| Palm Beach Post
WELLINGTON — Elyse Beras’ relationship with Zumba did not start out well.
The Wellington resident’s first try at the fitness class, which combines aerobics and Latin dance, fell flat. The instructor just wasn’t engaging.
Then Beras found Jamie Tizol.
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The effervescent Zumba instructor drew Beras into the high-energy workouts — something Tizol continues to do with new students, now in a virtual format using the Zoom video conferencing platform, prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“She makes every individual feel, ‘You can do it with me, and I’m going to show you how,’” Beras said.
Tizol has earned praise from her students at the Wellington Community Center, with people heaping acclaim on the 43-year-old instructor for her engaging personality and skill as an instructor.
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But something else about Tizol’s virtual classes is getting the attention of Wellington residents.
When Tizol moved from her physical classroom at the community center to a virtual classroom using the Zoom video conferencing platform, it opened up an opportunity for her dedicated students, like Beras, to share the classes with friends and family around the country.
It’s helped them connect, stay in touch and see each other in a fun setting each week, Beras said.
“She could get a person that’s dying up to dance,” she said.
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Tizol joined Wellington’s slate of community center instructors in 2016. She teaches four virtual classes: Zumba, Zumba Gold for people age 55 and older, Zumba Gold chair for people who may not be as mobile, and Zumba Toning, which incorporates a small amount of weight.
Moving from in-person classes to Zoom was “seamless” for Tizol, said Jenifer Brito, Wellington’s Community Services specialist, who organizes and directs senior programs.
“We’re so lucky to have her,” Brito said.
With 20 to 35 people per class, Tizol still finds a way to make each class personal for her students, Brito said.
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“She really loves what she does, and it really shines through,” she said.
Wellington has received a flood of calls from grateful students over the past few weeks, Brito said.
“She’s bringing family members together during this time,” she said. “That’s special.”
For Tizol, each class is a gift.
“I look forward to it every day, to see their smiling faces,” she said.
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Tizol began teaching Zumba about 15 years ago while living in Virginia. Growing up, she had a passion for dancing and music, and when a friend introduced her to the lively workouts, she fell in love.
When she and her family moved from Virginia to Wellington six years ago, she had to start fresh with a new group of students.
It was fate that she met Mary Ann Thompson, a Zumba fanatic who lived nearby and knew of a local gym that needed a Zumba instructor.
Now 70, Thompson remains a loyal attendee of Tizol’s classes. She was thrilled when the courses resumed after pausing in March because of the pandemic.
“It’s just been wonderful,” Thompson said.
In videos on her YouTube channel and Facebook page — “Zumba with Jamie” — Tizol’s energy practically radiates through the screen.
Her personality pops as her ponytail swings to the beat. Tizol never breaks her smile — something her students note in their descriptions of her when asked what makes Tizol such an effective Zumba instructor.
“She has one of those welcoming and engaging personalities,” Thompson said.
“She makes you feel just as good and healthy and energetic as if you were 19,” Beras said.
As Tizol leads her students through stretches, her pit bull mix, Sasha, frequently makes an appearance. In one recent Zumba Gold Chair class, Sasha insisted on trying repeatedly to get Tizol to throw a tennis ball.
“She’s become our mascot,” Tizol said, laughing.
While the virtual classes allow her students to remain connected to their friends and family around the country, they’ve done the same for her.
Tizol’s mother lives outside the area and joins classes, she said.
But the classes also allow Tizol to see the faces of the “sisterhood of health-conscious students” she’s grown in her time leading courses at the community center.
“I love it,” she said, adding, “And I love seeing new faces.”
Her classes are for everyone, she said. New students shouldn’t be afraid they’ll miss a few steps here or there. It could take two or three classes to pick things up, she said.
“Most important is I just want you to keep moving and just having a good time,” Tizol said.
That movement over the years has been a benefit both mentally and physically for Tizol’s students. In addition to the solid friendships that have been built in her classes, Beras is among those whose health has improved. For Beras, it came with improved bone density.
“I want to grow to be 100 years old with Jamie,” Beras said. “It’s wonderful. I don’t want this to stop.”
Want to attend one of Tizol’s classes? For a full course schedule and more information, go to www.wellingtonfl.gov/virtualrecreation.