A teacher can be described as a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence, or virtue. Informally, the role of a teacher can be taken on by anyone.
Identical twins, Marnie Schwartz and Rena Schwartz are passionate about helping their students learn. While they are both certified Ontario Teachers, their journey as educators does not take place in the traditional classroom – but rather through their state-of-the-art dance studio.
Twins Marnie and Rena Schwartz Educating Young Students Through Dance
“After graduating from teachers college, we were both supply teachers but we realized we wanted to be in our own classroom, and in our own setting,” recalled Marnie Schwartz, the elder twin by six minutes.
Rena Schwartz still remembers receiving invaluable advice and support from a friend with a strong mind for business.
“We had a friend who studied business administration and he helped us come up with a business plan for our company. He encouraged us to come up with a mission statement and taught us the importance of expressing how our business would be different from others,” she recalled.
Today, ViBE Dance & Fitness Studio is one of the largest and most successful dance schools in Canada – with seven spacious dance studios in a state-of-the-art 10,000 square foot facility.
Renowned choreographer, La Toya Bedeau, danced with the Schwartz sisters as part of the Raptors Dance Pak in the late 1990s and early 2000s and is impressed with the environment and culture they’ve created at ViBE over the years.
“They work hard to create such a welcoming environment for people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and dance levels,” said Bedeau.
“They believe in their students and instill the core values transferable outside of the dance world. The in-studio energy is always positive and is a vibe everyone wants to be around.”
Bedeau, who is currently the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts Cheerleading squad, appreciates the Schwartz sisters’ ability to teach and inspire the next generation through their passion for dance.
“Their decision to teach dance to the next generation seems to be what they were meant to do. They are inspiring, knowledgeable and have the credits to back them up. Their passion for dance and teaching shines through and is evident in all they do,” added Bedeau, who has previously shared some of her choreography with students at ViBE.
“They genuinely care about their students and their work ethic is unmatched. They work hard to bring the best experiences to their students and everyone appreciates that.”
A Childhood Passion
Currently, in their early 40s with children of their own, the Schwartz twins trace their passion for dance back to their early childhood.
“Our parents introduced us to dance at the age of four along with other activities because they wanted us to be well-rounded,” Marnie Schwartz recalls.
“Our first lesson was at a community center and we developed a passion for dance right away. We just wanted to learn as much as possible about the different disciplines and continue to get better at it.”
The twins both credit their mother as their greatest teacher and inspiration.
“She’s taught us the importance of hard work, and encouraged us to be life long learners; and to chase after our passions,” said Rena Schwartz.
Their mother, Dr. Susan Schwartz, has over 30 years of experience as a professional educator and has written six books. In her 30 plus years as an educator, she has held positions as a teacher, a vice-principal, a principal, and later she would teach at the university level.
“And now in her sixties, our mom plays in a band and she seems like the happiest person on stage. She’s proof that there’s no obstacle that can’t be overcome,” added the younger Schwartz twin with a smile.
“She’s really inspired us, and is a big reason why we’ve been successful in business.”
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic
ViBE was enjoying a strong start to 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic forced classes to be canceled in March.
“The entire world has been shaken by COVID-19 and small businesses are the ones that has been most affected,” Marnie Schwartz acknowledged.
While ViBE has not been hosting regular sessions since March, they have been making the most of online channels to offer their classes.
“We’ve been connecting with our students through social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok; and as well we’ve been doing virtual classes every week in lieu of classes they’ve been missing,” Rena Schwartz pointed out.
“We’ve also introduced itstimetovibe.com which is an online platform that provides on-demand dance and fitness videos to anyone across the country to enjoy dance classes from their own home.”
With restrictions slowly being lifted by the government, a growing number of students have returned to the facility to attend dance classes again.
“We’re following all the government protocols and we’re making the safety of our students and staff our top priority,” Marnie Schwartz pointed out.
“It’s just great to see our students again and the smiles on their faces when they dance.”
Creating a Brighter Future
Many of their students have gone on to become teaching assistants and dance teachers at the studio. One long time student, Ally Elliot, shares how ViBE has made a positive impact on her life.
“I started at ViBE in the five to seven year-old group Hip Hop class 12 years ago as a student and now I have been honored to teach dance,” she noted.
“Teaching at ViBE is so rewarding and such a positive experience. The amount of confidence and leadership skills I have gained since I started dancing and teaching has helped positively define and shape the person I am today.”
The Schwartz twins take pride in seeing many other students develop confidence and leadership skills through their time at ViBE. They also believe the skills acquired in the classrooms at ViBE helps their students ultimately become better versions of themselves.
“Being at ViBE is not just about learning dance steps but it also helps students gain confidence, work on their fitness, develop social skills, competence, and leadership skills,” said Rena Schwartz.
“And all these skills will translate into the real world and can only help them as they pursue their goals and dreams in the future.”