Earlier this year, Marian Edmonds — a teacher at Price Middle School in Atlanta — won a district-wide award. Her prize: She could attend any educational conference she wanted.
Instead, she used her prize money to bring 5 students to the US Chess Federation’s National Junior High Championship in Grapevine, Texas.
They’d been playing less than 2 years. But that was enough time for Edmonds — the former Marian Warshafsky, a 1978 Staples High School graduate — to introduce them to the game.
And to inspire, motivate, and coach them well enough to compete at a national level.
It all began in the fall of 2017. Edmonds — on cafeteria duty — had a chessboard. Several kids seemed interested. She taught them the basics.
They told their friends. Soon, Price had a chess team.
Chess offers many benefits, Edmonds says, like critical thinking skills, improved confidence and concentration, and the life lesson that every move you make has consequences.
“Chess makes us all equal,” Edmonds told the Atlanta public schools’ website. “All you need is the opportunity and the motivation.”
She sure gave them that. This past April, her team placed 6th in the state tournament.
Then came Texas. The selection process for the 5 players included writing an essay about the game’s impact on their lives.
Chess “made me a better person,” Cierra Patton wrote. She said she now feels “like I’m a knight.”
The national tournament was the big leagues. Most of the Price kids’ competitors had been playing for years — some with professional coaches.
“Our students had to learn how to simply play a board game: how to compete, take turns, manage frustration, lose gracefully, and persist through losses,” Edmonds said.
“Yet here we were, at the same competition, facing those same chessboards.”
Like any great coach, Edmonds inspired her team.
“That kid wouldn’t last a single day at Price Middle School,” she’d say. “You’ve GOT this!”
They sure did. Her team finished 16th overall — and Aquantis Clemmons took 5th place individually.
That was exciting. Unfortunately, the team was not at the awards ceremony. Their flight home had been booked for the same time.
No matter. Tournament officials were so thrilled at the Price youngsters’ performance, they delivered the trophies to them at the gate.
“Victoriously, the Price chess team boarded their plane with trophies in hand,” the Atlanta schools’ website reported.
“Their fellow passengers cheered them on. Aquantis, Keylon, Corey, Montayo and Cierra beamed from ear to ear.”
(For the full story on Edmonds and her chess team, click here. Hat tip: Laurie Woog.)