CPIS Chess Club making big moves in first year

CPIS Chess Club takes fresh approach on learning
Posted on 05/22/2024
CPIS Chess Club making big moves in first year

CPIS Chess Club on USS Wisconsin

At Churchland Primary and Intermediate School (CPIS), Title I Parent & Family Engagement Liaison Vicki Sanchez-Tiller is constantly seeking opportunities for students to learn and develop outside of regular instructional time. During her search, she came across the Hampton Roads Chess Association (HRCA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the life benefits of chess to people of all ages and abilities throughout the region.

“Chess not only improves focus and decision making, but is also proven through studies to boost academic performance and test scores,” said Christina Schweiss, co-founder and executive director of the HRCA. “Successful gameplay also requires players to practice time management, planning and reasoning, which are critical skills for the developing learner.”

CPIS Chess Club

Hoping to see chess produce the same results for her students, Sanchez-Tiller reached out to Kyree Wiley, a fourth grade substitute teacher who also has an affinity for the classic board game, and asked if he could serve as the advanced instructor for the students. With Wiley’s skillset added into the mix, the CPIS Chess Club was officially founded in October 2023.

“All 36 student slots were filled at our first club meeting, and we even had to generate a waitlist,” said Sanchez-Tiller. “There were also several parent volunteers that showed up and have continued to help out, which is awesome because I am able to engage more intimately with these families than I did prior to the club.”

CPIS Chess Club practicing

To her surprise, the club received an overly warm welcome from the school community.

“I was really excited to join the chess club because I love playing the game and getting to meet new people,” said Judah Ejedimu, a CPIS fourth-grader who relocated to the United States from Nigeria with his family a month prior to the club’s formation. “My favorite part is making my opening move and seeing what my opponent does next.”

“I appreciate that the club instructors are always patient and work well with all of the students,” said Amber White, a parent volunteer. “The chess club has also helped my son’s confidence because he knows that the instructors believe in him and provide encouragement when the students need it.”

CPIS Chess Club practicing

The students’ initial and continued participation in the chess club led to Sanchez-Tiller’s vision expanding beyond an afterschool program.

“We could see their confidence rising as they learned the game,” said Sanchez-Tiller of the club members. “Since they enjoyed it so much, I figured we could look into competing.”

After presenting the idea to the HRCA, the association was so excited that they took it a step further and allowed the CPIS Chess Club to host their first tournament: the Churchland Scholastic Chess Tournament.

CPIS Chess Club

The CPIS club, which had only been practicing together for some months, faced off against seasoned competitors from public, private and home schools from Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Newport News.

“Not only were we the newest chess club, we were the only group representing Portsmouth,” said Sanchez-Tiller.

And represent they did, bringing home a total of nine ribbons, six medals and three trophies from their first-ever tournament.

One of those trophies belongs to Jaxx Griffin, a second-grader, who won first place.

“I liked playing against students from different schools and studying their strategies,” Griffin said of his experience. “I joined the club to get better, and now I can take these new moves home and finally beat my parents!”

CPIS Chess Club

The success of the club did not stop after hosting their big debut – students brought home several more awards at the Seven Cities School Chess Championship in May 2024.

Even outside of the club meetings and competitions, the skills students gain on either side of the board continue to have a positive impact.

“Jaxx has definitely shown more patience when it comes to homework and his studies, but also in other aspects of life,” said Ariel Griffin, referencing her son’s transformation. “Chess isn’t a quick game, and it takes time and thought before each move.”

“Not only has her grades improved drastically, but her confidence level has risen,” noted Latrice Reese when speaking of her daughter, Kylie. “She’s become much more outgoing, and even has the whole family playing chess now.”

CPIS Chess Club member

While proving themselves to be real contenders at the regional level was a great accomplishment, the students’ growth remains the real victory.

“This experience has helped students stay focused, learn sportsmanship and problem solve on a level like no other, all while having fun,” said Sanchez-Tiller. “I’m proud of what we’ve done so far, and can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

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