Learn about what makes being a swim teacher so rewarding in an interview with Heather Kampa, one of Franklin Swimtastic’s long-time swim instructors!
How did you get a job at Swimtastic and how long have you been teaching?
Well, my parents own the Franklin location, so I started when I was 15, and now I’m 22. So it’s been seven years! I started out as a decker, and then I moved onto working the front desk before teaching.
What is it about being a Swim Instructor that has kept you at Swimtastic so long?
I love teaching a life skill that I firmly believe everyone should know how to do. I also love seeing kids progress in the water. I’ve had students that I started teaching at 6 months old, and I’ve got to see them grow over the years which is beyond rewarding. Knowing that I taught them something that they’ll keep forever is really satisfying. I’ll never get tired of the bonds I make with students and their parents, too. When I see families that know me outside of work, it’s so cute! The kids, and sometimes even the parents, don’t recognize me when I’m not in swim teacher mode with my swimsuit on. There’s also little things that really warm my heart, like kids pretending to be “Ms. Heather” in the pool or bathtub back at home. I have one student who does that, and hearing those stories from the parents are just so fun. It makes me happy to know that I’ve made a positive impact on their child’s life like that. It’s really something special to me. It’s because of those reasons that I’ve stayed with this job so long.
What are some of the most challenging parts of your job?
Teaching the breaststroke to the older kids is tricky to teach, just because it’s a hard stoke to learn. It takes some getting used to. For the younger ones, it’s hard teaching them how to take a breath on their own. I hate to see them drink the water. They try so hard to take a breath, but just end up chugging water. It’s always sad for me to see that happen, but it’s a part of the process. In time and with practice, they eventually get it, and those moments make it all worth it. Even though the kids are young, they understand how tricky it is to master certain skills, so when something finally clicks, it’s always awesome to see them so proud of themselves.
What are some of the most rewarding parts of your job?
Teaching a life skill is always going to be the most rewarding part of my job. It’s the greatest feeling knowing that these kids will always have this skill, and they’ve learned to swim and become confident in the water because of my teaching. It’s also rewarding when kids start getting excited to swim. A lot of times it takes some getting used to, but when my students reach the point where they can barely wait to get into the water, it makes me so happy. I love seeing that enthusiasm. And of course, I love helping kids set goals and reach them. I live for those “proud swim teacher” moments when my students accomplish their goals. Seeing kids go from Station 5 to the Lap Lane is always awesome to see too, because that’s such a big step. It’s swimming 50 feet vs 25 feet, so it’s a big “hoorah to the heart” seeing them swimming those distances.
Can you describe what it feels like when families express how grateful they are to you for teaching their child how to swim?
It’s simply the greatest feeling ever. I have had parents in tears telling me how thankful they are to me for teaching their child how to become comfortable in the water. There are many kids that start their lessons out completely terrified of the water, or they hate swimming. And when I’m able to get through to them and help them establish a good relationship with the water, these parents who never thought their child would take up swimming become really emotional. And so do I. Sometimes I’m so focused on the kids and seeing how proud they are of themselves that I forget that their accomplishments affect their parents as well. The parents are just as invested in getting their child learning how to swim as I am. So when we are able to experience those emotional moments together, it makes my heart warm.
Why do you think getting kids enrolled in swimming lessons is so important?
It is one of the most essential life skills to have. I’ve been a swimmer my whole life, so I firmly believe that people should know how to at least save themselves if they fall into water
It’s really important to know how to at least swim a bit to a boat or surface where you can pull yourself up and out of the water. It saddens me when I hear about drownings on the news, because almost every single one of those instances could have been prevented. That’s what hurts the most. Knowing that if these people had been given some swim instruction at some point, there is a high chance that they could have saved their life. Even just one session of swim lessons can make a huge difference, and it’s absolutely better than nothing. There will come a time when a child is going to be around water over the course of their life. It’s inevitable. So to be safe rather than sorry, I can’t stress how important it is to get kids enrolled in some kind of swimming lessons. It really will make a difference when it matters most.
Ms. Heather as a young swimmer