London calling: Jenna’s new adventure

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Many of our Swim School families will be sad to learn that Jenna Caine is leaving AUT Millennium, starting an exciting new chapter in the UK. We met with her to reflect on her contribution to the Swim School over the past five years.

Passion. It’s a word Jenna Caine uses frequently when talking about her job as a swim teacher, but it’s clear it’s more than just a word. It emanates from her. She’s animated when speaking about how much she loves being in the water with young children, or seeing older students develop their technique. And when she’s asked about what she’ll miss when she leaves AUT Millennium Swim School, there’s genuine feeling in her response.

“I’m going to miss the little moments, like kids coming up and giving me hugs and high fives as they’re passing by,” she says, a large smile on her face. Over the last five years, Jenna has become a significant member of the AUT Millennium team. She has touched the lives of many families, some who have specifically requested Jenna to teach each of their children, a sign of her ability as a teacher and the strong connection she has with young swimmers.

Jenna’s new adventure is taking her to London, where she has been accepted with a scholarship to study a Bachelor of Early Childhood at the University of East London. Literally a world away from swim teaching on the North Shore, she knows her path to this new direction was paved by her time as a swim teacher. “I have totally found my passion here,” she says, “and it’s working with pre-schoolers. I love my job, but felt like it was time for a new adventure, and early childhood teaching allows me to keep that bond and connection with kids which I’ve loved here.” She is deeply appreciative of the support her parents have given her as a swim teacher and their encouragement towards her new career.

Jenna, who learned to swim early growing up in South Africa, and joined several squads in her youth, had never considered becoming a swimming teacher until an AUT Millennium lifeguard suggested using her skills to help others. She came to meet the team, had a trial session, and loved it. “I immediately took to it,” she recalls. “There was such excitement in the kids’ faces. Their eyes light up when the see all the fun they can have in the pool, and I loved that.” Qualified through the Swimming New Zealand Swim Teacher Award, and also an accredited Evidence Gatherer, she has taught at all levels, including private lessons and adult learn-to-swim sessions. She also completed a Halberg disability course, which taught her to adapt her teaching methods to children with a variety of disabilities.

A self-confessed ‘in-the-water’ teacher, Jenna loves being able to connect with children and grow their confidence in the water. “You have to show the children that you’re there for them, and build trust,” she says. “It’s that bond which will help them understand that water is not scary. When I’m in the water, I can use my own body to demonstrate, and I can use my imagination a lot more.”

Jenna is a firm believer that children should learn to swim early. “Drowning statistics are so scary,” she says. “Getting kids in the water when they’re young allows them to understand and respect the water. Even if they don’t enjoy it as they get older, at least they’ll have water safety knowledge.” Her experience teaching adults supports this. “Adults know how dangerous the water can be, they’re more aware of that, so they are much more tense and anxious. With children, you can use your imagination and a lot more distraction techniques to calm them down and build the trust that you’re there for them.”

Rachael Jones, AUT Millennium Swim School Manager, says Jenna will be missed by children, parents and the whole AUT Millennium team. “She has added so much value to our team, in the Swim School and the Schools Programme as well. She is the definition of a team player with a reliable, can-do attitude.” Rachael has seen Jenna flourish into an excellent teacher. “She began with primary-aged children, moved into pre-schoolers and babies, and now she can teach any level, including squads,” Rachael tells. “She upskilled to become one of our best supervisors, and she has an amazing amount of patience with children. She is firm but fair, and she can pass on her knowledge just as effectively to anxious new pre-schoolers, confident teens or beginner adults.”

Jenna is incredibly proud to have been involved in many children’s swimming journeys. “There are some children who I taught as babies who are now excelling in the higher classes,” she shares. “It’s really cool to sit back and say ‘I had their first lesson, I started that journey’.” She is grateful for the bonds and friendships she’s been able build with parents as well, and has a special message for them. “It’s been amazing to be part of your family, and help your child become who they are today, in some way,” she says warmly. “Thank you for trusting me with your child. I am really going to miss you all!”

We know we speak on behalf of all Swim School families when we extend our warm and sincere thanks to Jenna for all she has contributed to AUT Millennium, and wish her all the best for her new career!

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