A Day in the Life of a Pilates Teacher
Jacqueline Ethier, PMA®-CPT
Certified Pilates Teacher,
Pilates Space Co-Owner & Studio Director,
Fletcher Faculty, Fletcher Pilates® Program of Study
When you hear Jacqueline Ethier speak about running a business and teaching Pilates, you quickly realize she truly respects and cares for the clients who come to her studio. Learning from her self-employed parents, Jacqueline learned the importance of a strong work ethic, fair business practices, and kindness towards other people. With this foundation plus a background in professional dance, she became a Certified Pilates Teacher.
Jacqueline’s studio, Pilates Space, started as a rented space to teach which allowed more flexibility and time to gain confidence in her teaching and business skills. The business, clientele, team, and space grew over the course of 15 years to the energetic space it is now. In this interview, we’ve worked with Jacqueline to capture what her job is like and how she got to where she is today. If you are considering a career as a Pilates teacher or similar career, this is a great resource to get an inside look at how one person is living that life.
What is Pilates? Pilates is also known as “Body Contrology” and is a system of movement in which those who practice follow a variety of body movements focusing on how the body is used in day-to-day life. It is called Pilates in reference to creator Joseph Pilates.
What is your job description?
At our studio, we specialize in Fletcher Pilates ® and provide private or group lessons to our clients. As a studio director, I also manage class content and oversee teachers are they gain experience especially when they work with clients recovering from injury.
What are your main tasks?
As a Pilates teacher, I need to balance the client’s goals with what they actually need day-to-day which is based on an assessment of Fletcher Pilates Fundamentals. In each class, I address their whole body while taking into consideration goals and concerns. Each class typically includes at least 2 elements or pieces of equipment. Doing this challenges the client’s ability to learn and adapt while gaining strength and flexibility. I also consider Pilates Movement Principles (we recognize 12), such as awareness, coordination and endurance, to further deepen a client’s movement experience and to encourage lasting results in their body.
What is your salary range?
Generally, hourly rates of pay for Pilates Teachers start at $25 and can increase to $60 CAD per hour.
What education is required as a Pilates teacher?
The process starts with being a student, taking Pilates classes for typically a minimum of 2 years. As it is a movement practice, you must learn and experience the movement in your body before learning how to teach it. Then you should take an extensive 1-year Pilates teacher training program, like the Fletcher Pilates Comprehensive Program, which includes class hours, mentorship support, observation hours and practice teaching hours, all under the supervision of a Qualified Fletcher Pilates Teacher. Study of human anatomy and physiology of movement is also required.
I am a Professional Fletcher Pilates Teacher (having studied the Ron Fletcher lineage) and I am a Certified Pilates Teacher (CPT) certified by the Pilates Method Alliance.
What experience is needed as a Pilates teacher?
A movement background is helpful but not necessary. This list includes but is not limited to athletes, dancers, yogis, physiotherapists, massage therapists and martial artists. Even those who have studied movement or are teaching another kind of movement, should be students of Pilates first before learning to teach it.
Legally a minimum of 200 hours is required to be licensed to teach and to obtain insurance but a full year Teacher Training program is recommended.
What skills are useful for the job?
- Be approachable
- Be a leader
- Be a strong communicator
- Be empathetic
- Be adaptable
- Be passionate about teaching
- Be positive and encouraging
- Be creative
What tools are used in your work?
The biggest tool we use is ourselves: our voice, our body, our imagination, our creativity. We are working with people every day and every day is different in our bodies and minds. We need to be present, tune into the people we are teaching and adapt as needed to best teach the body in front of us.
We also use the physical tools of the Pilates equipment, small and large, including a mat, Reformer, Wunda Chair, Cadillac, Spine Corrector, High Barrel, Ped-i-Pul, Fletcher Pilates Towel, Magic Circle, Barre and additional tools like rollers and balls.
What is the “Cadillac” of Pilates? The Cadillac is a pieces of Pilates equipment with many available accessories that can be added for working various parts of the body. Joseph Pilates called it the Cadillac because it has everything and does everything as did the Cadillac in the 1940s.
What is it like?
What is your workplace like?
Clean, tidy, well organized. At Pilates Space, there are 2 studio spaces, one for group classes with plenty of floor space and the other which houses most of the large equipment. It’s a supportive and non-judgemental environment where we have fun while we work hard. Clients are glad to be there.
What are your work hours like?
When I started teaching, I worked days, evening and weekends. Overall, I did an average of 4-5 classes per day over 5-6 days for a 25-30 hour work week. As my business and family have grown, I teach fewer regular classes but more additional intensive workshops and teacher training programs. This allows flexibility without over-doing my monthly teaching hours. I also travel a few times a year for continuing education as is required to maintain my status as a Certified Pilates Teacher.
What is the workload like?
With documenting classes, self-practice, and taking classes to stay inspired, this adds an additional 10-15 hours to a 25 hour work week.
Describe a typical work day if one exists.
Every day is slightly different and has its own rhythm and that’s what I like about it. Here is one example of how my day can go!
