A British husband-and-wife team has found a calling to teach children the value of manners and etiquette.
Vivian Hunt is almost always surrounded by children.
She chats with them at the grocery store, at local restaurants.
And, after retiring to Windermere with her husband Tony, she decided to return to the classroom to teach etiquette.
British natives Tony and Vivian moved from South Africa to Florida for retirement two years ago, but found the local mannerisms somewhat lacking.
“We were staggered when we came here,” Tony said. “The manners and etiquette were terrible. We thought everyone was brought up the same way as we were in England, but they’re not.”
The couple had owned three schools in South Africa where Vivian taught at for more than 30 years. Having attended a British finishing school as a young woman, manners and etiquette have always been her specialties.
“I can take a child that has no idea (how to behave) and turn them around so they’re dabbing their mouth,” she said.
In retirement, Vivian found an abundance of free time on her hands - too much free time, she said - and she wondered if there was a need for manners and etiquette classes. So, the couple approached The First Academy with the idea.
They were told that if students signed up for the class, they could teach it. Within a week, dozens of students signed up for the class.
Realizing how great the need was, the couple created the British Academy of Manners and Etiquette, and Vivian now teaches six-week-long classes to children of all ages. Her goal is to help prepare the children for life.
“I want kids to have an advantage for life,” she said. “You can help any age group, but it’s the young children I want to give an advantage to.”
Now, in addition to private lessons, Vivian is teaching students at the Holy Family Catholic School. She hopes that the skills she imparts to the students will eventually be useful as they grow into adults and face things like job interviews and business meetings.
Simple manners can be the difference between making an impression and getting ignored for a promotion, she said.
Over the course of six weeks, the children learn politeness, manners, how to greeting people, how to speak properly, appropriate eating habits, respect, eye contact, correct behavior, how to show appreciation and how to help out at home.
“It’s not just about how to eat,” Tony said. “It’s about etiquette.”
At the end of each course, the children are treated to an English tea at the Ritz-Carlton where they showcase their newly cultivated manners.
Although classes are offered to children of all ages, the best age to teach a child theses mannerisms is between ages four and five.
“That’s when you need to help them because they absorb everything,” Tony said. “Hopefully, it will continue into their teens and older.”
For Vivian, the classes are a continuation of her lifelong love of working with children.
The couple have two biological sons, an adopted son and daughter and have fostered more than 20 children over the years.
“It’s all about the children,” she said.
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].