Locals 2014: Molly Hayes
If you peeked into the window of Mambo Italiano at lunchtime May 29, you would have seen 100 fifth-grade students filling the tables — the boys in collared shirts and ties, and the girls wearing their best skirts and dresses.
Sitting with backs straight, napkins in their laps and passing the salt and pepper to the right, they were practicing table manners they’d learned in the classroom from a woman they affectionately call Miss Molly Manners.
Molly Hayes has been teaching etiquette classes in Steamboat Springs since she and her husband, Todd, moved here in 2010. She does so for local fifth-graders at no charge. “I look at this as community service,” she says.
Ever since growing up in Tampa, Florida, Hayes has been intrigued by etiquette, often reading manners books by Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt in a hammock by the lake. But she is quick to point out that her etiquette classes are the antithesis of the cotillions of her mother’s generation. They aren’t “stuffy” or “country clubby” but fresh and very applicable to modern-day life.
“It’s light, fresh and well received by parents and kids,” she says, her Southern accent fitting for someone teaching social graces. “We teach real-life skills they can relate to. I also teach good personal habits. If we feel good about ourselves, we’ll treat others better.”
Local parent Kim Brack, who helped create the program at Soda Creek Elementary with teacher Cindy Gantick, says the students love Molly “She has a Southern, genteel charm, and the kids really engage with her.”
Fifth-grader Morgan Graham is also a big fan. “She’s really kind for teaching us better table manners,” Morgan says. “It takes a lot of courage to teach kids manners because we are a rowdy bunch.”
Since founding Molly Manners (http://www.mollymanners.com) in 2010, Hayes, a former teacher with a master’s degree in educational leadership, has expanded beyond Steamboat into the international market. To date, Molly Manners has business license agreements in 37 locations, including Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines and Guatemala (people can purchase her business model, which includes curriculum, training and support). Hayes has developed three age-specific sets of curricula — “Nice is Right” for ages 3 to 6, “Kool to be Kind” for ages 7 to 11 and “The Young Sophisticate” for ages 12 to 17 — with lesson plans ranging from how to properly set the table and make good first impressions to interview skills and tips.
“Good manners are all about treating yourself and others with kindness and consideration,” she says. “And it always starts with you — showing that consideration for yourself and others.”
In Steamboat, she teaches character education and etiquette through the city Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department’s after-school program and enrichment programs at Bud Werner Memorial Library. She also offers classes at Rex’s American Grill & Bar and Steamboat Christian Center. While she and Todd recently purchased the Brown & Brown Agency (now Steamboat Select Insurance Group) and also are busy raising polite children, Ruby, 12, and Bruce, 9, she still has time to appreciate her new home.
“I love the people and sense of community here,” she says. “Everyone looks out for each other. And I love that my kids can be outside without me worrying.”
She also treasures family time outdoors — hours spent on the slopes and learning to fly fish. “You have to immerse yourself in the Steamboat culture of getting outside,” she says. “We love it.”
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