Recognizing Outstanding Wizards - March 2020

By Catherine Smith, Wizard Training Coordinator and instructor in WA and Anthony Spires, Wizard Training Coordinator and instructor in CO.


Sandra Gibbons, OR



Sandra has been at Chess Wizards since August, 2019 and is an enthusiastic and dedicated instructor. Sandra Gibbons is a working artist and enthusiastic chess player who lives in Portland, OR with her sweetheart and kitties. Born and raised in Tranquility, NJ, she moved out west to attend The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA to study feminist bookmaking.


 Sandra always wants to make sure her classes are the best and that her students have a great experience. Sandra is a very well-organized individual. She has great execution and is always quick with communication. Her classes sound like a blast! One cool thing about Sandra's classroom is she uses colored chips that she has turned into necklaces for the students to use as point counters – super creative! She is always going above and beyond expectations! Thank you Sandra for all your hard work and dedication to your students. It is very much appreciated!

Teaching Tip:

For the less-experienced and younger kids, I love to teach the Run/Block/Take lesson. In this lesson, each child plays a chess piece and the child playing the king maneuvers out of the various checks made by the other players. This dynamic, full-body exercise is a great way to introduce the concept of how to get out of check. The kids love it!



Interview with Sandra


1. Who are you, where do you come from, where are you going?

 I'm Sandra Gibbons, I'm from N.J., and I'm converting to a state of higher entropy.


2. What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started teaching?

That teaching really means learning all of the time.


 3. What is the most exciting experience you have had while playing or teaching chess?



 4. How do you motivate your students to succeed?

I love to do a round-robin tournament that lasts for the last half of the term. I find the friendly competition drives learning and interest.


 5. What is your most memorable memory from your time as a Chess Wizard?

  That "aha!" look on a kid's face when they begin to understand a clever tactic, like forks.


6. If you could retire tomorrow and never have to worry about money again, what would you do with your time?

Play chess, draw cartoons, and see the world!


 7. What’s your go-to technique for dealing with ‘handful students’?

I take the student aside and explain the class rules and how acting-out disturbs everyone. I also try to make sure that they are not either too challenged by the material, or too bored. Sometimes I'll ask a problem student to help me with lessons or distributing worksheets, to try to change their energy.


 8. What is an unusual place you have been to?

I worked at a fish cannery in Alaska for a summer... it stunk.


 9.  Do you have a talent that not many people know about?

Baking delicious bread.


10.   What’s your #1 teaching tip?

Respect the intelligence of kids, and listen to them.


 11. What’s your favorite classroom Attention Getter?

"Clap once if you can hear me!" "Clap twice if you're listening!" 


 12. What is something interesting that you’re involved in, outside of Chess Wizards?

I am also a Portland Saturday Market vendor, selling my art and homemade bath products.


13. If you saw a kangaroo and a chimpanzee playing chess what would you do? Who do you think would win?

I'd take a picture for Instagram and root for the chimpanzee... go primates!


 14. Star Wars, Star Trek, or they’re both lame?