Bowen swim teacher takes out state crown
For five years Belinda Smith has been helping Bowen tots take to the water.
She weathered Cyclone Debbie in 2017 that forced the closure of the pool and vowed to continue teaching, taking lessons into her own backyard.
Her determination was again tested this year as coronavirus restrictions meant months of no classes.
However, her hard work and commitment to keeping little ones safe was recognised last week when she was crowned the ASCTA Queensland Regional Swim Teacher of the Year for 2020.
The Bowen Swim School owner was nominated for the award by a close friend, but said she didn't think she stood a chance.
"It's the sort of thing that you like to be considered for, but you never really think you'll be the recipient," she said.
"It was a bit surreal."
Ms Smith spent a lot of her childhood in the water and took out a raft of swimming titles during her school years while also working on her teaching skills.
The birth of her children put a pause on plans to help kids share in her love for all things aquatic, but when she returned to teaching she knew she was in the right place.
"It is really rewarding to see kids' confidence grow and see them advance and accomplish skills and overcome their fear of the water," she said.
"I think water should be fun and enjoyable and I think all kids should have safe access to it."
Her classes are now permanently run from her pool at home with an individual approach for all ages and abilities.
"I focus less on group classes and more on the individual that's in front of me to help them reach their goals," she said.
While Ms Smith took advantage of a pause on classes during the lockdown by completing a wide range of courses and qualifications, she is looking forward to some sort of normalcy in 2021.
"I'm just looking forward to finishing a full season, getting all the kids through to the end of the season and a bit of normality," she said.
"That sounds simple, but I think it's a big thing at the moment."
Ms Smith thanked all her students for their support throughout a difficult year as well as her friend who nominated her.
"She has been one of my main supporters for years and years," she said.
"She has believed in me in moments that I really haven't believed in myself.
"I would really love to thank all of the families that swim with me for trusting me every time they bring their kids in.
"That's a huge thing."