20 years teaching our kids to swim

Michelle's Swim School has come a long way since humble beginnings at a local motel pool in November 1992.

This month Michelle Thomas and the team at the Swim School are celebrating their 20 year anniversary.

A lot has changed in the 20 years since Michelle and her mother Mary Tupper first saw the need for ongoing swimming lessons in the community and established Mary and Michelle's Swim School at the newly built Kinross Inns indoor heated pool, with the help of Sherry and Cobber Seears.

They started with just a handful of students but after five years they outgrew the small pool.

When Sherry and Cobber sold up, the Swim School moved to the Hospital Hydrotherapy Pool.

Michelle was left to carry on the lessons after Mary and Mike retired to Tathra.

The lessons began to grow and Michelle realised she needed to recruit new teachers.

Having only employed Austswim Qualified Instructors, over the years Michelle has trained and assessed dozens of new Austswim teachers, many of whom have gone on to work within the swim school. There are currently 13 part time instructors including school based trainee Blayne Thomas who is in year 12 at Monaro High School.

In 2004, Lorraine Alford joined the team and has been influential in looking for new ways to involve more children in swimming lessons.

Both Michelle and Lorraine, who each hold all Austswim teaching qualifications and are Royal Lifesaving Society Bronze Medallion Trainers and Assessors, have a passion for teaching children with disabilities. Over the years they have accessed grants to teach many children with disabilities who would otherwise never have had lessons.

There are currently 15 children who receive ongoing lessons including four special needs students from Cooma Public School.

Michelle started coaching at the Cooma Festival Swimming Pool in 2008 and expanded the Learn to Swim Programs over the summer to this pool.

Seeing a need for local schools to have more consistent swimming and water safety lessons, involving the whole school Michelle approached all the schools in the local area. All Cooma Primary schools, smaller schools Adaminaby, Jerangle, Nimmitabel and Numeralla, and the Snowy Mountains Christian School High School now have regular lessons at the Cooma Swim Centre. They also participate in the Bronze Star and Bronze Medallion Awards for the older children.

In 2008 and 2010 Michelle was awarded NSW Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety of the year, at the NSW Austswim Awards of Excellence, and Michelle's Swim School was awarded a High Commendation.

The current team at Michelle's Swim School are passionate about teaching swimming and water safety.

They have to be a special breed to work in the conditions they do. One of the first school lessons this season it was nearly snowing.

This is just the beginning of what is to come for the Swim School. Michelle's daughter Kirstin is also an instructor and is looking after the books - so stay tuned for the next 20 years.

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