Kids Swim Programs Out-of-this-World
After 40 Years, Zodiac Swim School is Still Making a Splash
Congratulations to Zodiac Swim School, celebrating its 40th anniversary! Owners Ellen & Rick Howard couldn’t be more proud of the brand they’ve built over the past four decades:
“We’re not just teaching children to swim, we’re teaching people to be safe.”
What started as a swim school in 1978, has blossomed into a community of family-oriented services, from aquatics and first aid to camping and daycare, each with a focus on quality, individuality, and building confidence in kids:
“I still teach and love teaching babies and the hands-on interaction with the families. I continue to build trust from their very first Zodiac experience; it makes me really happy.”
When Ellen first started to teach swimming at age 16, she knew it was her life’s passion. At 18, while studying physical and health education at University of Toronto, she secured a permit for pooltime from the Toronto District School Board, with the help of her entrepreneur father, adding private locations as enrolment increased.
I still teach and love teaching babies and the hands-on interaction with the families. I continue to build trust from their very first Zodiac experience; it makes me really happy.
Following graduation, Ellen pursued a career in phys ed for about 10 years, and later, met her husband, Rick. As the Howard family grew, so, too, did the swim school.
Ellen concentrated on growing the aquatic leadership and first aid component of the brand that includes babysitting, home alone courses, and aquatic certification:
“We’re creating job opportunities for the Zodiac kids. They gain experience and hone their life skills, while earning money and padding their resume. My alumni tell me about the positive impact Zodiac had on their lives and now, their kids. Some of them I teach in my Parent and Tot class Sunday mornings, which is so exciting for me to see. It’s the highlight of my week.”
At the end of the next decade, Ellen and Rick put their passion for camping into launching the Zodiac Day Camp. Shortly after, Rick left his law practice to join Ellen as co-owner and director, prefering to put his heart and soul into something he loved. She told us:
“We work really well together and try hard to build our teams with unbelievably professional people.”
Summer camp seemed like the next logical step and, in 2009, Ellen and Rick became the proud owners of Camp Tamarack.
Ten years later, Camp Tamarack continues to delight children and families all summer long. In fact, Ellen and Howard take up residence on-site in Bracebridge during the summer for that extra, hands-on approach.
My alumni tell me about the positive impact Zodiac had on their lives and now, their kids. Some of them I teach in my Parent and Tot class Sunday mornings, which is so exciting for me to see. It’s the highlight of my week.
The Zodiac community has grown considerably over 40 years. In 2005, Zodiactors was created for those kids who prefer land to sea. And two years ago, Zodiac Day Care its doors to kids aged 2 ½ to 4 years, offering a daycare with a camp environment. Ellen attributes much of her success to low-ratio classes, high-quality programs, and a hands-on, personalised approach:
“We’re in the people business, taking care of the most precious things that people have – their children, and often, themselves. It’s so rewarding and we love what we do.”
Natalie Secretan is a self-confessed word nerd and owner of Blogwitt.com, with a background in communications, content marketing, and journalism. A former fitness leader, she also writes on a variety of topics including health, wellness, and lifestyle.