On Chess: Teaching The Teachers At Gateway Middle School
Teaching requires passion, patience, proficient knowledge and preparation. None were more prepared, knowledgeable, patient and passionate than the students of St. Louis’ own Gateway Middle School.
On Feb. 26, 10 tournament players from the Gateway Knights took it upon themselves to teach their teachers the foundations of chess. Not only to test their own skills, but to share the love of the game with teachers and officers.
Once word got out about the chess workshop, members of the community asked how they could get involved. Police officers from St. Louis and St. Louis County joined the lesson, with the hopes of bettering their own chess skills.
Here's what they had to say about the day:
“Chess is a very challenging game, and I’m happy to finally learn how to play. As a police officer, I appreciate every opportunity to strengthen connections within our communities. The students are so passionate about playing and teaching chess. I enjoyed learning how the pieces move and the strategies used while building relationships with middle schoolers.” — Officer Tracy Panus, St. Louis County Police Department
“I had a great time at the Teach the Teachers at Gateway Middle School this morning. I had the pleasure of a game of chess with Marquis. He was happy to explain the different pieces of the board, their abilities and a few moves that can be done as well. I’m not a chess player, as, to me, the Knight is the horsey piece; as Marquis explained, no, it’s the Knight. He was nice and didn’t take all my pieces when he could have, and on more than one occasion he said, 'Do you really want to move there?' This wasn’t some psych-out move; this was him genuinely wanting me to look at the board again to see the moves that he could do to end the game. Sometimes, I caught on quickly; other times, he may have pointed a couple of things out to me, thankfully.” — Detective Tracy Hallquist, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
The St. Louis Chess Club, St. Louis Public Schools, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the St. Louis County Police Department have partnered to launch St. Louis C.H.E.S.S. Cops, “Chess Helping Enhance Student Skills.” The program pairs St. Louis city and county police officers with inner city students to teach them the game of chess.
C.H.E.S.S. Cops was launched in February 2019 and is currently composed of both city and county police officers who are encouraged to play chess during their shifts during students’ chess class.
The chess curriculum teaches lessons on critical thinking, planning and logic. The program is also designed to foster positive relationships between the police departments and students.
"When I'm instructing in the classroom, it may seem like a simple in-and-out routine,” said scholastic instructor Lawrence Hu. “But, when the community comes together, that's where the impact is. That's when everything clicks, and I say to myself, 'This is what chess is meant to be, a common language that anyone can share.’”
At the end of the day, teachers, officers and students left the classroom with a little something extra. Chess aside, the connections made over the board will be lasting. Not everyone can be a great teacher, but great teachers can come from anywhere.
Kyle Weber has been with the St. Louis Chess Club, a partner of St. Louis Public Radio, since 2016. Prior to coming on board with the club, Kyle taught mathematics and coached chess at University Academy charter school in Kansas City.
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