Recognizing Outstanding Wizards: Amy Hayes

By Catherine Smith, Wizard Training Coordinator and Instructor in WA 

Amy has been with Chess Wizards for over two years and is one of the best instructors in IL. She has a great knowledge of chess, and the schools love her! Amy is very responsible and is always willing to go the extra mile, help out, and to sub. She pays attention to detail, has a great attitude, and is very passionate about teaching!

Thank you so much Amy for everything you do for Chess Wizards and for inspiring your students!


My name is Amy, I am from Illinois. Born and raised in Elmhurst (Salt Creek) and then the Oak Park (Hemingway and Frank Lloyd Wright) area. I am now settled in Channahon, IL. If you don’t know where that is, it’s right next to Minooka (Ron Swanson).

Our family has a cabin on the lake in the Northwoods, WI, so I’ve spent a lot of time ‘up north’ as well. This summer, I taught an amazing Chess Wizards camp in Minnesota, and drove there from the cabin through the Nicolet forest, it was really beautiful! 

I went to Columbia University and have a degree in fine art, I have directed a Community Arts Council and provided scholarships for local arts students! 

I paint, draw, and live to teach! 

Teaching Tip:

Engage your students! Nothing is more disruptive to your lessons than a bored student! Try including that student immediately by asking an obvious, random, or funny question (just in case they were not paying attention, you don’t want to embarrass them, that would be opposite of your goal!) this pulls then back into the lesson in a positive way, works wonders! 

Interview with Amy

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

 I am Amy from Illinois, I teach with Chess Wizards in the Chicagoland area.

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

To never give up on a student, even if they don’t want to learn. Keep trying, find the spark, it’s usually there. 

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

The tournaments by far. It’s amazing to see the students, some that have just learned chess weeks ago, are suddenly playing games and really invested! 

  1.          How do you motivate your students to succeed?

The reward system is great if you can do it. Kids love to be rewarded and recognized, who doesn’t?! 

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

One of my students had just learned a strategy in our class lesson, during the practice games he looked up and exclaimed, “Miss Amy, I did it!!!” he was so happy! A simple memory, but one I’ll never forget. 

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

Travel! Go everywhere and play chess with people all over the world instead of just online! 

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

Quickly include them in a helper activity, the power of distraction is strong! 

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

Loch Ness, Scotland. No one warned me about the wild boars. 

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

I love to paint! 

  1.        What’s your #1 teaching tip?

Be prepared!!!

  1.        What’s your favorite classroom attention getter?

I set a clapping pattern at the start of the session, kids repeat it back to me whenever I need them to listen.  

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

In the summer, I run an organic produce market in the south suburbs, we grow everything right there.

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

I would pull up a chair for sure. The Kangaroo would win, having fast and decisive moves, the chimp would be too busy monkeying around!   

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

Both are great… but the force is always with me!