My father would always say, “Pass it forward,” and I’ve tried to do just that in my aquatic fitness career.

When teaching swimming or water exercise, I try to make it fun — whether it’s a class of senior citizens, teenagers or New York City’s police and firefighters.

As I like to say, water is the great equalizer — it’s here for all of us.

As a little girl growing up in New York’s Lower East Side, I always loved water and swam in pools all over the area. I still do!

But then, I’ve had a lifetime of swimming, and of teaching aquatic fitness. I was a member of the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Performance Team at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, and have won All-American and World Masters championships over the years, as well as gold medals at the Maccabiah Games.

As an educator, I’ve taught water fitness at my alma mater, the City University of New York, for 50 years. My credentials include a bachelor’s degree from City College of New York; a master’s in education administration from New York University; and from Columbia University, a master’s of therapeutic recreation for aging and a doctorate in gerontology. Currently, I’m a professor of fitness and swimming, instructing police and fire professionals at New York’s John Jay College.

The teaching doesn’t stop there. I’ve led water exercises for underserved populations such as Americans of Latin and African descent. And in 2007, I helped create the KARE Program, in cooperation with the Department of Juvenile Justice, to help troubled youths. Then there’s my work with little ones, teaching second-graders to swim, which is vital as well. I just volunteered to teach swimming at CCUNY for free. Why? We must get students interested in swimming. We lost some to Hurricane Sandy, and it’s inexcusable that they couldn’t swim.

I’ll be 70 in early 2013, and I like being a resource, a consultant, a spokesperson for aquatics. It’s why I’m an instructor, and why I’ve written books such as Swimming for Total Fitness and DVDs such as “The W.E.T. Workout,” available at

It’s so important for everyone to learn to swim at some point in their lives. It used to be that everybody had to pass a swimming test to graduate from college. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some sort of encouragement like that now? So let’s pass it forward.

— Dr. Jane Katz, Professor, Fitness & Swimming, John Jay College, N.Y.