How teaching water safety became the mission for these COE alumnae
By Kate Silver
The path to a career in teaching can take many twists and turns. For childhood friends Liz Huber (MEd ’10) and Anna Biggins (MEd ’09), that path took an unexpected—and literal—plunge. They left their positions as elementary school teachers to instruct children ages 6 months to 6 years on water safety and swimming at a nonprofit Huber founded in 2018 called CAST Water Safety Foundation.
The mission of CAST is to prevent childhood drowning and develop safer swimmers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three children die each day as a result of drowning, which is a leading cause of death for kids ages 1–4. Using a method called Infant Self Rescue (ISR), CAST teaches infants and children how to float, swim and rescue themselves in water during daily 10-minute lessons.
“One-on-one with the instructor and through sensory motor learning and stimulus response techniques, we teach them to roll to their backs, find air, float and wait for help to arrive,” says Huber. “Once they are running and coordinated in their movements, then they are strong enough to learn to kick and coordinate a swim.”
Huber learned about ISR when she registered her own children for a class. She was impressed with how quickly they learned, and she realized that with her education background, this could be a viable—and fun—path for her. She loved the idea of starting a nonprofit that could save lives. “I quit my amazing career and put on a wetsuit,” she says.
“I quit my amazing career and put on a wetsuit.”
— Liz Huber
Biggins heard about CAST and signed her three children up for lessons in 2019. For years, she’d enrolled her kids in swim lessons, and she was frustrated that they still didn’t seem safe in the water. After just a few weeks at CAST, however, they were confident swimmers. Professionally speaking, she, too, was ready to dive in. “I was like, ‘Let me just do 20 hours a week and see,’” says Biggins. “I loved it, and now here we are two years later.” She’s now CAST’s assistant director.
CAST was a dream that Huber and Biggins never realized they had. The two met while attending Willard Elementary School in River Forest, Ill. Both went on to attend DePaul and work together at Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park, Ill., following graduation. After having kids, they’d muse over late-night calls about starting a business that would allow them to spend more time with their families.
It took those early ISR classes to realize where they were meant to be, and now, neither can imagine doing anything else. “We can never quantify whether or not we’re saving lives, because a lot of it is just one little tweak in the water safety strategy,” says Huber. “But we really believe that we are helping.”
This article was originally published in the fall 2021 issue of Action in Education, a publication for DePaul College of Education alumni and friends.