Meet the Team

"We believe that it’s not enough just to learn to swim, we want to inspire our swimmers to love the water."

Penny Watkins

Founder and Swimming Instructor

I’ve always felt more at home in the water than on the land and for me, swimming was a skill that came naturally. As a child, I swam competitively for many years and my passion for the water stayed with me into adulthood.

I first experienced the joy of teaching others about the wonder of water and the aquatic world when I managed a Scuba Diving centre in the Canary Islands. I gained a wealth of experience in teaching diving and snorkelling skills to people of all ages, nationalities and abilities.

When I returned the UK, I decided to follow my heart and pursue a career in swimming teaching.

In 2012 I was offered the opportunity to take over the running of a small local swimming school and Aqualife Swimming was born.

Five years on, I am proud to work with a passionate and talented group of swimming teachers to deliver swimming lessons to hundreds of individuals every week. I am now also a STA Tutor and absolutely love helping people to become swimming instructors and introducing them to this amazing career.

Qualifications:

  • STA Tutor 

  • STA Level 2 Swim Instructor 

  • STA Junior Lifeguard Instructor 

  • STA Baby & Pre-School Instructor 

  • STA Antenatal Swimming Instructor 

  • STA/ PADI Snorkelling Instructor 

  • Water Fitness Aquacade Instructor 

  • Aqua Stretch Instructor 

  • RLSS Life Guard 

  • PADI Diver ​    

  • Safeguarding Children & Adults Certification Makaton User (Foundation level course for professionals) 

  • Reiki Level 2

  • Fin2Fit Mermaid Instructor 

  • Enhanced DBS Check

Anna Hodges

Partner & Instructor

I remember swimming lessons fondly as a child, starting in beginner classes and working my way through to the Personal Survival Badges.  I always felt very comfortable in the water, but it was during my pregnancies and early experiences in Adult and Child lessons with my little ones that a passion in me ignited for swimming teaching.


I have been working with Penny at Aqualife since leaving London, I joined as an ASA Level 2 Qualified Teacher with ASA Pre-Fundamentals Qualifications enabling me to teach Adult and Child lessons.   Since then my own Aquatic Journey has continued, obtaining further qualifications as an STA Tutor, STA Junior Lifeguard Programme, Adult Lessons, STA Aquacise, and STA Antenatal Swimming Instructor.

Qualifications:

  • STA Probationary Tutor

  • ASA UKCC Level 2 Certificate in Teaching Aquatics (QCF)

  • ASA UKCC Level 1 Award in Teaching Aquatics (QCF)

  • ASA Level 2 Award in Coaching Aquatic Pre-Fundamentals (QCF) – Teaching Baby and Pre-School

  • STA Level 2 Aquatics - People with Disablities

  • STA Aquatic Teaching: Aquacise Instructor

  • STA Antenatal Swimming Instructor

  • STA Teaching Adults Instructor

  • STA Junior Lifeguard Instructor including Diving, Starts and Turns specifications

  • STA Internal Quality Assurance Assesor

  • Member of STA & IOS (Institute of Swimming)

  • National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches

  • Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable adults Programme

  • ​Fin2Fit Mermaid Instructor 

  • Enhanced DBS Check

Sarah Clarke

Administrator

Having had a varied business background, I bring a mix of skills to Aqualife Swimming. I have worked in administration, project management, as an IT director, and have run my own small business. I very much enjoy supporting Penny, Anna, and the team, as they develop their exciting business and continue to passionately deliver their amazing swim teaching.

 

I have seen my children learn to swim with Aqualife Swimming and have even improved my own swimming technique in their awesome adult Aquafit classes.

Qualifications:

  • MBA, Cass Business School

  • PRINCE 2 Project Management,

  • Foundation ITIL Service Management,

  • Foundation Microsoft Certified Practitioner BTec HNC in IT

Grace Begley-Hunter

Swimming Instructor

I have always had a love for the water and have swam for as long as I can remember. From the age of eight until eighteen I swam competitively and trained six days a week - my dedication for the sport paid off and I proudly achieved first place in the Kent Championships, two years running and second place in the Regional Championship.

