Virginia Hunt Newman
International Award

Virginia Hunt NewmanVirginia Hunt Newman has been called "The Mother of Infant Swimming". She pioneered and focused worldwide attention on the non-forceful, non-traumatic method of teaching infants and preschool-age children to swim, earning great respect as an innovator in the field.

She began her swimming career at the Indianapolis Athletic Club. From 1940 to 1948 she was a diver for the Los Angeles Athletic Club, winning swimming and diving titles. She performed in water shows with Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe for the USO. In 1950, Virginia wrote and directed a series of springboard diving films while working as an aquatic director and swimming coach at the Black Fox Military Academy in Los Angeles.

In 1962, she gained international attention when her star student
Mary Frances Crosby - daughter of motion picture star and singer Bing Crosby, passed the Red Cross Beginner Test at age two years making Mary Frances the youngest to be awarded the certificate at that time. Red Cross Honorary Chairman Johnny Weissmuller presented the certificate to Mary Frances on national television, with coverage by Life, Look and Time magazines. This was the catalyst for Virginia to compile her methods in non-traumatic teaching in her 1967 book, Teaching an Infant to Swim, a bestseller published in England, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Italy and Japan.

Her second book Teaching Young Children to Swim and Dive was published in 1969. The strategy using play and distraction with very young students has been emulated by thousands of instructors worldwide. Some of the thousands of children taught by Virginia include those of film and television starts John Wayne, Bob Hope, Alan Ladd, Bob Newhart, Sonny & Cher, Shari Lewis, and Danny DeVito & Rhea Pearlman. Virginia has organized numerous national and world clinics and workshops on teaching children to swim.

In 1993 Virginia also formalized an organization and series of educational conferences regarding for learn to swim teachers and program directors under the name World Aquatic Babies Congress.  Teaming with Virginia efforts on behalf of babies and young children the organization now operates under the expanded name of World Aquatic Babies & Children.

Virginia and 11 month old nephew David

Virginia Hunt Newman
"The Mother of Infant Swimming"
International Award

The purpose of this annual award is to carry on
the name of Ginny Newman and her philosophy of
teaching babies to swim in a kind, loving, caring, and
gentle way so they learn to love the water !


2024 Newman International Award Recipient to be named at upcoming ISHOF Ceremonies in September
2023 Newman International Award Recipient Amanda Gawthrope
2020 Newman International Award Recipient Patricia Cirigliano

2019 Newman International Award Recipient Robert Strauss

2018 Newman International Award Recipient Johnny Johnson

2017 Newman International Award Recipient Julie Zancanaro 

2016 Newman International Award Recipient Lulu Cisneros

2015 Newman International Award Recipient Jim Reiser

2014 Newman International Award Recipient Torill Hindmarch

2013 Newman International Award Recipient Beatriz Esesarte Pesqueira

2012 Newman International Award Recipient Niko Saito

2011 Newman International Award Recipient Laurie Lawrence

2010 Newman International Award Recipient Daniel Zylberberg

2009 Newman International Award Recipient Francoise Freedman

2008 Newman International Award Recipient Jose Fontanelli

2007 Newman International Award Recipient Yoko Yagashita

2006 Newman International Award Recipient Terje Stakset

2005 Newman International Award Recipient Steve Graves

2004 Inaugural Newman International Award Recipient Rob Mckay


Virginia Hunt Newman International Award

The purpose of this annual award is to carry on the name of "The Mother of Infant Swimming" Ginny Newman and her philosophy of teaching babies to swim in a kind, loving, caring, and gentle way so they learn to love the water!

Amanda Gawthrope Amanda Gawthrope
 2023 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Honoree
 to be presented September 29, 2023 at ceremonies at the
 International Swimming Hall of Fame, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida USA

Amanda's life has been shaped by water, since her mother, as a swimming teacher, taught her to swim in the Cambridge River, in the UK, at the age of two. Her first unaided swim across the river happened just before her third birthday. At the time, this was unprecedented.

Infant aquatics has been Amanda's life calling and she has taught thousands of parents and babies, as well as young children all over the world since the late1990s. First, through Birthlight, a training scheme for teachers, parents and children based in Cambridge, England and then under her own initiative. Teaching ‘swimming better’ has been and still is her life and passion.

She has a unique style of teaching, using games and stories and helping parents to relax, laugh and discover their babies' emotions while working in the water with them.

She has done much for the development of infant aquatics since the early 1990’s.

Amanda’s philosophy and inspiration started growing more rapidly after attending the World Aquatic Babies and Children (WABC) conference in Buenos Aires (2001) where she met many wonderful professional and inspirational teachers from around the world.

Amanda coached the Cambridge Disabled Kids Swim Club (CDKSC) every weekend for years. CDKSC is still going strong to this day! Some of the kids with cerebral palsy became beautiful swimmers and engaged in competitions. Francoise's Freedman’s Downs Syndrome goddaughter, Rosa, who swam a lot as a baby, won a gold medal at the Special Olympics in Germany in 2022.

Amanda has been the first to take GENTLE Infant Aquatics to Russia, continuing almost a decade, introducing a change of culture toward a kinder approach to submersion and parent-infant interactions.

"Russian families were eagerly awaiting her arrival at the training centres in Moscow, to attend a workshop or to be a model during her training. Those minutes during workshops were unforgettable. Feedback from participating families included warm words for Amanda. She was like a fairy opening the hearts of kids.

She inspired a new generation of infant toddler aquatic teachers in Russia and remains a loved and trusted trainer. Teachers came to train with Amanda from all over Russia including countries of the former Soviet Union between 2008 and 2016.

She was the light, and her love of kids was in the air every time she visited our swimming centre. All loved her.

And Amanda was that revolutionary person, teaching instructors to listen, to watch, to respect. She was always a hero- to bring something new, cool for an excited, demanding Russian community, being an emotional and passionate tutor who can inspire total trust in babies and parents and in their abilities. We are in the name of Russian community are thankful to her for the CONTRIBUTION."

-Anna Shkulanova organizer of Birthlight course Russia

Amanda was the first Birthlight and the UK’s Swimming Teachers Association’s (STA) trainer to teach infant aquatics in China and contributed to the development of the Eureka Kids school, the first influential swimming school. She also taught combined Birthlight training courses for several swimming companies, before entering a close partnership with Hi Five Swim School, a highly successful school with franchises all over mainland China in her role as director of training, where she worked to design and develop the Infant Aquatics programme, including a transition to swimming, water polo for kids, mermaiding, water dancing, early stroke development and most influentially, family swimming with both parents in the water to exercise, nurture and discover their baby together.

"Amanda’s humorous spirit, personal charm, and professionalism have won over every teacher and parent, as well as many young fans. She witnessed and contributed to the growth of High-Five, from a small parent-child swim club of less than eight hundred square meters to having over eighty locations nationwide. Everyone who has worked with her adores her and has shared a wonderful journey with her. Amanda has always had a special affection for special babies and toddlers.

In addition to conducting special baby and toddler swimming training, Amanda also facilitated cooperation between High-Five and a local autism rehabilitation institution in Taiyuan. She regularly invited autistic children from the school to swim for free at High-Five. She also urged the High-Five owner to visit the orphanage and bring gifts to the children there."

-Wu, CEO, High Five Swim School, China

Amanda’s most original contribution to infant aquatics is her development of toddler swimming with playful yet effective methods, both for beginner toddlers and for toddlers in transition to unaided swimming.

She co-authored the toddler-early years aquatics training manual with Birthlight’s founder, Francoise Freedman. This manual focuses on the 18 months to 4 years age group. The progression from toddler swimming to early independent swimming, the gap between baby swimming classes with parents and young children's swimming classes, is still an issue worldwide, because 'baby swimming' typically stops in the second year and restarts in school-aged groups. Instead, she felt that there should be continuity in early swimming.

