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Local School Grooms Nannies in the English Tradition

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As “royal baby” mania nears crescendo level, we’ve been looking for a local angle ….and actually found one. After the birth, which is imminent, attention will shift to the care and upbringing of Kate and Prince William’s child. No doubt, a team of English Nannies will be involved. Nanny-care is a tradition that has followers in America too. There’s even an English Nanny school in our backyard. ideastream’s Michelle Kanu paid a visit

Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Say the words “English Nanny” and the image of a rosy, perfectly coifed Mary Poppins often comes to mind.

But training for today’s English nannies is a bit different.

At the English Nanny and Governess School in Chagrin Falls, 12 young women are learning how to kick, punch, and gorge the eyes out of an attacker.

instructor: "Okay on the count, everybody's got their right extended, punch with your left, one, two, three…"

School founder Sheilagh Roth ensures martial arts is a standard part of nanny curriculum.

Roth: "It's not the idea of attacking somebody, but knowing what's in your surroundings, knowing what's around you, knowing how to keep the children safe."

Graduates of the school teach their charges the martial arts too.

Initially, Roth proposed the professional training program at Case Western Reserve University.

Roth: "Everybody laughed at me! What are you going to teach, diaper changing 101? Everybody laughed at me. You have to teach someone how to look after a baby? I believe that it's very important that the person who is replacing the mother taking care of the children should be trained and should be an expert."

Roth envisioned a full course load of literature, psychology, art, and music and eventually, Case let her experiment. Nine years later, the school grew enough to move to a separate campus in Chagrin Falls.

The 12-week program now includes all the content Roth wanted, plus things like infant CPR and defensive driving. Graduates earn a certificate from the American Council of Nanny Schools. Classes are taught by professionals. Roth, who was raised by a nanny herself, scoffs at the idea that her nannies are babysitters.

Roth: "The babysitter is there to keep them safe. My nannies are there to get the child into Yale or Harvard."

Those who come to the program with a bachelor's degree can become a governess who acts more like a personal tutor. Students are required to live on campus and wear a black suit with a white blouse, minimal makeup, hair pulled off their face.

And the emphasis on professionalism is intense.

Todd: "Prior to being here I thought a nanny…is a nanny.”

Twenty-two year old Brittany Todd is from West Virginia.

Todd: “I didn't think of it as being a certified professional nanny. And so that's kind of taken a while to get through my head that I have to act professional, dress professional, speak professional.”

Stout: "It is definitely boot camp!"

Twenty-six year old Kat Stout is another nanny in training. Stout has some experience working as a nanny already.

Stout: "Now from being in the school I'm learning that the nanny can come in and take charge to a point-you don't come in and run the household, but you come in, you let your presence be known. You are the nanny. You're proud to be there. This is what they hired you for."

Several students, including Stout, say the role of a nanny as teacher and nurturer are a big draw for them.

Barrett Billow says the idea of rearing children in a household is way more appealing than becoming a traditional classroom teacher.

Billow: "You're just teaching them so many things rather than sitting behind a desk in a classroom only learning from books, you're actually getting out and experiencing."

The young women-and occasional men-who graduate from the English Nanny and Governess School face better job and salary opportunities than their counterparts in years past. Americans who can afford it are willing to pay more for high quality child care. English Nanny graduates earn between 36 and 62 thousand dollars a year, and health insurance is often part of the contract.

Susan Tokayer is President of the International Nanny Association based in North Carolina.

Tokayer: "Nannies certainly, can be paid very well. Some jobs come with benefits. That wasn't happening 40 years ago."

Sheilagh Roth says placements for her alumni vary from local families to high profile entertainers and CEOs living in places like Kenya and Singapore.

Graduates of the nanny school in Chagrin Falls won’t acquire the magical powers of Mary Poppins, but they still aim to work wonders: rearing well-mannered, brave, and kind children who do their chores.

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