Retired teacher returns for chess club
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013 5:50 am | Updated: 6:54 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.
By Mark Zimmaro
WESTAMPTON — Bill Carrington wanted to give back.
The retired teacher wanted to reconnect with the student population he had grown to love over the years.
So he decided to start a chess club.
Every week, on Friday afternoons, Carrington can be found at the Burlington County Special Services School in Westampton instructing the game of chess to elementary school students with special needs.
With 36 years of teaching experience in the school district, Carrington determined he couldn’t stay out of the classroom after retiring last year. He now volunteers at Special Services, teaching basic chess and even some involved strategies to eager learners.
“I used to use chess as a regular classroom activity,” said Carrington, who mostly taught at the Lumberton campus. “Many of the kids I dealt with had short attention spans so I started using chess to occupy their minds with something constructive.”
Carrington said his idea caught on with his former students and it became a highlight for many children he taught.
“I had a class that couldn’t sit still for very long,” he said. “Once I taught them how to play chess, I’d have to kick them out of the classroom so they would go to lunch and gym. It was pretty effective.”
Before each session, Carrington, a Burlington Township resident, carefully lays out the chess boards and arranges the 32 pieces on each board. Sometimes he will pose an early challenge to students, quizzing them on whether the board is set up correctly.
Good form and sportsmanship are also lessons taught by the crafty teacher, who managed to checkmate 11-year-old Antonio Cuevas in just four moves during one of their head-to-head games.
“Your offense is good, but you forgot to play defense,” Carrington told the young chess player, who looked around the room in disbelief. “Let’s try again.”
Other days, Cuevas says he gets the best of his teacher as their friendly rivalry builds and a friendship blossoms.
On Friday, Carrington carried a big smile during the 45-minute session and showcased his own disbelief when the school bell rung.
“It goes by quick,” he said. “We get so tuned in that we forget about what time it is.”
Carrington’s lessons don’t end there. He has set up a mentoring program called “Have Chess, Will Travel” where he visits churches, counseling centers and private homes to teach chess.
“Anyone who’s willing to play, I’ll teach them,” he said. “It helps me stay active too. I really enjoy the game.”
Special Services Elementary Principal Anthony Dent said was glad an arrangement could be made to have Carrington instruct at the school.
“He’s great teaching them forward thinking, planning strategies and has the ability to calm the kids down to be able to play the game,” Dent said. “It started off with two or three kids and some days we have 12-15 kids in here … It’s been a big success.”
Dent said Carrington is the perfect fit for the program.
“He understands where these kids come from and what they need for help,” Dent said. “He gives them someone to look up to.”
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