 

Whilst studying Public Service at college, I also worked as a lifeguard which reinforced to me the importance of safety in the water and provided me with First Aid Training.

 

I have now been a qualified Level Two swimming instructor for five years and take pride in teaching children and adults to stay safe in the water by becoming strong, competent swimmers.

Qualifications:

 

  • ASA UKCC Level 2 Certificate in Teaching Aquatics (QCF)

  • Sta level 2 Award in safety award for teachers

  • Safe Guarding Children, Adults and Vulnerable People

  • Enhanced DBS checked

Laurie Bird

Swimming Instructor

Having grown up in the beautiful surroundings of Devon, I have always felt a natural connection to the water and spent much of my childhood playing in or by the sea, the River Dart or the local stream.  Throughout my career I have worked with babies and children in a variety of different environments, such as, pre-school dance and pre-school yoga inspired movement classes and am continuously amazed and fascinated by the individual characters I meet along the way.  It wasn’t until I had my own child, Arthur, that I discovered I could bring together my love of the water and my passion for working with children in a fun, gentle and positive learning environment. I took Arthur to baby swimming classes and was immediately hooked.  I quickly set about gaining the relevant qualifications and have been teaching ever since.  I genuinely feel very lucky and fulfilled doing such a fun and rewarding job.

Qualifications:

 

  • STA Level 2 Award in Swimming Teaching (QCF)

  • STA Level 2 Award in Aquatic Teaching – Baby & Preschool (QCF)

  • STA Baby & Preschool Submersion Upskill

  • STA Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults

  • Birth light Baby Swimming CPD – Submersion considering the child’s neuro development and emotional openness

  • National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches

  • FAA Level 3 Award in Paediatric First Aid (QCF)

  • Enhanced DBS Check

Jesus Delgado

Swimming Instructor

Outdoor physical activity has been a passion all my life. Competitively at first, but becoming a life value, which I feel passionate about passing onto my students.

 

​I have been in aquatics for over 15 years, being a swimming coordinator, teaching and coaching children of all levels, voluntary work, taking on the role of Special Needs Sport Instructor and finally taking students into open water, leading them through the psychical and emotive experience and the amazing adventure of discovery. 

Qualifications:

 

  • Science of Sports Degree (Spain)

  • Swimming Coach level 3 (Spain)

  • STA Level 2 swim instructor

  • STA Junior Lifeguard Instructor including Diving, Starts and Turns

  • STA Level 2 Open Water Coach.

  • Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable adults Programme

  • National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches

Kenny Hickey

Swimming Instructor

From my mid-teens, I have been a very active athlete, and for as many years as I can remember I raced as a sprinter & middle-distance track athlete with Thames Valley Harriers alongside Olympic 100m Champion Linford Christie.

 

A serious injury finally forced me to retire from track racing after representing Great Britain in 200M & 400M and I then found my love of swimming whilst learning to become a tri-athlete during training in Lanzarote. I have discovered I have a natural ability teaching others to learn to swim and helping them to embrace the love of water. I now teach and coach hundreds of individuals of all ages and abilities on a weekly basis and just love my job with the amazing Aqualife team.

Qualifications:

 

  • ASA UKCC Level 1 Award in Teaching Aquatics (QCF)

  • ASA UKCC Level 2 Certificate in Teaching Aquatics (QCF)

  • Coaching Swimming ASA Level 1

  • Coaching Swimming ASA Level 2

  • Coaching 3-day Swim Smooth Education Course Certificate

  • CPD improving breast stroke

  • Competitive coaching stages 8-10 CPD

  • ASA Diving certificate

  • CPD Safeguarding Children Young People & Vulnerable adults programme

  • National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches  

  • Member of Institute of Swimming IOS

  • Member of Swim England

  • Enhanced DBS checked

Sheryl Knott

Swimming Instructor

 

My love for the water came very early, as a small child my mother would call me her little mermaid. I spent my teenage years working as a lifeguard at a lido in South London but it wasn’t until I had children of my own and my son was diagnosed with ASD that I found my passion for teaching, I became a specialised teacher of visual impairment and SEN 9 years ago and loved teaching with a passion ever since, when I was asked by the head teacher of the school I work  if I would be interested in training to become our in-house swimming instructor I jumped at the opportunity to combined my love of teaching and swimming. Since I have for the last 4 years been running my own swimming school within the primary school I work for, teaching children from nursery within adult and baby classes to year 6 and it has been an absolute joy to watch the confidence, ability and love for swimming grow.

