Daingerfield-Lone Star ISD Chess Club teaches life skills | Education

Daingerfield-Lone Star ISD students have a life-changing experience through a special program – the Chess Club.

Some students have even sacrificed their recess time to train for UIL competitions.

The program was implemented in 2012 with the help of retired businessman and avid chess player Jay Dee Davis, who has coached the chess club since its inception.

Davis was enjoying his retirement when his wife, and a district teacher at the time, Mary Davis, offered him to fill the role.

“The manager asked my wife, ‘Do you want to coach the chess team? (The Texas Education Agency) came out with a new chess curriculum for UIL and my wife said “no, but my husband will,” Davis said. “I thought it was going to be three weeks with eight little kids in year two and then I can hang up. At the end of those three weeks, this team won the district competition for the gold medal, but most importantly, each one of them captured my heart, so I carried on.

The program includes students in grades one through eight, and each grade has approximately 18 students.

Even though Jay Dee Davis is the coach, his wife also started helping out after he retired.

Mary Davis said that students who are often in the chess club struggle in other aspects of education, but when it comes to chess they demonstrate hidden talents and knowledge that create a boost of confidence.

“It makes them feel smart and capable, it helps them push themselves. They are very smart in problem solving and analytical thinking, it just gives another way to show a child how special and talented they are,” said Mary Davis.

One of the skills students learn is problem solving, which helps them throughout their education as they move on to other grade levels.

“Problem skills will help them throughout their lives. By losing a piece in a game or having a plan to dissolve, students learn not to give up, but to assess and change flexibly to meet the next challenge,” he said.

Parents and former chess club members often go to Davis when they see him outside of school campuses and show their appreciation for the chess club, he said.

According to Davis, parents often write and call school campuses and ask their child to be placed on the chess team.

Davis and his wife view the students as a “blessing” and have grown to love every student who has been part of the program.

“These children are the blessing of our lives. We are both retired and have been doing this for a long time, and we love each of the kids,” he said. “It’s so refreshing to see them succeed, especially after they get into high school and you see that their decision-making and their life choices really matter.”

Recently, some of the Chess Club students participated in the UIL Chess Competition 2021 in November and December and exceeded margin scores from previous years.

“This year was so special because the margin of victory was so exceptionally high,” Davis said.

Students had 30 minutes to solve a large number of chess puzzles based on their grade level while competing against bigger schools.

Over the past three years, the program has won a total of 13 team gold medals.

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