A successful transition to early years unaided swimming is a major challenge in Gentle Infant Aquatics and Virginia Hunt Newman tackled this challenge to increase the confidence and safety of Californian small children, something which must not be forgotten.

Amanda embraced “water parenting”, a concept coined by Francoise Freedman in counter to the dominant focus on stereotyped classes with numbered submersions in a franchise dominated industry. She always encouraged parents to 'float relaxed' with their babies and the videos filmed in Russia in 2014-2015 by Amanda and Francoise are a testimony to expressions of love in the water between Russian parents and their babies and toddlers, contrary to stereotypes Amanda has promoted the idea of water culture.

In the evolution of Birthlight, 'baby-led submersion' was adopted as an antidote to push-pull techniques to get babies under. Amanda has played a central part in developing transitional practices to help teachers implement this new concept without contradicting their past teaching, particularly in Russia and China where performance according to parents' expectations still guides aquatic programmes for babies and toddlers. This is a crucial contribution in the current crossroads between gentle infant aquatics and survival swimming skills approach for babies and toddlers.

Amanda has been vocal and practical in the need to develop compromises that lead to 'child-led swimming' rather than focus on a baby sensory approach that avoids the challenges of submersion. Playful parent submersion and teaching by imitation appealing to infants' sense of humour have been unique strengths in Amanda's teaching throughout her life. A lack of compromise risks pushing parents to water survival skills, which is a great loss to everyone and misrepresents gentle/happy infant aquatics, which was the message of Virginia Hunt Newman.

Amanda has a lively personality. She is an emotional and passionate person who can inspire total trust in babies and parents in their abilities. Parents and teachers still turn to her for guidance in the water and defer to her long and great teaching experience.

Amanda now lives in Dahab South Sinai with her three dogs and six cats, swimming, and free diving daily and teaching aquatics in the warm waters of the Red Sea to the local Bedouin kids, Egyptians and foreigners that have settled in paradise. Her retirement plan, to take free diving lessons so she can spend more time underwater swimming with wild dolphins.

Patricia Cirigliano
 2020 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient


Dr. Patricia Cirigliano started the First Argentine Swimming School for Babies in 1960 together with her holistic method, Matronatacion®, which is a creative and original approach to aquatic initiation for babies that involves human integrity and respect for the child and the family. To date, over 17,000 babies, toddlers and young children from 15 days old have learned to swim via Matronatacion® in her swimming school, whose motto is “Swimming is learned by playing”. Playing is at the very core of learning she feels.


The method’s distinctive characteristics are freedom, game, active mother role, sequential learning in keeping with child maturity development, without conditioned response and didactical use of toys and materials.

Patricia´s observation of inappropriate practices with babies and young children, incapable, out of their own evolution, of confronting adult actions powered her to urge, since 1975, an Ethical Code to be shared, beyond particular methods or techniques, by all teachers engaged in early childhood with the same philosophy around the world.

To that purpose, in 1989 in Barcelona, Spain, Dr. Cirigliano wrote “The Rights of the Swimmer Infant and the Family” that has been translated to several languages.

In 2007 she received a Professional Recognition by UNICEF on her ethics and experience in favor of the protection, care, diffusion, education and promotion of children and adolescent rights.

She graduated in 1960 as National Teacher of Physical Education (from INEF, Argentina), and at present she chairs the General Board of “Instituto Superior de Educacion Fisica ” (ISEFI), founded jointly with her husband Hugo Quinn in 1976.Their innovative project  included the novelty of Prenatal and Early Childhood in the Syllabus of Physical Education. 

She has been an active member of the Argentine Pediatrics Association by participating in congresses and workshops, introducing many original research works. 

Matronatacion® research on early childhood in average and disadvantaged children, the family relationship and mother – child dyad, Learning Human Potential, Maternal Breastfeeding, Mother-child Dyad Bond, Enabling and Rehabilitation, Cardio Frequency Monitoring of the Swimming Baby, Survival Score, Prematurity, Avoidable Injuries, Infant and Adolescent Drowning, have been exposed in educational and pediatric congresses in Argentina, Brazil, Santo Domingo, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, United States, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Greece, Sweden, Japan and Thailand.


In 2001 she organized and chaired the World Aquatic Babies Congress in Buenos Aires with the attendance of Virginia Hunt Newman who was welcomed with honor and affection.

In 1975 she brought together Prenatal Matronatacion assembling her experience in Gymnastics and Hatha Yoga.

As since 2005, as part of the Teachers Training, under “distance” mode, on-line Training Courses are provided.

In 1976 she graduated with honors as post-graduate Psychologist from Universidad del Salvador, Argentina.

In 1981, she graduated as Sociologist from Universidad de Belgrano, Argentina. Her thesis on “Critical Analysis of Aquatic Methodology and Child´s Utmost Individual Rights” was based on 30 years research over 23 countries and 54 different systems.

In 2002 she completed a post-graduate degree in Physical Education and Sports from Universidad Abierta Interamericana, Argentina.

She explored the deficiencies of normal growth and development of babies and children in their early childhood with different disorders and disabilities.

Therapeutical Matronatacion, was coined as result of her beneficial exchanges with pediatricians, neurologists and stimulation and rehab specialists.

In 1997, Patricia dedicated her book “Therapeutical Matronatacion® for Disadvantaged Babies” to handicapped babies.

She was part of Dr. Gustavo Katz team in 1989 in Argentina for the research and experience of 100 Aquatic Births.

As professional journalist, since 1959, she published countless articles locally and abroad and participated  in many TV shows. 

In France, since 1995 for five years in a row, eight of her aquatic videos on pre-natal, normal and disadvantaged babies were awarded the first prize by field institutions.

In 2008, she designed “Acquamor Program” for community extension by the First Argentine Swimming School for Babies: together with her medical – educational Team they provided multiple free activities for parents, specialists and professionals engaged in health and education.

Dra. Cirigliano is member of a great number of associations such as: International Physical Education Federation and Panathlon Club in Buenos Aires and the National Swimming Schools Association in U.S.A..

As from 1991, she has been an active member of the Argentine Pediatrics Association. She participated in congresses and workshops having introduced many original research works.

In 1983, Patricia Cirigliano created a unique Anti-panic program addressed to those who suffer from water panic.

Distinctions in Argentina, Dr. Patricia Cirigliano has received:

1987, Alicia Moreau de Justo Award “An attitude in life” on her professional background.

1995, distinguished by UNICEF for her background and her scientific presentations.

2000, Gold Award by I.S.A. 2000 Teacher College, on her background.

2009, Award to her professional background by the Education Ministry.

2010, Honor Degree: An Invitation to Life by Universidad del Salvador, Medicine College. World Alliance for Patient Safety.

2016, NADI Award (Childhood Swimming Schools and Professionals Association) on her background, innovation and relevant contribution in the field of Swimming Applied to Infant Development.


Dra. Patricia Cirigliano has written:

*Mother- child dyad Primary Prevention - UB.Belgrano University -1982                     

*Baby Swimmers”. Editorial Paidós. Buenos Aires. Argentina-1982

*“Acquatic  Initiation for Babies”. Editorial Paidós - Buenos Aires - Argentina.1989
*Gymnastic Games for Parents and Children- Editorial Paidós-Buenos Aires-Argentina.1986
*Therapeutic Swimming for Babies Matronatación®.. Editorial Médica Panamericana. Auspicio UNESCO - 1997

* “Personal Child Rights at the time of aquatic initiation”. UB. Belgrano University - 1996

*“The book for the Third Millennium Parents” Editorial FUNDASAP – Auspicio de Sociedad Argentina de Pediatría - 2010

*”I´m a Pediatrician” Editorial FUNDASAP Auspicio de Sociedad Argentina de Pediatría- 2015

*“Bye Bye Panic. Welcome pleasure!” – (In print process) – 2020

*“Early Aquatic Survival Score” *Parents book and *Professionals book (in print process) 2020

*“ Matronatacion Secrets”  (in print process) 2020

*“1000 games for Babies Aquatic Background” (in print process) 2020 


 Robert Strauss Robert Strauss
 2019 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient

Professor Robert Strauss, M. Ed. has dedicated his professional career to aquatics. Through Aquatic Education Coach Strauss has enriched the lives of babies, toddlers, school-age children, teens and adults, assisting them to discover how to be safer and stronger swimmers. Coach Robert is well known for the development of instructional skills based on soft-touch and soft-voice; these skills have been taught to 1000’s of teachers around the world.