 

I’ve worked for Aqualife swimming for the past 18 months and it’s been a delight to work with a team of teachers that share the same passion and enthrallment I have.

Qualifications:

  • ASA UKCC Level 1 Award in Teaching Aquatics (QCF)

  • ASA UKCC Level 2 Certificate in Teaching Aquatics (QCF)

  • STA Baby and Preschool instructor

  • NRASTC Life Guards Certificate

  • Safety award for teachers Up-Skill levels 1 and 2

  • Safe Guarding Children, Adults and Vulnerable People

  • Enhanced DBS Check

Jonathon Preen

Swimming Instructo

From the age of seven to thirteen, I swam for Sevenoaks Swimming Club. I was among four of the successful members of the club who qualified and competed in the Kent and Southern Counties Championships, where I secured medal places at 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  Shortly, after the Kent’s, I then qualified for the Southern Counties.

In 2014, I decided to explore my love of swimming further by training as a swim teacher.  Through this passion for aquatics, I have developed a natural ability to assist adults and children alike in the water.  My previous teaching experience has enabled me to discover that I have a gift in engaging and teaching beginners, aquaphobe’s’ and special needs children, developing their fundamental skills and learning how to be safe in and around water.

Qualifications:

 

  • STA Level 2 Swim Teacher Award

  • STA Level 1 Award in Pool Emergency Procedures (QCF) 

  • Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults Programme. 

  • Member of the Swim Teacher Association (STA) 

  • Enhanced DBS checked

Gosia (Malgorzata) Zielinska-Dagostin

Swimming Instructor

As a child I was always surrounded by all kinds of sports as both my parents used to teach PE. It was no surprise when I followed their steps and got my Masters in Academy of Physical Education in my home country of Poland.

 

Since becoming a mum of two children my mission to teach has become stronger than ever. In 15 years of swim teaching I can certainly say that it is not only a life skill but a great way to spend free time, have fun and enjoy aquatics.

Qualifications:

 

  • STA Level 2 Swim instructor

  • STA Level 2 Award in Aquatic Teaching Baby & Pre-School

  • STA Baby and Pre-School safety training awards

  • STA Antenatal Swimming Instructor

  • STA Teaching Adults Instructor

  • STA Junior Lifeguard Instructor including Diving, Starts and Turns specifications

  • Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable adults Programme

  • National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches

  • STA Baby and Pre-school submersions

  • STA Baby and Pre-school Diploma Up-skill

  • Swim England Aquatic Skills Framework stages 8/9/10 Synchro 

  • Enhanced DBS Check

Jake Osborne

Swimming Instructor  

I have always loved being involved in physical activities, such as swimming, my mum and dad were very supportive and encouraged me to swim because it was one of my favourite things to do. 

 

Therefore, it was very natural to train as a swimming teacher and take pride in not only sharing my love of the water but encouraging students to improve and become competent swimmers as a life skill.

Qualifications:

 

  • STA Level 2 Award in Teaching Swimming

  • STA Safety Award for Teachers

  • Safe Guarding Children, Adults and Vulnerable People

  • Enhanced DBS checked

Emma Curran

Swimming Instructor

Like so many of my fellow swim teachers I have always been a water baby. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family of swim teachers and I think most of my childhood was spent in water- pool, sea, river, pond.. it didn’t matter where as long as it was wet! I spent my summers screaming with laughter as my brother and I made up crazy dives and challenged each other to races.  As a teenager, I had to give up swimming competitively after multiple injuries. I found out I have a type of Hypermobility Syndrome, and as a result have a particular interest into how body type, disability and tension effect flotation and water propulsion.. i.e. how we swim!

