Maria Zarro-Anaya

Maria, affectionately known as "Coach Z", comes to our Lil’ Guppies family from the San Pedro/Rancho Palos Verdes area. Her affinity for the water since she was a small child makes being in the water second nature. Maria earned her BA from the University of California, Los Angeles and her MA.Ed from Concordia University, Irvine. Growing up, Maria participated in many sports, including swimming, surfing, and water skiing. As a teacher, she coached the high school coed swimming and diving teams for 15 years. During her summers, Maria taught swim classes ranging from infants to adults, including developmentally delayed, autistic, and other special needs children, and performed senior lifeguard duties for the City of Carson. She holds her certifications in WSI, lifeguarding, first aid, CPR for the professional, and NFHS coaching. Maria is also a mother of two daughters, who participated in competitive swimming, lifeguarding, and swim instruction. Maria loves the honesty of children and teaching to all levels. She looks forward to teaching you and your children, from water safety to specialized competitive strokes.  Maria’s motto: Swim for life!

Terrance Newman

Terrance has been a swim instructor, lifeguard, & swimming pool supervisor for over 5 years. He is WSI, Lifeguard, First Aid & CPR certified. Terrance has worked with children and adults of all ages and skill levels including autistic, developmentally delayed and emotionally disturbed children. In high school, Terrance was part of the swim team for 4 years and in his senior year was voted the swim team captain. After high school, Terrance continued his love for swimming by joining the swim team club at Kansas State University. At the university, he majored in Theatre performance, and taught swim lessons and guarded the pool for 5 consecutive years. During his transition to California, Terance decided he could not stay away from teaching, helping and working with others in the pool, so he happily swam over to join the Lil' Guppies team! 

Michael Farmer

Michael has been involved in swimming since he was 7 years old, progressing through age-group swim team, high school and club, setting high school records, and training with teammates on the US Olympic team.  Michael also swam and played water polo in college.  Michael currently competes with the US Masters Swim Team, and is certified ASCA levels 1-3 and USMS 1 & 2.  To finance his education, Michael started an age-group swim team with 10 swimmers.  Nine years later, the team included over 300 swimmers, with several boys and girls swimming at national level on into college.  He adds strong stroke technique to our team.  Michael has always been passionate about swimming, developing swimmers from 18 months to 87 years old, seeing them blossom as swimmers, and, more importantly, as people with pride and positive self-esteem – no matter what their age.  With swimming, everything is possible!


Umaara Elliott

Umaara is a NYC born, Atlanta raised, and now LA based swim instructor and professional dancer. She has been working with kids since she was 14 and has been a swim instructor for 5 years. Umaara has experience teaching all ages, and has a special fondness for teaching infant classes! As a lover of water and movement, she feels that it is important that every person, no matter how young or old, knows how to swim and feels comfortable in the water. Along with a love for swim and dance, Umaara loves to travel, read, surf, and eat French fries! 

Karina Mejia

Karina is a Los Angeles native and has been swimming and playing competitive water polo for several years now.  Karina loves to work with kids in the water, ensure they are water safe and share the passion she has for the water with them!  Karina is also a lifeguard and has experience teaching all ages and skill levels. She loves teaching mommy and me classes to little ones as well! 

Yael Shacham

From the day Yael can remember she was connected to water. As a child, Yael swam competitively and became an assistant coach and swim instructor once she started high school.  In addition to teaching all ages of infants and children, Yael is also a certified sports & rehabilitation instructor and specializes in helping adults with orthopedic injuries and conditions rehabilitate in the water. Yael moved from Israel to the U.S. in 2016, where she began working for a swim school in Austin, Texas that specializes in teaching those with special needs including autism spectrum and other disabilities. Last summer Yael arrived in CA and we are so excited to have her join the Lil’ Guppies team! Yael is prepared for helping families enjoy the infinite benefits of the water, be safe and secure, and build water confidence with her devoted guidance. 

Zoe "Coach Zo" Ross

Coming into this world as a Pisces, Coach Zo was destined to be a natural water baby! She learned to swim at the age of 2 and to surf at age of 4. The water is her natural habitat! Coach Zo, or "Zoso" as her friends and students affectionately call her, was on the swim team, water polo team, & the surf team at La Jolla High School. She later moved on to have a small sponsorship for surfing. From being the oldest of 4 siblings -one of whom is autistic- to working as a live-in nanny and coaching surfing and swimming for multiple years,  Zoso is a natural with children and teaching. She has worked with all ages & skill levels from infant to adult. Kids love her & she loves them!  Coach Zo is certified in Lifeguarding, CPR, First Aid, Water Safety, & A.E.D.  An artist at heart & at work, Coach Zo has been working on her collage work, album work, and graphic design as well. Coach Zo brings a lot of creativity to the table which is key when working with little ones!  

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Lilia Velasco

Welcome Lilia! Lilia was born and raised in Mexico and swam competitively in middle school and high school.  She decided to return to swimming in 2015 when enrolled in community college.  Lilia is an AmeriCorps member serving at the Red Cross where she teach CPR classes. Lilia received her Associates degree in Behavioral Science from West Los Angeles College and  will be attending CSUN in the fall to obtain my Bachelors degree in Deaf Studies.  For the past three years, she have been a lifeguard and swim instructor for children, including children with special needs and physical disabilities. Lilia is also a mom to her own 22 year old daughter and 25 year old son and her greatest satisfaction is being able to help a child learn how to swim safely in a pool while having fun! 


Hannah Nolan

 Hannah has had a love for all things swimming-related ever since she can remember. Beginning swim team at age seven, she has been a competitive swimmer for ten years as well as a competitive water polo player for four years at El Segundo High School. She was awarded Rookie of the Year for Varsity Swimming her freshman year, as well as served as the Junior Varsity team captain of her water polo team. She has been working as a swim instructor and lifeguard for three years at her local YMCA as well as works seasonally as a swim camp counselor at Loyola Marymount University alongside collegiate swimmers and water polo players. She is currently YMCA certified in Lifeguarding and Red Cross Certified in CPR, First Aid, and AED. Hannah attends the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and tries her best to squeeze as much sunshine and swimming into her summer season back home in Los Angeles! 

Shawn Mohamed

Shawn has been a swim instructor, lifeguard, & swimming pool supervisor for 3 years at his local YMCA and continues to this day. He is, Lifeguard, First Aid & CPR certified. Shawn has worked with children and adults of all ages and skill levels including autistic, developmentally delayed and emotionally disturbed children. Shawn has also been a swim team coach in for the YMCA. Shawn still continues his passion for teaching swimming to everyone of all ages!

Aleya Spielman

Aleya Spielman grew up doing a myriad of water activities. During middle school, she did swim team and participated in the LA County Junior Lifeguard program for 6 summers- her last of which she was a cadet. During high school, she swam and played water polo for Santa Monica High School, where she was a captain and MVP in both sports. At the age of 16, she became a certified pool lifeguard and has been lifeguarding and doing swim lessons for the past 6 summers. She attended University of California, Davis, where she was President and Captain of the UC Davis Women’s Club Water Polo team, who won Nationals in 2013 and 2017. She has been around water her whole life, and aims to keep it that way! Aleya will be joining us on staff this year as lead lifeguard. 


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