Coach Strauss and life partner, Jennie, founded swim gym in 1984; re-inventing the swim school business in a warehouse. In 1997, swim gym relocated to the Dave & Mary Alper JCC of Kendall until the end of summer 2018.  In the spring of 2012, swim gym was invited to restructure and operate the Aquatics program at MAR-JCC in Aventura, and in the fall of 2012 the Swim Gym Swim School opened its doors at the Galbut JCC in Miami Beach, its present home and only location. 

The physical plants at the JCC’s improved conditions to teach and coach people of all ages, and turned Swim Gym into one of the Top 25 Authorized Providers of the American Red Cross in the S. Florida Chapter this included certification of water safety instructors and life guards, as well as the learn to swim program, that teaches an average 500 children per week during the school year and approximately 1000 children per week during the summer camps. At present, Robert & Jennie spend some of their time travelling together reinventing the science of learning how to swim and sharing their combined 90 years’ experience of teaching and administration.


Robert’s passion didn’t stop at the learning levels, a 1972 Olympian himself, he coached and trained swimmers to swim fast, motivating and empowering them to reach their maximum potential, guiding them to become members of national and international teams, both in the USA and abroad.


Most educators teach their subject in a classroom; Coach Strauss teaches Water Wisdom in a warm water pool, and coaches in a semi-Olympic pool, fast swimming.


  • The Vision: every person should have the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to SAFELY ENTER AND EXIT A BODY OF WATER
  • The Value: through the art form of swimming, people learn to pay attention, to share, to cooperate, to wait their turn, to become valuable team members, and most important SAFE in, around and under water.
  • The Mission: ‘To eradicate drowning from our communities, through education’
  • The Objective: to assist all participants to discover swimming in order to find the joy and passion coupled to the benefits inherent to swimming in particular and water sports in general.
  • The Goal: Everyone should be Water Wise.
    • Aquatic Wisdom, a decision making process that empowers a person to enter a body of water, only after the exit plan is in place.


From 1979 to present, Robert Strauss contributed to learn to swim and competitive swimming conferences around the globe: México, his country of birth, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Peru, Canada, USA, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, Spain, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Hungary, Austria, China & Iceland he is a well sought after speaker; fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese and German. This millennium alone reflects the cutting-edge techniques utilized by Coach Strauss as evidenced by his speaking engagements.


Born in Mexico in 1952, member of the Mexican national age group team from ’61 to ’67; member of the Mexican Senior National Team from ’69 to ’73, represented Mexico in the Olympic Games in Munich ’72; Pan American Games ’71 in Cali, and Central American ’70 in Panama; World University Games in Italy in ’70 and in Russia in ’73; He also represented Mexico in the World Maccabi Games in Israel ’69 & ’73. Parallel to his commitment to the Mexican national team, Robert attended the U of Miami with a swimming scholarship from Jan. 1971 to May 1974, studied Mass Communications and represented the U of Miami Athletic Department, where he lettered 3 years in a row. 

In 1975, he earned a graduate assistantship to attend the School of Physical Education at the University of Miami, and earned a degree with emphasis in Recreation Administration, Educational Psychology and Physiology in 1977. Robert is 1 of a few who go to college and 42 years after graduation continues to do what he went to school to prepare for.


Robert  has lived in Miami, Florida his entire professional career;  married Jennie in 1975; they have 2 sons Alan (1979) & Jonathan (1982), married to Natalie and Danielle respectively, and 6 grandchildren Siena (2011), Sebastian (2011), Henri (2014), Levi & Stella (2016), Kiara (2018)



November 2018: Descubre la Natación is made available in hard copy

June 2014: Discover Swimming is made available as an E-book

January 2013: Descubre la Natación, un acercamiento con sentido común. E-book

November 2011: Discover Swimming from A to… SWIM - A common sense approach.

January 2007: DVD – Why Swim, If You Can Fly?! Re-recorded

October 2003: DVD: My First 15 Months of Aquatic Life English and Spanish

September 2000: VHS - Why Swim, If You Can Fly?! English and Spanish

May 2000: Swim Teachers Handbook

Johnny Johnson
 2018 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient


Owner Blue Buoy Swim School

Past President, United States Swim School Association

Past President, National Drowning Prevention Alliance

Chairman of the Board, Stop Drowning Now Foundation

Member, Orange County Drowning Prevention Task Force


Johnny Johnson has journeyed from being a student in 1959, to teacher, and now owner of Blue Buoy Swim School in Tustin, CA. In the past 51 years he has taught thousands of children to swim and is now teaching many third generation students.


Blue Buoy is a charter member of the United States Swim School Association, and Johnny is a past president, having served on the Board of Directors on two occasions. In addition to seven years of Board service, he co-chaired the USSSA Infant Toddler Committee and co-authored the teaching course, along with Virginia Hunt Newman, that has been taken by thousands of instructors world-wide. Johnny was awarded the USSSA Guiding Light Award in 1996 and in 2004 he was recognized for his lifelong contributions to swimming and water safety with his induction into the USSSA Hall of Fame. Johnny and his wife Cindy were awarded the USSSA Humanitarian Award in October 2010 for their contributions to drowning prevention.   


In 2013, Aquatics International Magazine selected Johnny as one of its Power 25--one the 25 most influential people in aquatics over the past 25 years.


Johnny has coached four different age group swim teams, synchronized swimming as an assistant to ISHOF inductee Dawn Bean, taught scuba and coached water polo and swimming at Villa Park High School where both his sons achieved All-American honors.

Many Blue Buoy students have achieved elite status in competitive swimming and water polo including Olympians Amy White (Baladis) 1984, Gavin Arroyo 1996 & 2000, Jason Lezak 2000, 2004, 2008 & 2012 , Michael (Milorad) Cavic 2000, 2004, 2008 & 2012, Ryan Brown 2008, Jessica Hardy 2012 and sisters Makenzie and Aria Fischer 2016.


Johnny also taught Chad Hundeby who held the English Channel World Record for 11 years. Chad was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2012.


But it is Johnny’s love of teaching infants and toddlers that keeps his passion burning after 51 years in the pool and still counting. He has always advocated for a nurturing, fun and positively reinforced methodology that provides each student with the ability to preserve their life in the water, enjoy their life in the water and reach their full aquatic potential.  Johnny believes in developing a foundation of breath and balance control, followed by control of movement. All this is made possible by a bond of love, trust and fun!  Blue Buoy’s slogan is: “Great beginnings…lead to great finishes!”

 Julie Zancanaro
 2017 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient

As a young Paediatric Occupational Therapist, Julie Zancanaro of Sydney Australia, would never have imagined she would one day receive the Virginia Hunt Newman Award and be recognised in the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Marrying Deny, an accomplished swim coach, she soon became involved in his successful swim schools, and in 1987 decided she needed to learn to swim properly! Quickly proceeding to her lifeguard certification, her next challenge was to train teachers for the rapidly expanding Zancanaro Swim School.

