Wizard of the Month Spotlight - December 2022 - Karen Braun
Our employee of the month is Karen Braun from Michigan.
Karen joined Chess Wizards in 2021. She has recently been promoted to instructor coordinator of Michigan due to her outstanding performance with her classes and working so well with the other instructors. She has great charisma and classroom management skills.
Another Chess Wizards instructor even had this to say about Karen, “I know a lot about chess, but she makes chess a lot of fun!”
Karen, thank you for being such an outstanding employee and teacher!
To show our appreciation for your dedication and hard work – please check your email this week for a special gift from us.
Check out our interview with Karen below:
1. Who are you, where do you come from, where are you going?
My name is Karen Braun. I am married (36 years) to my fantastic husband, a mother to six awesome adult children, and a grandma to seven fabulous grandchildren. I was born and raised in metro Detroit and continue to live here with my family all nearby. Where am I going, is anybody’s guess. I homeschooled all six of my children through high school. The last one graduated in 2021. I am excited to write the next chapter in my life story.
2. How long have you been teaching with Chess Wizards?
I started working for Chess Wizards in the fall of 2021.
3. What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started teaching?
The most valuable lesson I have learned is to become a “student” of my students. I have as much to learn from them as they do from me.
4. What is the most exciting experience you have had while playing or teaching chess?
When I was about nine years old, my dad came home with a gorgeous marble and onyx chess set he had purchased while on a business trip to Toronto, Canada. The pieces were hand-crafted and the board was very heavy. It was set up in front of our fireplace. I was excited every time I played on that set.
5. How do you motivate your students to succeed?
I listen to them and learn what motivates them. I try not to assume that they are all motivated the same way. Some are motivated by the competition while others by learning something new. Others like the challenge of puzzles and I make sure I have new ones each class session. Learning what motivates them allows me to encourage their success in a way that is valuable to them.
6. What is your most memorable memory from your time as a Chess Wizard?
I was teaching at a summer camp. The morning group was small and I was able to provide a lot of focused attention. One morning, I planned to teach rook roller. One young man struggled to understand it but was determined not to give up. While the other students moved on to play a game, he asked if I could keep working with him. He stayed focused and after about 15 minutes he finally got it. I called for recess and we all went outside. When we came back inside, he asked, “Can you do it with me one more time just to make sure I didn’t forget how to do it?” He checkmated quickly and shouted, “I love this game!”
7. If you could retire tomorrow and never have to worry about money again, what would you do with your time?
I would teach chess. Seriously. I live by the motto, “Find out what you love to do and find a way to get paid to do it.” This has guided me my whole life. I am now a “retired” homeschool mom and continue to do what I love: Teach children a game that I love and get paid to do it!
8. What’s your go-to technique for dealing with ‘handful students’?
I am not sure I have a single go-to technique. This changes a lot as I continue to learn how to work with students who have been in school all day. If I hear a student talking smack or gloating, I remind the entire class, “chess is a game of the mind not the mouth.” Or if they are getting physical, I remind them that chess is a game of the “mind not muscle.” I have also talked to individuals one-on-one, moved students to other games, or in a few instances told them I needed to talk to their parents when they are picked up. If I do talk to the parent, I share something positive about the student along with the challenging behavior. I will try to talk to the parents again in a week or two to say something encouraging.
9. What is an unusual place you have been to?
I stood 45 feet underwater in the Detroit River with one foot in Canada and the other in Detroit. No, I am not an Olympic swimmer or a deep sea diver. There is a mile-long international highway tunnel under the Detroit River that connects Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Canada. This tunnel is at mile seven of the Detroit Marathon, “the underwater mile.”
10. Do you have a talent that not many people know about?
I love to write. There is a book in my mind that I hope to one day write if I can stop playing online chess long enough to write it.
11. What’s your #1 teaching tip?
Teaching is two parts preparation and one part improvisation. Prepare but expect the unexpected and be ready for it.
12. What’s your favorite classroom Attention Getter?
I like to tell jokes or ask open-ended questions in unexpected ways. I’ve been known to ask who flunked a test or hated their lunch today? I also like to tell short snippets about myself that spark their curiosity and allow them to share a bit more about themselves. When students feel respected they are more likely to respect the time we have together.
13. What is something interesting that you’re involved in, outside of Chess Wizards?
I am a member of a marathon run group called, LoveRuns. We run the Detroit Marathon each fall to raise awareness and money to help victims of human trafficking in the Detroit area.
14. If you saw a kangaroo and a chimpanzee playing chess what would you do? Who do you think would win?
I would take a selfie in my Chess Wizard costume and post it on tik-tok. I would include an announcement that Chess Wizards are so amazing they can even teach animals to play the game. It would go viral and a movie would eventually be made, “The Chimps Gambit.” You’ll have to wait for the season finale to find out who wins.
15. Star Wars, Star Trek, or they’re both lame?
I have never seen either so it would be very lame of me to comment.
16. What do you like most about working with Chess Wizards?
The people I work for and with make each day fun. Working for Chess Wizards is a game, not work for me. I mean, I get to play chess at work; what’s not to love about that!?!