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Teachers, coaches enjoy growth in second chess season

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 School chess team coaches are learning that once word reaches students they can be part of a chess team, moves are made.

Rita Taulbee of Lebanon Junction Elementary School distributes flyers in the fall followed by visiting individual classes and asking teachers for input.

“I have actually introduced several of my kindergartners to chess,” she said. “I have one third grader, a second grader and six kindergarteners brand new to chess. The K kids only had approximately six weeks of practice before they participated in their first competition. One of my kindergarten kids came in fourth overall for his age division.”

Several students have joined Lebanon Junction’s chess team and brought their knowledge to the game board.

“I have them work with the new players by introducing them to the chess board, the pieces and how they move,” Taulbee explained. “They help them for about the first 30 minutes of practice.”

Taulbee feels year two of the chess league has been even more successful.

“The younger students competed in activities that normally only fourth and fifth graders participate in,” she said. “Parent support was fantastic and chess is a new sport for the parents to observe. Chess has helped to build the confidence of my kindergarteners.”

She has also seen skills students learn from playing chess applied in the classroom.

“My students have learned patience, to analyze the situation, and to look ahead to see what their actions might involve,” Taulbee noted. “They think through the problems using the skills they have learned in chess. They ask more questions as to ‘What if?’, ‘Why?’ and “I don’t understand.’  This has transferred over into their academics as well. They take their time and they think about their answers. They are more sure of themselves as they try to take ownership of what they do.”

Joe Phelps spent the better part of the past season as a volunteer with the Pleasant Grove Elementary School chess team.

“When Pleasant Grove sent out the email telling everyone they were starting a chess program, I immediately contacted Mr. (Kevin) Weihe telling him I would be interested in helping out,” he said.

The experience has been invaluable for Phelps, the father of two chess players, and the students.

“I have really enjoyed helping out with the chess program at Pleasant Grove,” he said. “We have a great group of kids that enjoy playing and studying the game. Several of our kids really improved and did very well last season; many of them came in the top 5 in almost every tournament.”

Phelps applauded Weihe’s commitment to the school chess team.

“PGE is lucky to have Mr. Weihe (who keeps all the kids focused and on track) and several parent volunteers that help out during practice and tournaments,” Phelps said. “One of the PGE parent volunteers, Johnny Harlemert (father of PGE player Blake Harlemert), is an active tournament ‘A’ class chess player and is closing in on his Expert rating!”

Phelps also praised others who work hard to make the district chess league a reality.

“I would also like to thank (District Chess League Coordinator) Dennis Minnis for doing so much to advance chess as a legitimate ‘sport’ in Bullitt County Public Schools. He does a fantastic job running the league, tournaments and getting everyone excited about chess.”

Mt. Washington Elementary School teacher and chess team coordinator Bryan Kerr offered an open invitation for students last August.

“This resulted in getting a lot of beginners,” he said. “Several dropped out or just came to practice sporadically but did not give a reason why. In the end I had about 25 attending regularly.”

He watched as students with knowledge of the game worked with those just starting.

“Kids are always willing to help each other out and our more experienced players were eager to lend a hand,” Kerr said. “I think they were most helpful with kids who came in knowing a little already. My beginning players who stuck with it all year have progressed well, and should be able to improve considerably next year.”