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Chess residencies bring the 'Game of Kings' to all students

One of the longest-running programs in the history of District 191 Community Education, chess residencies remain a staple in elementary classrooms. 

Chess residencies date back to 1987, when chess master Eduard Zelkind, a Russian native, started teaching chess to One91 students. The program focuses on introducing fourth graders to the game.

Klara Fershtman, Zelkind’s daughter, has mostly taken over the program for her dad, who, at the age of 77, refuses to retire and still visits with kids once per week at schools. Fershtman has 25 years of experience teaching chess to children at schools and programs around theTwin Cities. She also holds the title of Minnesota state women’s chess co-champion for 1989 and 1990.  

“My father always told me that chess is like life! You have to think before you move, before making decisions,” said Fershtman. “It’s a battlefield but you can succeed!”

Fershtman added, “My father has always been and continues to be my hero! I’ve met many chess players and many teachers in my life. But I’ve never met anyone like my father who combines his love for chess with his love for children. It has been my honor to carry on his legacy and introduce this fascinating game to One91 students.”

“I value the chess program because of all the lessons the game teaches. It requires some logic, planning, and impulse control,” said Jim Condon, fourth grade teacher at Edward Neill. “Every year there are a few students who get completely involved with the game, even though I would not have predicted that happening. It is a great learning process for all of us.”

District 191 Community Education is dedicated to keeping this program accessible to as many students as possible. Knowing the amazing benefits of this program, including improved critical thinking and problem-solving abilities as well as academic success, Community Education covers almost the entire cost of the chess residencies to limit barriers to kids learning the game.