Meet our Swimming Instructors: the stories behind Vacswim’s dedicated teachers. Part 1.

15 April 2019

Yoharna Rachwal, 20
Independent, Gawler Aquatics Centre

Some people, like Yoharna, are made for the water. At just 20-years old, she's the swimming instructor, lifeguard and senior duty supervisor at Gawler Aquatics Centre. "I was a water baby and my Mum was a swimming instructor, so it all started early on. I went through lessons and then I began competitive swimming at the age of six.", says Yoharna, who went on to complete the bronze medallion in her school holidays.

After swimming competitively for 10-years, up to 20-hours a week, Yoharna ran her first Vacswim program at the age of 14. "It changed my mindset about how important swimming is in regards to water safety, rather than just the strokes and the competitive side of things", says Yoharna.

 For Yoharna, the most rewarding part of the program is the families. "Vacswim is very personal. You meet all the families, and you see the children develop over that seven days. They're all so happy because it's very different to Learn To Swim classes, which are more stroke-focussed and technique-focussed", says Yoharna. "Vacswim is a bit more fun but still encourages lots of water safety and education as well. It's a bit different because you get to learn about other bodies of water rather than just the pool."

It can be hard for kids to visualise the dangers of these different bodies of water so, in the pool, Yoharna runs group activities which simulate currents, and communicates the various rules of the water with the help of visual aids. 'When those are getting passed around between the children, they start to look at it all differently', says Yoharna. "Teaching the children water safety about the beaches and the rivers is really important, and I think its missed a lot.'

For some kids, even stepping into the water is a huge step, and one reason why Vacswim lessons are so vital. "There was this one boy in a class of 10, he had just turned five and was really nervous about getting in the water," says Yoharna, "so, I worked one-on-one with him while another instructor took the class. We just worked our way up, beginning on the steps, and then using toys to eventually get down lower. It was just the conversations we used to have about what he had for breakfast and his favourite TV shows, we just bonded over that. Eventually, we started using floatation aids and moving through the water and just walking and jumping and having fun and at the end of the lesson he had a PFD on, and was doing jumps into the deep end of the pool with the rest of his class."

Because Vacswim is a unique style of water training, Yoharna suggests that parents who are new to the program should go into it with an open mind. "It is a very different program. Its not based on technique, so it's a lot more fun for the children", says Yoharna. "I think its super important that parents engage in the program, whether it be the surf lifesaving one, or in the pools, because I don't think these skills are taught enough, by parents or in normal swimming lessons."

Some advice for those looking to get the most out of their Vacswim experience, "lots of people come earlier to have that free swim and to get to know the teachers and the other students," says Yoharna, "and even though it's a water safety program, and we do simulated activities where we take off our goggles, because you're not going to have goggles in all environments, I think it's quite important for some children who've never swum before to have a pair with them."

Yoharna has spent her life in the water, and thanks to the opportunities offered to her through Vacswim, she'll be sharing her passion for teaching water safety and skills for a long time to come. She's a testament to true dedication, and the lifelong journey that begins in the water--but she's not the only one, read about Robyn May's personal story here.

All of our talented instructors have something unique to offer. So what are you waiting for? Get in quick, to enrol your water babies in this essential learning experience.

If you would like to kick start a career in our annual Vacswim program it's never too early to apply, click here.