Trained in developmentally based therapeutic approaches in education and health, Julie was shocked to see swim programs where babies and young children were forced and distressed. Julie sought guidance from the international learn to swim community. Virginia Hunt Newman’s book was a refreshing change, as was the guidance of Laurie Lawrence, Forbes and Ursula Carlile, Claire Timmermans, Cookie Harkin, Sharron Crowley and Rob McKay. Julie could not understand how force had any place in learning to swim, and strongly believed in child centred approaches and learning through play.

After publishing numerous articles on developmentally based approaches, Julie was soon being asked to speak at National and International Swimming Conferences. In 1995, she presented at her 1st International Conference in Melbourne. She was the Australian delegate to the World Conference in Oaxaca in 1997; and a speaker in Toulouse 1999, Wellington 2007 and Vancouver 2009. The attack on the World Trade Centre prevented her from presenting in Argentina in 2001.

In 1996 Julie was an inaugural recipient of the Meritorious Service to the Teaching of Swimming in Australia Award. She was a major contributor to the two Australian accreditation courses for baby and preschool swimming. A contributing author of the first AUSTSWIM Manual for Infant and Preschool Aquatics, and the more recent Swim Australia Teacher of Baby and Toddler Swimming. Since 2014 she has contributed to the first Curriculum and Teacher Training Program for indigenous communities in the Pacific, Let’s Swim.

Julie produced a video on a Developmental Approach to Baby Swimming in 1998, and has made over 100 presentations at Australian national conferences in 25 years. She has directly facilitated the accreditation of thousands of swim teachers in Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and the Pacific.

In 2001 Deny and Julie built Hills Swimming, a customized Indoor Swim Centre to cater for children from 3 months to National Swimmers, focussing on world's best practice in Early Childhood Aquatic Education. Of the 2500 students each week over half are under 5, and many have Individual Learning Programs to cater for Sensory Processing Disorders and other learning challenges. The team of 65 at Hills Swimming inspire her, and allow her time to assist national accrediting bodies to raise standards in early swimming.

A champion of Respecting the Rights of Young Children in Aquatic Education, Julie is continuing to campaign for stronger industry self-regulation. She delivers accreditation courses for Royal Life Saving Australia, AUSTSWIM and Swim Australia, and has always remained bipartisan. Sitting on national committees and working groups across the industry helps achieve the best outcome for the children they serve. 

 In 2016 Julie was the inaugural inductee into the Australian Swim School Hall of Fame for contribution to swimming education. She is currently on the Pedagogy Committee of the Australian Swim School Association and has recently been appointed to the Board of Advisors of the International Swim School Association.

Having withdrawn from her Master of Science at the University of Sydney to open a new swim school, Julie is now resuming her studies, undertaking research into developmentally appropriate practices in early aquatics.

Julie is very honoured and proud to continue the legacy of Virginia Hunt Newman, promoting gentle and developmentally sound swimming pedagogy for our most vulnerable little swimmers.

Lulu Cisneros  Lulu Cisneros
 2016 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient

The career of Monterrey Mexico’s Lulu Cisneros has flowed from competitive swimmer, to teacher, to coach, to model swim school owner/director, to spokesperson around the world for joyful aquatic programs for babies and young children.

Lulu began teaching at 13 under swim coach and mentor Dionisio Dominquez as she went on to become state and national champion in 100 and 200 butterfly with the Monterrey Dorados. She was an exchange student and swim team member at Clearwater High School in Florida USA.

While working toward her degree in business administration including studies in pre-school education and infant psychology she was the first swim coach at University of Monterrey and lead her team to a national championship among private universities. She met her husband to be, Mauricio Hernandez, during this time and together they founded Lulu Cisneros Educación Acuática in 1989.

For her swim school she has created a system for babies and toddlers called “Early Aquatic Stimulation Program” that combines water, music and games to learn to swim in a cheerful environment putting the youngest children together with their parents in the pool. She was also among the first to create a video in Spanish on teaching babies to enjoy the water and inevitably learn to swim.


A life changing trip to San Francisco for the 1991 National Swim School Association (NSSA) Conference made a big difference in her professional life. With much excitement she began making friends and exchanging teaching-learning strategies with other owners including Beatriz Esesarte from Oaxaca Mexico and Robert Strauss in Miami – all became her teachers. More travels to conferences, and exchanges followed.

With the support of Australian, John Bainbridge, Beatriz Esesarte and Nelson Vargas, Mexico City swim school owner and former Mexican Olympic swim team assistant coach, Lulu brought an NSSA Infant-Toddler teacher certification course from the NSSA in 1994 creating a course book entitled “Natación Para Bebés, Una Propuesta De Acercamiento Afectivo”

Knowing how much she benefitted by meeting with others Lulu was instrumental in bringing the 1997 World Aquatic Babies Congress conference to her home country which sparked much interest and growth in baby swimming. She followed that by hosting the 2002 Annual NSSA Conference to Monterrey – the only time it has been held outside the United States to date.

Her swim school received the 1996 Nuevo Leon Quality Award (Mexico), being the first swim school to receive this honor. This gave Lulu the opportunity to meet with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo. In 2002 Lulu received the Guiding Light Award from the USSSA, and in 2011 she received the Kelly Ogle Memorial Safety Award from the World Waterpark Association (WWA).

Lulu has conducted teacher training and certification courses as well as being a featured speaker at conferences in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala and Costa Rica.


She still finds time to train as a masters competitive swimmer and is a state, national and world champion. Recently she participated in her first triathlon.


Jim Reiser
2015 Virginia Hunt Newman
International Award Recipient

A mother commented about Jim Reiser:  “It’s like having Mr. Rogers teach your child to swim.  Only a parent could teach with that much love.” 

A 3rd generation teacher and coach, Jim Reiser of Columbia, South Carolina USA began teaching in 1982.  As a teenager, Jim taught under the supervision of his father in Johnstown, Penn., ironically, just minutes away from the “Home of the original Tarzan,” ISHOF’s Johnny Weissmuller.     


After teaching under his father’s supervision for eight years, Jim went off to get his college degree.  By his sophomore year, the ambitious undergrad was leasing the California University of Pennsylvania pool to run a swim lessons program that taught over 1400 children to swim from 1990-1993.  During this time, he also earned an undergraduate degree in Business Administration.  While his undergraduate degree in business would serve him well, Jim’s true passion was in teaching, coaching, and water safety.   

Because of Jim’s outstanding swim program at the Pennsylvania college, graduate director Dr. John Spurgeon offered Jim a Teaching Assistantship in Aquatics and Physical Education at the University of South Carolina.  Jim gratefully accepted the honor and moved to Columbia, South Carolina to earn his master’s degree.

From 1993-1995, Jim studied at one of the most highly regarded Physical Education Departments in the country.  His advisors and mentors would afford him with the opportunity to apply all his research to skill acquisition and the development of young swimmers and athletes.  During this time Jim served as a graduate assistant to Dr. Richard Hohn where he would learn how to train, develop, and assess the effectiveness of the undergraduate physical education majors.  Jim also taught all of the undergraduate aquatic courses.  After earning his master’s degree in 1995, the department hired Jim to be its’ “Swim Professor” where he served as a faculty member until 2005.

While in graduate school, Jim also launched The Swim Lessons Company, and he began to design a template for training swimming instructors which would eventually become known as Swim Lessons University.  The Swim Lessons Company not only has four locations, Jim’s swim school has also been teaching nearly 2000 second graders every year since 2005 through a contract it reached with Richland School District One in Columbia, SC. 

Jim says he will be forever grateful to people that went out of their way to give him words of encouragement and really inspired him to stay the course as a non-traditional venture like this hasn’t always been easy.  People like former USC Football Coach Lou Holtz and USC Basketball Coach Eddie Fogler both gave him words of inspiration and praised his teaching as I taught their grandchildren and children to swim. 

