Columbus Teacher Honored by Chess Foundation
Columbus Elementary School ESL teacher Mark Hegenauer has been teaching his students chess for 20 years. His ability to help children grow cognitively and emotionally through play was recognized by the National Scholastic Chess Foundation Monday at its Chess in the Park event inside the New Rochelle Public Library.
Hegenauer has seen students of every ability level benefit from learning this game of strategic thinking and problem solving. And he sees the social aspects of the game as just as beneficial for his students who are learning to be better communicators.
"I know it's just a board game, but the kids are socializing and interacting with one another, and that is so needed today," said Hegenauer. "Many of these children who don't do well in other subjects can perform on the chess board. It really helps with self-esteem and with self-control."
In 2001, Columbus students began competing on the national stage. The team has been to SuperNationals 16 times and has almost always placed among the top 20 teams. Twice, Columbus had two teams place among the top ten in the nation. And one year, it had two teams place in the top five. Most impressively, Hegenauer led one of his teams to win the New York State Championship.
"The awards are great," said Hegenauer. "But the program is really about how chess helps students make better decisions as well as build confidence and relationships across grade levels."