
Virginia’s pioneering advocacy of a gentle, positive approach to teaching infants to swim instilled in Rob a passion to create the most stimulating, child-friendly, educationally sound and developmentally appropriate swim school possible.
Rob’s mission along with his wife Kathy has resulted in his nationally acclaimed Lifestyle Swim School in Boca Raton, Florida; his instructional video series, “Diaper Dolphins;” an upcoming book entitled Baby Swim School, published by DK Publishing of London; and an informational website, “Baby Swimming – the Gentle Journey” at www.babyswimming.com.
The McKays have authored and been the featured subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles nationally and internationally. Rob and Virginia were featured in a video press release on infant swimming for the national product release of Huggies brand “Little Swimmers” diapers. They also appeared together in the Discovery Channel’s World of Wonder program which aired in 50 countries during a five-year period. Japan’s Nippon television network featured Rob, Kathy and their baby students in a special entitled “Charismatic Teachers.”
A frequent speaker at national and international conferences and workshops, Rob is a board member of the World Aquatic Baby Congress and a member of the Congress of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is a charter member of the National Swim School Association. McKay has trained numerous teachers in his gentle, child-paced, non-traumatic methods both from across the U.S. and around the world including Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Australia, Singapore and the Philippines.
A former high school All-American swimmer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa and a collegiate scholar-athlete for Florida State University, Rob also held records as a Masters swimmer and continues to swim for health and fitness. Rob learned to swim at the age of three.