Heidi Thomas said she always gets compliments from strangers.
They notice how well behaved her children are while out running errands or at restaurants.
Even at a young age, they know to put their napkin in their lap, excuse themselves from the table and engage in proper dinner conversation.
Now, she’s sharing these and other etiquette tips with her students.
Thomas began teaching the Sparkle & Shine Model Charm School program at Greater York Dance about a year ago.
The program started with just a handful of students and is now up to 14 participants.
“I have always felt that essential manners and life skills are crucially important for children to learn,” Thomas said.
How was the program started? What age groups do you serve?
My Artistic Director, Lori Pergament, was key in creating the Sparkle & Shine Model Charm School program at Greater York Dance. She arranged for my formal training to become a certified, licensed etiquette trainer. We are in our first year of this program at Greater York Dance, which runs every Friday, September through June. Anyone can participate; you don’t have to be a member of Greater York Dance. Our program serves boys and girls. Our age divisions are as follows: tots, ages 4 to 6; elementary, ages 7 to 9; youth, ages 10 and up. Private lessons are also available.
What skills do you teach in the Sparkle & Shine program?
Some of the topics we cover are: meet-and-greet essentials; please, thank you and you’re welcome; tact; apologies; sharing; gift giving and receiving; attending a party; table manners; eating at school; eating at home; using your napkin; passing food; sitting politely at the table; correct use of utensils; American-style dining; continental-style dining; good hygiene; dealing with teasing and bullies; joining a group conversation; exiting a conversation; telephone manners and safety; and text messaging manners. All subjects are taught in a fun and relatable way.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching manners and appropriate etiquette to children?
Knowing that I am shaping a generation of young people to help them form confident social skills and useful manners in all situations, from the classroom to the country club.
What do you hope students gain from their training?
I hope that students gain confidence and ease in every social situation. And have a firm grasp of proper table manners at home and in public, for both formal and casual dining. Making people feel comfortable is a big reason that we use good manners and to instill integrity in each child so they can say to themselves “I am honest, and I have high standards.”
What tips do you have for parents on teaching skills to their children?
Grownups, make manners fun! Model good manners for your children at all times. Embrace the rules of etiquette. Respect and value your children so they will respect and value others. Do not assume that your children will “pick up” good manners and social skills. Manners and etiquette must be enthusiastically taught. These are the building blocks that lead to success in adulthood.
Occupation: Certified Etiquette Trainer, Sparkle & Shine Model Charm School; Early Childhood Dance Instructor, Greater York Dance; Facilitator, TLC Montessori
Lives in: York
Family: Married to Christopher Thomas. Daughter: Bella, 7. Son: Christopher Jr., 4.
For more information about Sparkle & Shine Model Charm School, call 717-755-MOVE or visit www.gydance.com.