In 1995, Jim wrote and produced his first video, Teaching Swimming Effectively as his master’s degree project.   A few years later, Steve Graves became another one of those people who had a profound impact on Jim’s career.  Steve, the founder of NSSA and a close friend of Virginia Hunt Newman, came across Jim’s video and was impressed.   Steve invited Jim to speak at the 1998 NSSA Conference in Orlando and their relationship developed from there.   “Steve Graves has been one of the most influential people in the direction that my career path has taken.  I will be forever grateful for Steve as both a mentor and friend.” 


In 1999, Jim convinced a local banker to loan him $35,000 to produce “Home Swim School,” which eventually became what’s now known as “Swim 101,” a video-based certification course for teaching preschoolers to swim.  Some of the biggest names in swimming gave it rave reviews.  From the late, legendary Olympic Swimming Coach, Richard Quick to world-renowned coach and author Dr. Earnest Maglischo who wrote:

“Jim Reiser has produced some of the most interesting and innovative techniques I have ever witnessed.  His methods will cause children to look forward to their swimming lessons rather than fear them, because his methods stress fun as well as skill mastery, they will signal a lifelong love affair with the water for young swimmers.”

Jim’s creation of Swim Lessons University, now a world-renowned swim instructor training and certification agency has earned him respect from around the globe.  Swim Lessons University is the official Learn-to-Swim Program of the World Aquatic Babies and Children’s Congress.  Most recently, AAU Swimming (Amateur Athletic Union) has partnered with Swim Lessons University to train their coaches, and help AAU grow the sport through swimming lessons in traditionally undeserved communities.  SLU is also recognized by the American Camp Association (ACA) and USA Swimming’s “Make a Splash” program.  In the United States, SLU is now the Instructor Certification Training Program of choice by recreation departments, YMCAs, pool management companies, and swim schools in 41 states.  Swim Lessons University can also be found in 52 countries from the U.S. to New Zealand.

Jim Reiser has been honored over the years by several organizations.  He has been the recipient of the Adolph Kiefer “Water Safety Person of the Year” award by USA Swimming, the “Community Lifesaver Award” by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, and the “President’s Award” by the World Aquatic Babies and Children’s Congress. 

On receiving the Virginia Hunt Newman Award at the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Reiser says, “It’s such an honor to be mentioned along with the other recipients and it’s so humbling to receive an award named after Virginia, “The Mother of Infant Swimming.”  She pioneered and focused worldwide attention on the non-forceful, non-traumatic method of teaching infants and preschool-age children to swim, and I plan to continue to influence others the way she has influenced me.” 


Jim is happily married to his wife Heather and they have three children, Jeb, Nolan, and Rex. 

Torill Hindmarch  Torill Hindmarch, M.A.
2014 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient

Torill Hindmarch first started with baby swimming in 1975 in Bristol England. She believes her most important work was done in Norway in the early 1980’s when she pioneered aquatic activities for babies and toddlers in the Oslo region. In 1982 Torill developed a teaching program for her local branch of the Norwegian Lifesavings Society (NLS) that moved away from “training” babies.

Since 1988 she has worked to promote and change the methodology in Norway away from the dive orientated methods that prevailed at that time. Torill was strongly influenced by Daniel Zylbeberg and his work in Paris after the conference in 1988. This led her to rethink the practice in Norway which created quite a stir at the time. She saw that not all babies were happy in classes and the approach was still too forceful for the more sensitive families. Torill was putting tools into the hands of inexperienced parents with little background in aquatic education. This lack of experience and understanding meant that parents were exceeding the limits of safe activity which resulted in negative reactions from babies and children with lasting consequences. She had to change their approach even if it alienated her from many swimming instructors at the time.

Torrill Hindmarch has a Master’s Degree in Early Years Education and has managed two preschool and child care centers in Norway, promoting Forest School methodology. Her passion and knowledge of the advantages of movement in water was instrumental in developing programs in these centers for weekly sessions at the pool for the preschoolers, and in particular, those children that were developmentally challenged. This pedagogical approach was effective and enhanced speech and motor skills development as well as social skills. This background has been a great advantage in developing a child centered approach in baby swimming.

Early Childhood Education has been an important part of Torill’s working life; her experiences gave her an appreciation of the importance of strong relationships between teacher and pupil. By listening to the pupil, the teacher becomes a more effective teacher. The advances in research into child development and learning have been central to the development of her teaching philosophy in aquatics for young children in Norway. From Vygotsky through Meltzoff, Kuhl and Gopnik to the work of Trevarthen, she found inspiration and wonder at the power of social interaction and the child’s desire to communicate. The tiniest baby is ready from birth to communicate with its closest careers and is ready to learn if only we take time to make that connection. This interactive communication is an important part of the aquatic learning process. This and the sheer joy of being at one with the aquatic environment is the cornerstone of her pedagogical approach.

Torill now works for the Norwegian Life Saving Society as an education consultant at the head office in Oslo with responsibility for education in water safety and drowning prevention (Section for families and children), curriculum development, instructor qualifications and teacher support.

Torill has a background in competitive swimming and lifesaving, and parallel to her work with babies, she has been educating swimming and lifesaving instructors for the NLS and the NSF since the 80’s. She helped establish sport lifesaving in Norway, serving two terms as chair of the sports committee and was the national coach for life saving for four years. She has also gained inspiration from several teachers in the field of antenatal aquatics, following programs from France and Australia that focus on preparing the mother for birth, breathing and relaxation exercises and encouraging the connection between mother and child at this early stage. Torill believes all this has helped her develop a holistic approach to teaching swimming, survival and water safety to young children and their parents.

Beatriz Esesarte Pesqueira
2013 Virginia Hunt Newman
International Award Recipient

Beatriz Esesarte Pesqueira of Oaxaca, Mexico is the recipient of the 2013 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award according to announcement by the World Aquatic Babies & Children Network (WABC) who oversees the nomination and selection. The honor is given by the organization annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to conducting aquatic programs for babies and young children in a kind, loving, caring, and gentle way so they learn to love the water.

Beatriz is the founder and director of Acuarela Natación Formativa begun in 1988. She has since worked continuously to find better ways to teach to swimming by applying scientific research in psychomotor learning. Over the past 25 years she has developed Acuasomatic Education that combines human evolution and the learning process with the naturally stimulating water environment.  Respect for water is necessary to be “waterwise” she says.

Beatriz developed a specialized learning pool for different age groups and physical conditions. The design enables her to control the level of stimulation that is part of learning to swim by providing different depth platforms that enable anyone, despite their height or age, to explore initially the water from the upright position, which is the better way to empower the trust and confidence of the individual she feels. Once having overcome the initial inhibitions, students can adopt the horizontal position in water as a result of spontaneous experimentation.  

The multidisciplinary approach Beatriz uses brings together findings and theories from recognized scientists and experts -  Wallon, Winnicott, Spitz, Piaget, Bowlby, Freud, Reich and especially Vitor da Fonseca who came to collaborate with her in 2010 validating her teaching process based on the Psychomotor Human System and the Tritemporality of Human Motricity that involves the sociocultural process as an important element of learning.

The presence of the mother in the baby swim classes is a must Beatriz states because of the seven phylogenetic competences: sustained attention, interaction, affiliation (human interaction with immature beings), gesticulation, and imitation.

Beatriz is a recognized for her success in building her swimming instruction business as well as sharing her philosophy and methods with other swimming professionals as she is frequently a featured speaker at educational conferences on swimming around the world.

 Niko Saito Niko Saito - Japan    more. . ..
2012 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient

Niko Saito is among the first to introduce baby swimming in Japan. She studied baby swimming with Ester Williams and Crystal Scarborough in Los Angeles in the 1960s then established her own program for babies, young children, and pregnant women under the name Saito Aquatic Academy in Nagoya, Japan.

