Marcia DeBock has been teaching swim lessons in the backyard pool of her home on Woodland street for 26 years. By her own estimation she has taught some 1200 neighborhood children how to swim through her program the Yard Sharks. The last week in June marked the final chapter of the Yard Sharks as Ms. Marci has elected to retire.
Ms. Marci has delighted generations of young sharks and inspired their parents. With abounding patience, an admirable aptitude for remembering the name of each swimmer, and a gift for teaching as enviable as her vegetable garden Ms. Marci is dually energetic and warmhearted.
Incredibly, given that she teaches preschoolers, I’ve never seen an unhappy swimmer in Ms. Marci’s class. Her heated pool, flanked by towering bamboo and generously shaded by a large palm tree is welcoming to children and adults alike.
In fact, the DeBock’s entire backyard, (which children enter by passing beneath a giant shark sculpture and through the metal gate crafted from a bicycle seat) is a wonderland. There children can delight in observing a chicken, “Blue”, (who by Marci’s account does not lay eggs) dragonfly, frog, and feline yard art, and an elephant fountain that spouts water through its trunk and currently houses hundreds of tadpoles, while they wait for their lessons to begin. (Ms. Marci teaches 30 minute classes M-TH from 3 pm to 7 pm offering makeup classes on Fridays in the event of a thunderstorm earlier in the week). This environment fosters relaxation in the children and helps diffuse any fear of the water newcomers may have.
Ms. Marci breaks swimming down into a series of analogies including pizza strokes, rocket ship arms making it both accessible and interesting to children as young as 3 years old. Her playful approach to class almost guarantees it is the children’s favorite half hour of the week. Few if any traditional swim lesson moments can be observed in Marci’s classes. Rather, her allegories are punctuated with games of water baseball, fishing, and, much to the envy of small siblings not yet old enough to participate in swim classes, rides on her oversized inflatable whale. By the end of the season children who were reticent to put their toes in the water have been transformed and emerge as confident and capable young swimmers who’ve made new friends and joyful memories in the process.
Thank you Ms. Marci for 26 years of enthusiastically nurturing our neighborhood’s children. Thank you for helping them to uncover an innate love of swimming and for instilling them with self-confidence and pride that will serve them far beyond the walls of the pool. Congratulations on your retirement!
- Andrea Gorney