I love working on that 1-1 level with all different types of swimmers to find a learning method that works specifically for them.  It is an immense privilege to work with learners from all walks of life.. it is never too late or too scary to start your journey towards loving water! Seeing children and adults transform into swimmers is why I teach.

I particularly enjoy focusing on those that need specific individual attention, such as those with special educational needs and aquaphobia.

Swimming Qualifications:

  • STA Level 2 Award In Swim Teaching (QCF)

  • STA Level 2 Certificate in Swim Teaching (CIMSPA)

  • STA Level 2 Baby and Pre School Award (CIMSPA)

  • STA Level 2 People with Disabilities (CIMSPA)

  • Autism and  Sensory Challenges CPD (Autism Swim)

  • Rhythmic Movement Training- Pool Readiness (RMTi/STA)

  • Waterphobia CPD1 (CIMSPA)

  • Junior Lifeguard Diving, Starts and Turns CPD (STA).

  • Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults

  • STA Pool Safety Award

  • Enhanced DBS.

  • Member of the STA.

Joe Zou

Swimming Instructor

Swimming has been special to me since I was a child and has been my passion ever since. I had the honour to represent West Maryland College to compete in NCAA USA, which was a milestone of my athletic career in swimming.

I became certified American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor while completing my BA degree in college. After I moved to the UK, I continue with teaching as a certified ASA Level 2 Swimming Teacher in the Sevenoaks area.

Teaching children and adults how to swim has given me strong sense of achievement and joy because I have always been enthusiastic about improving the health and well-being of people of all ages. I hope my passion in teaching swimming will lead to a new life adventure for all my students.

Qualifications:

  • Swim England Level 2 Teaching Swimming

  • American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor

  • National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches

  • Safeguarding Children Including EHA

  • Member of Institute of Swimming

  • Enhanced DBS check

Emilly Sanderson

Swimming Instructor

I have been swimming teaching for 7 years and absolutely love it; it is no surprise that my favorite Disney princess’s are Moana and the little mermaid!

 

My passion for swimming stems from my childhood mainly due to the positive role models I had. As a swimming teacher I aim to be the positive role model that I had for the children or adults that I am teaching. There is no better feeling than the fulfillment of seeing swimmers (at any level) overcoming hurdles, improving confidence and seeing a smile on their face.

 

Over the last 7 years I have gained experience teaching all ages and abilities from 2 years old to adults and from complete beginners all the way to national level swimmers. For 8 years I swam competitively for the London Borough of Chelsea and Westminster reaching national championship level.

 

As a PE teacher I am able to combine my vast knowledge of swimming with theories of how children learn, to improve my teaching.

 

 

Qualifications:

 

  • Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

  • BSc (Hons) First Class Degree in Sports Science

  • ASA level 1 Award in Teaching Aquatics

  • ASA Level 2 Certificate in Teaching Aquatics

  • STA Level 2 Award in Safety Award for Teachers

  • Enhanced DBS Check

  • STA Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults

Charlie Rollingson

Swimming Instructor

I have always enjoyed being in and around water, I swam regularly into my teens. Athletics and running became a focus in my later teens and beyond but I continued to swim for pleasure and, now an injury prevents me from running, I am in the pool regularly for my own fitness and wellbeing as well as to teach.

I previously worked in the city but after I had my own children and took them to parent and baby swim classes my passion for swimming returned, and a desire to retrain to be in an environment I loved growing up, began.  I started my journey to become a swimming teacher as a parent volunteer at my son’s school pool and quickly joined a swim school as a level 1 assistant. In April 2019 I gained my level 2 swim England teaching qualification and have been working for Aqualife Swimming since then.

I love engaging with my swimmers and being part of their aquatic experience; I strive to ensure I deliver enjoyable lessons that enable my students to be safe, proficient swimmers, who develop lifelong love of the water.

Qualifications:

  • Swim England Level 1 Teaching Assistant – Swimming    

  • Swim England Level 2 Teacher – Swimming

  • STA Level 2 Aquatics - People with Disabilities

  • Swim England – Parent & Baby March 2020       

  • National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches

  • Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable adults Programme

  • Enhanced DBS 

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