In the years following, she put a title to her aquatic instruction philosophy and methods calling them “Aquamics”. This system makes use of the water and rhythm to help children develop mentally as well as physically. Class activities pair swim activities with other learning and child development activities..

Live music flows as a musician plays a special keyboard poolside during classes. Students focus on special cards called “Pettanco” as they learn their colors, shapes, and musical notes as they also move about and swim around the pool. Songs are sung to the happy music, games are played among parents and their children, and toys grasp the attention of even the unsure student. There is plenty of pleasant stimulation for students during their Aquamics class.ive music flows as a musician plays a special keyboard poolside during classes. Students focus on special cards called “Pettanco” as they learn their colors, shapes, and musical notes as they also move about and swim around the pool. Songs are sung to the happy music, games are played among parents and their children, and toys grasp the attention of even the unsure student. There is plenty of pleasant stimulation for students during their Aquamics class. Aquamics has brought forward in Japan the use of aquatic activities including baby swimming as a beneficial part of early child development.  A child’s physical development as well as his or her personality and vitality can be enhanced by participating.   

Niko has authored numerous books.Niko has authored numerous books.  She wroteeShe wrotee Baby Swimminggg(1976) which received designation as a “Book of the Year” by the Japan Library Association. She authoreddd Baby Swimming and Maternity Swimminggg(1987). She is also aaa respected author of history books in Japan – she has 10 to her credit!!!   

Niko has made presentations at scholastic meetings and conferences including the Japan Physical Pedagogical meeting, the Pediatrician Symposium for Pediatric Sports, and several times at the World Aquatic Babies & Children Network conferences.Niko has made presentations at scholastic meetings and conferences including the Japan Physical Pedagogical meeting, the Pediatrician Symposium for Pediatric Sports, and several times at the World Aquatic Babies & Children Network conferences.

As a youth, Niko was a competitive swimmer and held a Junior National Freestyle record in Japan.As a youth, Niko was a competitive swimmer and held a Junior National Freestyle record in Japan..  She earned a degree in nursing which has help in working with handicapped children in the pool as well with those with conditions such as asthma and autism..  She earned a Graduate degree from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Nagoya City University..

Niko has always had an affectionate way of teaching. Virginia Hunt Newman, an ISHOF Pioneer in baby swimming, said, “Aquamics is a brilliant way to teach babies and young children with care and gentleness.”     


Laurie Lawrencee
2011 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient


It seems that Laurie Lawrence may just have a touch of chlorine in the blood and was always destined to be a teacher of swimming and a coach. As a young boy his father managed the Tobruk pool in Townsville. The family lived in a small unit above the pool entrance. There he was exposed to Australia’s dominance of International swimming when the Australian Olympic team trained there prior to the 1956 Olympic Games. In those early days he hunted and treasured autographs from Australian swimming legends Dawn Fraser, Jon Henricks, Murray Rose, Lorraine Crapp, David Thiele, and other Australian Olympic team members. Laurie fondly remembers giving his bed to Jon Henricks when the Lawrence family billeted Henricks during the 1956 Olympic training camp in Townsville.


As a young man he left the pool to complete his studies a Bachelor of Arts, a Diploma of Teaching, and a Diploma of Physical Education. He represented Australia in Rugby Union and toured New Zealand with the Wallabies in 1964 before becoming a swimming teacher and coach.

His quest for perfection saw his swimmers win world championships, break world records, win Olympic Gold medals, honoured as Australia’s sports coach of the year by Australia’s Sporting Hall of Fame and inducted into ISHOF as an honor coach.

He represented Australia as a coach at Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 and has been an integral part of the Australian Olympic team at every Olympic Games since and has been selected to assist the AOC in London as well. London will be his eighth Olympic Games living in the village and being part of the Australiann Olympic team.

His passion for baby swimming began with the birth of his first daughter Jane in 1975. He purchased Virginia Hunt Newman’s book and the journey began. After seeing how good Jane became he documented Kate his next daughter’s progress on film. Emma his youngest continued the passion and research into baby swimming and now as young women Jane Kate and Emma all work in the family business.

Emma and Laurie spent five years documenting and creating as a resource for swimming teachers all round the world with a particular emphasis on infant aquatics based on progressive skill development determined by the growth and development of the child.

The first grandchild, Evie, has inspired the creation of a newly released iphone, ipad app for swimming teachers and parents. This app will add to the three video DVDs , three books, and online swimming teaching resources already created by Laurie.

His internationally acclaimed Water Safety Program "Kids Alive Do the Five" has seen drowning in Australia plummet from 63 in the 2000 to 33 in 2010.

His latest Kids Alive Water Safety DVD “Living with Water” has been done in conjunction with the Australian Government as a drowning prevention measure for children under five. It is being given to the parents of every newborn in Australia for four years as a drowning prevention measure. To date more than 800,000 DVDs have been distributed in Australia. He eagerly awaits Australia’s drowning statistics later in the year to judge the success of this latest project.


Daniel Zylberberg
2010 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient


Daniel Zylberberg is a clinical psychologist in Paris, France. He works with children in a psychiatric hospital and teaches infant psychology at the Medical University of Paris XIII.Daniel Zylberberg is a clinical psychologist in Paris, France. He works with children in a psychiatric hospital and teaches infant psychology at the Medical University of Paris XIII.

In the early 1980's he put his education and experience to the aquatic field by establishing an experimental babies swimming program. At the time in France there were few such programs or awareness of their benefits.  He conducted research focused on observing the natural and spontaneous behaviors in infants while participating in an aquatic classroom environment. With friends, doctors, teachers and students, programs were established at additional aquatic centers and were well received. 

Zylberberg has been a leader in educating teachers and program directors as they establish and operating infant aquatic programs. In 1974 he was a leader in the founding of the French FAAEL (Awakening and Leisure Aquatic Federation). Today there are over 1000 aquatic centers throughout France with baby programs and many times more certified baby swimming teachers.  Daniel was the French delegate and a lecturer at the 2nd World Aquatic Babies Congress (WABC) in Los Angeles in 1993 speaking on integrating babies with disabilities into aquatic programs.  He spoke at the 3rd WABC in Melbourne (1995) on making curriculum more physically active and enriching. And the 4th congress in Oaxaca, Mexico (1997) on the researched benefits of babies being active in the unique environment water provides. 

Zylberberg was the moderator and lead organizer of the 5th WABC conference in Toulouse, France (1999) - attended by over 500 professionals from 27 countries and injected also presentations on young children swimming. He has given consult on teacher training programs in Italy with the WISP organization, in Spain with the SEAE, and in Argentina with FAEP - all national swim teacher education organizations.  He's also lectured in Norway, Finland, United States and Germany.

Daniel is the author of numerous books and articles. "The babies in the pool" (title translated in English) has been translated also into Japanese, "The Ages of Swimming" has published in French and Italian.  He has been seen on numerous French television programs featuring swimming babies. Since 2008 Zylberberg has served as expert member and advisor to the French Swimming Federation’s special commission on baby and children's learn to swim programs.

Inspired by Dr. Maria Montessori's learning philosophies theories especially that teachers and parents should shape the learning environment to help the baby or child do things for themselves. Daniel Zylberberg acceptance comments


Françoise Freedman
2009 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient

Françoise Freedman, with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, has more than twenty years experience teaching and educating instructors in water babies programs from her London area home base. She founded and operates Birthlight - an organization focusing on a holistic approach to pregnancy, birth and babyhood that includes an original water babies program and a pre and postnatal aquanatal program.Françoise Freedman, with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, has more than twenty years experience teaching and educating instructors in water babies programs from her London area home base. She founded and operates Birthlight - an organization focusing on a holistic approach to pregnancy, birth and babyhood that includes an original water babies program and a pre and postnatal aquanatal program.

