The Gift of Lessons for Life


Trust is the essential ingredient of every relationship. At Aqua-Tots Swim Schools we take pride in cultivating lasting bonds with our swimmers and their families. Read more on the heartwarming journey our very own instructor, Coach Clare has had with her student Ernest at one of our schools in Arizona.

Lessons for Life…

…this is what Aqua-Tots provides for its students and their families. As an instructor, I thought that I was the one providing the service – that I was the one impacting children by teaching them how to be safer in and around the pool. However, over the past few years of working at Aqua-Tots, I have had a change of heart. Although I know that I teach children an important life skill, they have taught me as many life lessons as I have taught them and for that, I am continually moved and incredibly grateful.

Then, I met this boy on a Monday evening and I melted. He was the sweetest, cutest, most charismatic little dude….

Now, I’m not a new instructor, and I have had the chance to serve a few students with special needs. Although I have some experience under my belt, I’m always a little nervous when I’m given the privilege of teaching a new special needs student. I wasn’t nervous about teaching a different type of lesson; I was more nervous about being the best version of myself so that I could provide this family with the best lesson that I could give. I still remember talking to Brittany, Ernest’s mom, to find out exactly how I could best serve her son. I guess you could say that it was a combination of nerves and excitement. This family was excited to see their child in the pool, but they also told me that Ernest didn’t understand the idea of what swimming was or how to be safe in the water. I did not want to let them down, but more importantly, I wanted Ernest and his parents to become knowledgeable about safety in and around water so  they all could better enjoy time at a public pool or the beach.

One of the things that I knew was going to be a little different was communication with this student. Ernest was non-verbal; his mom informed me that he responds well to counting and to touch and being very hands-on with learning. Our first lesson together was a journey. Ernest was super excited to be in the pool and splashed around in the water, but he was completely unaware of when to breathe, how to get a breath, and how to get back to the wall if he were to jump in or to fall into the water. This first lesson was a benchmark that I used to mark the beginning of our journey together. His family and I were excited to see all the progress he was making, but his parents were very conservative with their expectations; they didn’t know what kind of progress could be made and they did not want to be disappointed.


I taught his lessons every Monday night without fail. He made huge strides in his swimming and his understanding of water safety. One night, I thought it would be awesome to  show his parents the kind of progress he was making by having him jump into the deep end. I was so excited and proud of my little dude and all the work he put in to get to where he was.  But in that exact moment, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little bit nervous. I remember giving him the Aqua-Tots’ cue, “1,2,3, go,” and holding my breath to see what he would do next. He jumped in from the side of the pool into the 10-foot deep end and did exactly what he was supposed to do! He held his breath, turned back to the wall, climbed right out of the pool– and he was ready to try it again! I was ecstatic and so were his parents. Since he could not verbalize the way he was feeling in that moment, the only thing that Ernest knew how to do was to stop what he was doing, put a big smile on his face, and jump into my arms for a huge celebratory hug. That moment will forever hold a special place in my heart because that’s really what teaching kids about water safety and swimming is all about.

I’ve learned so much from Ernest- as I have from all my students. Yes, I help teach them how to be safe in and around the water, but they teach me much, too. I’ve learned that life is all about perseverance; it’s about keeping at it until you succeed. I’ve learned that life isn’t ideal. Everyone has something that they struggle with. It’s all about the people that you surround yourself with that help you through all the little struggles and curveballs. Perhaps the favorite life lesson I have learned through my experiences is that when you have prepared, and when you have people who are rooting for you, jumping into the deep end isn’t so scary at all.  I can’t wait for my next students!

What is your story? We would love for you to share your family’s Aqua-Tots journey with us!