Not just pooling around
Longtime swimming lessons instructor Liz LaFleur leans against a water slide located where she holds her lessons at the home of Jeanie Fontenot on the Vidrine Road. (Gazette photos by Tony Marks)
By: TONY MARKS
For the last 34 years, Liz LaFleur has been doing more than just teaching children how to swim. She has been providing them a skill in these swimming lessons that can one day save their life.
“It’s a life skill that everybody should know,” she said. “It’s something that can save your life, and you can save someone else’s life. We’re very serious at the lessons. I also do water safety in and around the pool as well as boat safety. We put on a life jacket, and they jump in with a life jacket to get that feel of what it is. You have to still control yourself to be upright and not fall forward.”
She continued, “It’s not just learning to swim. It’s learning to swim to save yourself but also learning water safety for a lifetime.”
LaFleur also sees her time spent teaching swimming lessons as a community service in which she finds much pleasure. “I enjoy serving the community in this capacity because I know that I’m helping to make children’s lives and adult lives safer,” she said.
Not only does she serve her home community of Ville Platte, but she also teaches children from other parishes. “I have people that come in from all over the parish including outside the parish like Opelousas and Eunice,” she explained. “I had some kids from Lake Charles this year and some kids from Lafayette. They come stay with their grandparents for two weeks and come to swimming lessons.”
LaFleur started swimming lessons in 1983 while she was a student at LSU working towards a degree in education. “I was working at a pre-school, and they offered swimming lessons,” she said. “I helped and learned from them the first aid and the CPR training. I just continued when I came back to Ville Platte. I worked with other people that were teaching, and then I just went out on my own after that.”
She got interested in teaching these lessons based on some of her own experiences as a child. “I never took swimming lessons when I was a child,” she stated. “My dad just told me to jump in and told me to go to him. It was a very scary experience. I knew the importance when I became a mom, and I wanted my kids to know how to swim. I wanted to be assured that I knew they were able to swim to safety if there was an accident.”
She teaches children from three to 12-years-old and has beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. “I’ve had some kids that only came a couple of years,” she said. “I have some that have come for eight years straight. I have a lot that start at three-years-old and stay with me through my advanced class.”
The age group of her students mirrors that of her students in the classroom. During her time spent as a teacher in the school system, she taught Kindergarten through ninth grade for 31 years before retiring in 2016. LaFleur taught two years in St. Landry Parish and 29 years here in Evangeline Parish. She was also the parish’s reading coordinator for six years.
She explained how the skills in the classroom translate into the pool. “First of all it is maintaining their attention and keeping them structured,” she explained. “It’s like a lesson plan. You start very simple, and you move up and get more complex as the kids get that skill. You move on to the next level to just get stronger at the skill and to perfect the strokes.”
Her time spent as a swimming lessons teacher has been rewarding for her especially when she gets phone calls from parents telling her how well their children are swimming. “It’s very rewarding first of all when you see what the kids learn and to see the parents’ look on their faces when they see what their child has learned,” she said. “The gratitude that the parents show is very rewarding.”
“I have a lot of parents that come to me and say that they don’t know how to swim, and they’re worried that if their child falls in they can’t jump into save them. They feel they will both drown. That’s why I’ve done some adult lessons, and now that I’m retired I might even try to do some in the Fall.”
Aside from these adult lessons, LaFleur also plans to have some mommie-and-me classes once she gets the proper training. These classes, according to her, are “classes where the mom or the dad comes in with the infant, and they learn to swim together.”
“I’m teaching now some of the children of some children that I taught when I first started teaching,” she said. “That’s how long I’ve been doing it.”
She does not know what all the future holds, but she said that she will keep teaching these swimming lessons as long as she can.