Growing up as a competitive swimmer in the central region of France Françoise credits her coaches with instilling a drive for excellence without losing the fun of swimming. As a teen she spent summers teaching reluctant children and learned that gentle progressions got children happily relaxing and floating in preparation for more learning more advanced skills.

Later as a young fieldworker in Peruvian Amazonia, swimming was again a useful and natural activity – whether to dive down to catch fish in the streams that flow from the Andes or as a daily recreational treat for all children or for bathing. She saw older children teaching little tots to swim as part of looking after them as well as parents crossing rivers with babes on their backs. Francoise was very much in a natural water environment and thereby also observed the movements of pink dolphins, otters and other water creatures swimming with their young.

Returning to London to continue her education academically as well as aquatically, she set up a small group of families who were interested in ‘swimming with their babies’ and incorporated the gentle playful ways witnessed in the Amazon. The water sessions became the highlight of each week in Cambridge – Françoise then having children of her own. She states that Virginia Hunt Newman’s book Teaching an Infant to Swim was an early inspiration to teaching babies and young children.

The presentation of her first film ‘Water Parenting’ in 1995 launched the Birthlight approach to infant aquatics with a focus on affective communication between parents and babies in a water environment. The film conveyed the message that water could be conducive to an easier birth, in the water or not, and that it could also help parents bond with their babies at any time by finding ease together in the water.

Her video ‘Swimming with Babies’ came next and then her book ‘Water Babies’. Also working at the time as an academic medical anthropologist at Cambridge University Françoise says that her university colleagues were surprised to see a double page article on Birthlight baby swimming in the Times, and then on the front page of the Daily Mail – the leading UK newspapers.

Françoise continues to impart gentle ways through her Birthlight organization - making sure teachers always create a wave of warmth and a good time in the water for children and parents.



José Fontanelli
2008 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient

Swimming teacher José Fontanelli has a passion for baby swimming. And the word ‘affectionate’ describes his manner in having taught tens of thousands of young pupils over the past 40 years in his homeland of Sao Paulo, Brazil. ‘Fonta’ as he is called loves his babies!

Fontanelli uses research and techniques in a variety of disciplines to speed their development and enhance the comfort of students and their parents who accompany them in the pool.  

Research has shown that children in utero recognize different people outside the womb and their mother’s reaction to those people.  Applying this, Fontanelli was among the first in the world to extend the ‘starting time’ for a baby swimming to the pre-natal period – where expectant mothers come to the pool for movement and exercise experiences.  Mother benefits and at the same time becomes comfortable with the pool classroom and with the teacher. After baby is born the mother returns for ‘baby & parent’ classes, and mother is well at ease and can concentrate on baby and the class program.  

Research has shown that special difficulties during gestation and child birth are associated with future problems of socialization within children. Fontanelli asks mothers about their pregnancy and delivery to better know the child.

Both parents join baby in pre-natal and beginning classes at his Fontanelli Swim Club. Classes are relaxed.  It is not common for babies to be breast-fed during class again a blending natural ways within his aquatic classroom.  Laughter, song and activity are primary components.  The joy created makes learning to swim inevitable.

Fontanelli has authored the book Between Pleasure and Technique – focusing on aquatic development of babies and toddlers.  He has been featured in newspaper and magazine articles and is often a presenter at swim teacher conferences throughout Latin and South America. José has trained numerous teachers in his affectionate, child-centered, non-traumatic methods and has been the organizer of numerous educational conferences and training clinics on baby swimming and water exercise for pregnant mothers.

 Yoko receives award from Steve Graves WABC President

Yoko Yagishita
Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient

Yoko Yagishita exemplifies the spirit of the Virginia Hunt Newman Award and the pioneering, innovative spirit of Virginia herself. Both are little dynamos. Both share a special heart for babies. Both share the foresight, intelligence and conviction to foster teaching methods that allow the tiniest swimmers to grow and learn in their aquatic environment in tear free and positive lessons.

Yoko graduated with two college degrees, the first from Nihon University and the latter from Keio University. She is also a licensed Japan Counseling Association Psychological Counselor.

It was during baby swim classes that she realized what a wonderful experience it was to spend precious time with her son enjoying the water. So in 1980 Yoko was trained to become a baby swim teacher and received “Baby Swim Instructor “qualification from the Japan Swimming Club Association. In 1990 she was inspired by Virginia Hunt Newman at the World Aquatic Babies conference (WABC) in Tokyo. Yoko adopted a,”wait until the flower blooms” swimming program. In Japan, Yoko introduced her style of teaching in a joyous manner in a parent/child group class format, never forcing her tiny students to perform skills.

Furthering her credentials, Yoko again attended the WABC conference in Melbourne, Australia in 1995. Yoko was inspired by a video showing smiling babies, above and under the water. She was so moved that she eventually made 12 overseas trips to the United States to study, observe and absorb these gentle methods. During her first several years she studied; during the 8 remaining years she acted as a guest teacher in the United States.  To finance these two week learning journeys, Yoko worked all night long driving a delivery  truck etc. for an entire year, all this in addition to teaching her beloved baby students during the day.

According to Yoko, the Melbourne conference and her broadened perspective on baby swimming world wide changed her life completely. Having been able to reach Virginia Hunt Newman, the mother of baby swimming, and be exposed to those programs that considered the whole child started a new chapter of life for Yoko. She was a woman on a mission to be a part of something wonderful in the lives of children, their parents and in training gentle, patient teachers. Yoko began to realize her dreams. In America, Yoko, speaking only several words of English her first years, communicated with her smile, playfulness and gentle manner. Nothing could stop her, even a bout of cancer which she fought and survived with typical strength and an optimistic attitude. Her positive teaching techniques for babies, while also integrating special needs children into her classes, slowly began to spread to clubs and aquatic programs though-out Japan. She has combined the best of Western technique with Eastern to make a culture and community of  nurture, joy and fun for mothers, fathers and their babies.  

Today, Yoko has been featured in many Japanese media, including many mothering and baby magazines, such as “Akasugu” and NHK Educational Journal, as well as appearing on “Good Morning Japan”. Yoko now swims three days per week and practices yoga.

Yoko is opening baby swim programs for the Tipness group of sports clubs. She has revamped or begun baby swim programs in multiple locations in Tokyo, and in Nagoya, Osaka, Yokohama and Kanto.  She is scheduled to open a new program in the prestigious Tokyo National Gymnasium.  Yoko has trained over 500 teachers in Japan, creating positive shockwaves through-out the country with countless thousands of happy babies and their parents smiling in the water from coast to coast.



Terje Stakset
2006 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient

Selected for as the 2006 recipient for his commitment and being a wonderful example of Virginia Newman's gentle methods of teaching babies to swim, giving voice to those not yet able to speak for themselves.

Terje represents Virginia's Newman's philosophy not only in the pool as an instructor, but also in his conference presentations and uniquely  in the theater as the producer of his one-man stage show of the evolution of gentle baby swimming.  This ingenious production  pays tribute to Virginia, and follows her vision of using play and kindness, not force and tears to teach babies to swim.  His father was a swimming teacher for 25 years. 

Terje traveled from his home in Norway to receive the award in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the Swimming Hall of Fame's annual ceremonies, on May 12, 2006.  

Terje, a graduate of the Business Academy of Oslo, is currently manager of the Norwegian Lifesaving Federation in Oslo and Baerum.  He has been an instructor in swimming and life saving for 27 years and a teacher of baby swimming for 15 years.  Moreover, he trains instructors in swimming, baby swimming, lifesaving, CPR and first aid and for 27 years he was the vice-president of the Norwegian Lifesaving Association. 

In 1990 and 1991, his team won the Norwegian National Lifesaving Championship for male teams.  In 1992, he represented Norway in the World Championships in Sweden. 