- One hour of computer work including planning, follow-up, and organizing both the business and classes,
- Half hour workout before starting to teach,
- Three hours of teaching at 10 AM, 11 AM, and 12 PM,
- A short lunch,
- One to three more hour of teaching in the afternoon,
- Some additional time for documenting classes,
- Then I go home to meet my children.
How is your job different from others working in this space?
My teaching role is the same as all teachers. As a studio director, I am always aware of other classes being taught, meeting and chatting with clients, and trying to stay in the know about what’s going on while I’m there.
During the teacher training program, I am constantly mentoring the apprentice teachers and making sure their presence in the studio blends well with regular studio classes. When teachers join the team, I observe some of the class they teach to offer ongoing mentoring and continue to do this with my more experienced teachers as needed. I think it’s vital to provide a place of constant learning and mentorship.
A Pilates teacher should maintain a healthy lifestyle and be an example to others. They should also be motivated, caring, curious, and patient.
What is your story? How did you get here?
I grew up in Sudbury, Ontario with a love of dance and movement. I also grew up in a household with self-employed parents who ran their construction company out of our home. From them, I learned the importance of a strong work ethic, fair business practices, and treating people with respect and kindness.
When I graduated from the Contemporary Dance Program at The School of Dance in Ottawa, Ontario, I started working as an independent dance artist but knew that I needed more financial stability than what that would provide. I did not want to waitress so I studied to become a certified Pilates teacher.
I worked for a studio for one year but didn’t like the atmosphere. When I was approached to rent space within a small gym and teach there instead, I did. However, I had to convince myself that I was only renting space and not starting a business because this seemed too daunting at 25 years old. Plus…I wanted to keep dancing. This was the beginning of my studio Pilates Space, established in 2002, a positive and caring space where people of all ages and backgrounds could come to learn. It allowed me the flexibility to continue dancing and it has grown over these last 15 years with ups and downs along the way.
The first 5-7 years of teaching were demanding as I was gained confidence in my teaching and my ability to communicate with teachers and clients. As the business grew, there were many learning curves like figuring out how best to manage, delegate, and stay on top of technology advances which all impact the business organization. In recent years, with a solid group of teachers and really helpful admin support, my focus is more on teaching the next generation of Pilates teachers and having my regular clients be a part of that experience.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
There were a few years that I wanted to be a dentist. I cannot remember why and I certainly would not be happy in that career. At one point, I applied to study architecture since I love design and my parents owned a construction company building custom residential homes. Then I decided to attend a post-secondary dance program and pursue dance as a career which is where I first studied Pilates.
What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
As a self-employed business owner, the biggest challenge has been building the team of teachers and staff that share my vision in the studio. The result is many of us are dance artists and supporters of the arts. In fact, we support each other by covering classes to participate in dance projects.
What is next for you?
Now in my 40s, my plan is to perform more and see how my personal Pilates practice can keep my body fit and resilient through the demands of contemporary dance. I will continue to teach new and existing clients at my studio and offer teacher training programs. Pilates is still relatively unknown in many cities in the area and its competing with many types of training that are now easily accessible through social media. So on a broader scale, my plan is to continue to educate people about Pilates and why it is considered one of the most versatile and effective overall physical conditioning methods in existence that has been around since the 1940’s.
An effective teacher loves movement and loves to teach it.
An effective teacher can be empathetic.
An effective teacher can communicate well.
An effective teacher has good intuition to know when to push and when to allow more time with learning.
The Big Questions
What is your passion?
My passion is dance and teaching movement to others. I also have a great love for my family, and raising my children has fueled my creativity with teaching.
What is your favourite task or type of work?
I love teaching a really fluid, challenging group Pilates class that includes elements of dance. I also love working with clients one-on-one and witnessing breakthroughs in their body awareness and understanding of movement.
What do you love most about your career?
I have deep gratitude for everyone who has supported my local small business by taking Pilates classes; especially the clients who have studied with me for 10 years and longer who let me challenge them to live better in their bodies. I love the community of people who shape what Pilates Space is today. I love how being creative, continuing to learn, and having children have elevated my level of teaching.
What would you change about your career?
I would love for Pilates to be better known in Ottawa so that there would be a steady increase in clients and interest in teacher training.
Advice for Future Pilates Teachers?
Register for Pilates classes and experience the work in your body. Talk to other teachers about why they love to teach and get a sense of the work. Talk directly to a teacher trainer to understand the expectations of the year-long training. Be open to learning and self-growth.
Provide your top career tips.
When you start teaching, it is imperative to keep up with your self-practice to stay motivated, healthy, and injury-free. I often schedule my own practice time and workout weekly with my teachers.
Being a great teacher takes time, experience, learning from mistakes, and constant education. Find a studio where the owner has a minimum of 5 years of teaching experience so they can provide mentorship to you as you start out.
While respecting professional work ethics, be proactive and encouraging to keep clients and not rely on the studio to solely do this.
Provide your top job hunting tip.
Take classes at various studios to see what the environment is like. How you are being treated as a client says a lot about the teaching staff and the studio owners.
What career do you want to see next?
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