End of an Era for First Home-Based Swim School
Jenny Kroon is arguably WA’s longest-serving swim teacher, notching up 43 years under her belt and still getting in the pool to teach up until this year! The proud owner of Jenny’s Swim School, which she ran together with husband Ron Kroon, has finally decided to hang up the togs for a well-deserved retirement, much to our sadness (and that of the school’s many students).
Jenny’s Swim School has been a Royal Life Saving WA Endorsed Swim School for over seventeen years – though the school itself is much older – and Jenny’s involvement with the Royals goes back even further. We would like to recognise and thank both Jenny and Ron for their tireless efforts, tremendous achievement and wonderful contribution to the community in providing valuable swimming and water safety education for so many years.“I had my baby sitting in a pusher on the side of the pool when I first started teaching!”
Jenny first started teaching while living in Kalgoorlie. “They had a public pool, and all they had in the town for swimming lessons was two weeks [run by the] Education Department every year, and two weeks in-term. That was all they had. I got talking to the manager one day, after going to playgroup. I had a three-year-old, and I talked to the mums at playgroup. I got the Education Department’s booklet on [swim] teaching and took it down to what my three-year-old could understand,” she says.
“I designed my own program, because there was no preschool teaching whatsoever in Kalgoorlie, and you didn’t start swimming lessons until you were about 9, I think it was year 3 or year 4 before you started in those days. I started off with four or five mums from playgroup and put them in the pool. I just taught the class for half an hour with these children and then that built to more and more and it got bigger.”
After moving back to Perth, Jenny built a pool at their home in Willetton so she could continue teaching. “Back then there was no licencing. It was many years before licencing or anything came in. Then I went to my next house and did it again, and then the next house and did it again!” When licencing finally came into existence, a representative from AUSTSWIM was sent to assess her work. The assessor was so impressed with what she saw, that she signed the paperwork within ten minutes of seeing Jenny’s program. Jenny’s Swim School was the first of its kind in WA (and possibly Australia), setting the precedent for all home-based swim schools to follow.“At one stage we were teaching 14, 15 classes a day”
Jenny and Ron’s passion for their work is obvious when speaking with them. Thorough and dedicated teachers, they would adapt their teaching style to cater to individual students and ensure every child had the necessary skills for each stage before progressing. “When we pass somebody out of Stage 3, they can genuinely swim Stage 3,” says Ron. Jenny adds, “A lot of people say that we were tougher than what’s required – and we probably border-lined on being so – but I did read the book and say this is what the book requires and that is what I’m doing, and I didn’t make allowances.”
The pair worked together in tandem, each taking the kids at different stages and focusing on particular skills. “Because it’s always the same two teachers with us, the confidence builds with that teacher,” says Ron. Jenny agrees, saying that it’s all about trust.
She recalls a “petrified” young Indian boy who came to them a few years ago, who was “clamming onto my hands immediately, couldn’t get him off the side of the pool! He was very frightened, he was actually shaking with fright. He was a Stage 2 but he couldn’t do back glides, so we basically had to teach him everything from scratch.” After attending lessons with Jenny and Ron every day during summer over the past few years, “he became a very good swimmer. He never missed a day in all that time except for a couple of sick days!
He finished Stage 12 at the end of January,” she beams proudly.
Jenny and Ron remember with affection so many of their students – which number well into tens of thousands after more than four decades of teaching – and say that next summer will be a tough one for them emotionally. The couple have taught children of all backgrounds and abilities to swim and survive over the years, and say it has been a thoroughly rewarding experience seeing the kids develop into strong swimmers under their guidance.
Their life’s work has been incredibly valuable in teaching vital swimming and water safety skills to children, and it is something they have done together with the utmost care and pride. Congratulations once again to Jenny and Ron for their fantastic contribution to the community, and we wish them the very best for their adventures in retirement!
Article courtesy of Royal Life Saving Western Australia