Terje's baby swim school is part of the Oslo and Baerum District of the Norwegian Lifesaving Association.  He has been an advocate of Virginia Hunt Newman's gentle approach to teaching babies to swim.  He has been an international speaker at Newman's World Aquatic Baby Congress conferences in France and Hawaii as well as a international conference in Helsinki, Finland.   In October 2004 he was Director for the Nordic Conference on Baby Swimming in Oslo.  In 2002 he produced a baby swim video "The Truthful Face of Baby Swim".  In April 2006 he completed a second DVD titled: "How to Teach Young Children to Swim." 

Terje is a wonderful example of Virginia's gentle methods of teaching babies to swim, giving voice to those not yet able to speak for themselves.  Terje's leadership and commitment represent Virginia's philosophy not only in the pool as an instructor, but also in his conference presentations.  Through his use of poetry and unique theatrical acting when producing his one-man stage show, he "shows off" the evolution of the gentle baby swimming approach.  This ingenious production - entitled "Baby Swim Fro  the Very Start and Into the Future" pays tribute to Virginia, and follows her vision of using play and kindness, not force and tears to teach babies to swim. 

Using a poetic verse to describe his feelings for Virginia's method of teaching Terje writes:

Virginia Hunt Newman was a Pioneer,

And She Made It Quite Clear,

Non-Forceful is the Only Way,

And in That Direction it Has to Stay,

Be Gentle from the Very Start,

If You're Going to be Smart.


Steve Graves

2005 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient


For many years, Steve Graves has been helping to improve aquatic programs for young children on local, national and international levels. Steve's leadership and promotion of Virginia Newman's non-traumatic style of teaching has been felt worldwide. 

In 1998, Virginia selected Steve to be President of her World Aquatic Babies Congress (WABC), the professional organization for swim teachers working with infants and toddlers, which Virginia founded in 1993.  World conferences on baby swimming followed on baby swimming in Toulouse, France (1999), Buenos Aires, Argentina (2001), and Honolulu, Hawaii (2003), which were attended by representatives from 34 countries.  He developed WABC's website using it to send electronic, around-the-world newsletters on the subject of infant-toddler aquatic instruction.  Hundreds of instructional articles were archived in several languages on the WABC website.

In 1988, Steve founded the National Swim School Association (NSSA), a trade association for swim school owners in the United States.  He served as the association's President for the first five years, then as Executive Director through 2001.  During this time, annual conferences included presentations by the leading international authorities on designing aquatic programs for babies and young children.

In 2000 Steve received the Paragon Award at the International Swimming Hall of Fame.  He had promoted aquatic safety by facilitating a large research study on the expectations of parents with regard to their expectations and results in having the children enrolledcreating infant-toddler teacher certification and public awareness programs in drowning prevention for NSSA.  These programs greatly benefited NSSA's 1500 member swim teachers and the 160,000 students taught each year.

1997-2006 was a part-time Executive Director of the Florida West Coast Chapter of the Florida Swimming Pool Association, an affiliate of the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (formerly NSPI). He brought attention to pool industry leaders on 'right thinking' with regard to backyard pool safety - that it wasn't just the parents job and it wasn't just learning to swim (which takes time) - that there is a collection of drowning prevention strategies that need to be applied to be a more complete preventative.

When it comes to teaching young children to swim, Steve like Virginia, feels that the gentle, positive approach is best.

A Danvers and Normal, Illinois native and a former college All-American freestyle swimmer for Coach Archie Harris, at Illinois State University also in Normal, Steve was a swim coach, teacher and aquatic program director from 1969 to 1993 in Illinois, Arizona and Florida.  Beyond his current WABC activities, Steve still finds time to teach swimming a few hours a week. Says his university swim coach Archie Harris, "Steve did it on just plain hard work. He is a go-getter."


Rob McKay
2004 Virginia Hunt Newman International Award Recipient

Rob McKay of Boca Raton, Florida USA has been named the first recipient of the Virginia Hunt Newman International Award.  McKay accepted the award May 8th at ceremonies at the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) annual awards ceremonies May 8, 2004 in Ft. Lauderdale.  The newly created award to the person is presented to that person who "exemplifies the teaching philosophy of Virginia Hunt Newman" said Ed Newman, Virginia Newman's son.  

Virginia Hunt Newman, considered the "mother of infant swimming" is a pioneering advocate of the gentle, positive approach to teaching babies to swim, author of the first book on infant swimming, "Teaching an Infant to Swim" she is honored into both the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the National Swim School Hall of Fame.

McKay commented that "Virginia Hunt Newman is a "shining light" for her work with very young children. Virginia's love and respect for children, her support and consul to those seeking to teach babies to swim in a gentle manner has been constant inspiration to me.  I treasure her friendship, her insight, her ethics, her vision."

The Newman Award will be Rob's second award housed in the perpetual awards area of the ISHOF.  In 1999 Rob received the Paragon Award "for outstanding contribution to Aquatic Safety".

Rob McKay has spent 26 years of his adult career devoted to teaching infants to swim.  It is no accident that it was also 23 years ago that Rob first met and was inspired by Virginia Hunt Newman.

Virginia's pioneering advocacy of a gentle, positive approach to teaching infants to swim instilled in Rob a passion to create the most stimulating, child-friendly, educationally sound and developmentally appropriate swim school possible.

Rob's mission along with his wife Kathy has resulted in his nationally acclaimed Lifestyle Swim School in Boca Raton, Florida and their instructional video series, "Diaper Dolphins".  DK/Penguin Publishing of London/New York announces the world wide spring 2005 release of  Rob and Kathy McKay's book, "Learn to Swim".

The 128 page book outlines the couple's  philosophy and features  step-by-step how-to's  for parents and teachers of children 6 months through 4 years old. As with all DK books, visually appealing photos and unique graphic layouts draw the reader to the page. Rob and Kathy's small swim students and their parents grace the pages of "Learn to Swim" as techniques and tips are shared for each age and stage. Learn to Swim is available at many stores including Barnes and Noble, Borders Book Store,, Target, Wal-Mart and Books a Million. The McKay's have also created an informational web site, "Baby Swimming-the Gentle Journey" at .

The McKays have authored and been the featured subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles nationally and internationally. Rob and Virginia were featured in a video press release on infant swimming for the national product release of Huggies brand "Little Swimmer's" diapers. They also appeared together in the Discovery Channel's "World of Wonder" program which aired in 50 countries during a 5 year period. Japan's Nippon TV network recently featured Rob, Kathy and their baby students in a special entitled "Charismatic Teachers".

A frequent speaker at national and international conferences and workshops, Rob is a board member of the World Aquatic Baby Congress and a member of the Congress of the ISHOF. He is a charter member of the National Swim School Association. McKay has trained numerous teachers in his gentle, child-paced, non-traumatic methods both from across the US and around the world including Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the Philippines.

A former high school All American swimmer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa and a collegiate scholar-athlete for Florida State University, Rob also held records as a Master's swimmer and continues to swim for health and fitness.


Virginia Hunt Newman Award Nominations

Nominations for the next Virginia Hunt Newman Award given annually to a person who exemplifies the philosophy of Virginia Hunt Newman may be emailed to WABC for consideration. The recipient traditionally selected is a disciple of Newman in his or her activities and accomplishments as they carry on her name and her philosophy of teaching babies to swim in a kind, loving, caring way so that they learn to love the water. Students to be taught in a non-forceful and non-traumatic way as was Virginia's style and philosophy.

Nominations are written communication explaining the nominees qualifications for this award along with the nominees complete contact information to WABC by January 15th of the award year. 

* Nominations from previous years are carried over to the current year and considered along with ones submitted for the first time. 


For further inquiry contact Steve Graves at

The award is presented at ceremonies of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, on a Friday evening in
September each year.