October 23, 2019 – CIS Managing Director Neil Dietsch travels to the Franklin Chess Center in Meadville, MS to check out a class titled Introduction to Teaching Chess in Schools.
The class is offered by The University of Mississippi’s Center for Mathematics & Science Education and taught by Dr. Jeff Bulington, the chess coach featured in a 2017 60 Minutes story about the impact of teaching chess on students in rural Mississippi, and honored as the 2018 Chess Coach of the Year.

I knew the story from 60 Minutes in 2017 about a local benefactor in Franklin, MS who had contracted with chess instructor Jeff Bulington to move from Memphis to Franklin, MS to establish a chess club and work with students in this rural Mississippi town for ten years starting in 2015. The story featured the impact it had on children as well as the competitive success that its students had at state and national tournaments. This brief 60 Minutes Overtime feature hints at the extent to which his teaching methods transcend standard competitive chess training.

What I did not know until I met Jeff in August 2019 at the US Chess Delegates meeting was the extent to which his coaching and training methods align with Chess in Education concepts. Dr. Bulington’s methods arise from a diverse array of training and experience. Imagine a melding of chess coach, philosopher, children’s theater performer, doctor of Education with an adventurer prepared to take on a ten-year stint in an unfamiliar town of 7,000 in rural Mississippi and you begin to understand something about the qualities this CIE thought-leader brings to Chess in Education.

The class included local Meadville teachers, myself, and Chess Master Pete Karagianis representing US Chess.

In Part 2 of this article, I will discuss the content of the two-day Introduction to Teaching Chess in Schools class, including the novel approaches and methods that “Dr. B.” (as he is known by his young students) employs in his chess training. Among these are:

  1. cleverly embedding the practice of language and literacy skills in stories and puzzles
  2. intertwining logic, chess strategy, and life lessons in the review of chess games
  3. coaching teachers on listening skills; focusing less on right or wrong answers and more on understanding the thinking process each student employs to arrive at their answer.

For those ready to take a deeper dive now into Dr. Bulington’s approach and methods, check out this 1-hour video of his presentation upon receiving the 2018 Chess Coach of the Year award.