Columbus Chess Team

Just like the weather this past weekend, the Columbus Chess team is warming up.

On Saturday, January 27, 2018, the Columbus Chess team traveled to Cottle
Elementary school in Eastchester to compete in a National Scholastic Chess
Foundation chess tournament. The Columbus team won seven awards including
first place teams in both the Booster and Primary Novice sections.
The Columbus team came in first place in the Booster section led by Ignacio
Valencia who came in second place. Individual awards were also won by Kevin
Lopez - 5th place, and Dylan Minchez – 7th place. Also playing in the Booster
section for Columbus were Frida Arenas, Salvador Torres, Sahir Aguilar, Evelyn
Sanchez, Alan Verghese, Aiden Rodriguez, and Kenneth Servilla.
The Columbus team also took first place in the Primary Novice section lead by
Dylan Solovyev who came in first place in this section. Also winning an individual
award was Sofia Valencia who came in 9th place. Playing in the Primary Novice
section were Naolin Concha, Gianna Murgia, Joel Salick, Giovanna Murgia and
Kaily Argueta.
The highest rated chess player on the team, Gabriella Ceja competed in the
Reserve section.
Columbus Elementary school will be hosting their second NSCF tournament of the
year on March 24, 2018.

Parent Contact Information

Información de Contacto para padres

Link to the Form

Enlace al formulario

Mr. Galland's Summer Message

Workshops for Parents! ¡Talleres para Padres de Columbus!

Here are the new dates for the workshops FOR PARENTS on reading, writing, and math. 

Aquí están las nuevas fechas para los talleres PARA PADRES sobre lectura, escritura y matemáticas.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade (March 1st & May 16th) 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.
2nd and 3rd Grades (March 2nd and May 18th) 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.
4th and 5th Grades (March 7th and May 22nd) 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.

Our teachers are thrilled to share with you great ideas for helping your children develop into strong readers, writers, and creative mathematicians!
Come and learn about the curricula we use and how you can BECOME your child’s COACH and PARTNER right now, and in the years ahead!

¡Nuestros maestros están encantados de compartir con ustedes grandes ideas para ayudar a sus hijos a convertirse en lectores fuertes, escritores y matemáticos creativos!
¡Venga y aprenda sobre los currículos que usamos y cómo puede convertirse en el COACH y PARTNER de su hijo ahora y para adelante!

ESL and GED classes for parents!

Beginning January 2018 Comenzando en enero

English as a Second Language Ingles como Segundo idioma martes y jueves /Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00-10:30 AM Columbus School

Clases para obtener su diploma de la Escuela la Secundaria en Español lunes y miércoles /Mondays and Wednesdays 9:00-10:30 AM Columbus School

Link to print ESL and GED Flyer

 Para obtener más información communiqués con la Sra. Merlucci o Sra. Sanchez en la Oficina Principal.

For more information, contact Mrs. Merlucci or Mrs. Sanchez in the Main Office.

Columbus Chess Winter Scholastic

On December 9, 2017, as five inches of snow fell on the city of New Rochelle, over 100 chess players marched into Columbus Elementary school.  Columbus hosted the National Scholastic Chess Foundation Columbus Winter Scholastic.  The City School District of New Rochelle was represented by students from Isaac Young, Albert Leonard, Columbus, Webster and Ward.
Seven students from Columbus competed in the Elementary Booster section winning first place as a team.  Individual awards were won by Kevin Lopez and Alan Verghese.  Also playing for Columbus were Dylan Minchez, Salvador Torres, Sahir Aguilar, Frida Arenas and Evelyn Sanchez.
Nine students from Columbus competed in the Primary Novice section also winning first place as a team.  Ignacio Valencia lead this section of the team with a third place individual trophy.  Dylan Solovyev was awarded with a medal.  Also playing for Columbus were Naolin Concha, Gianna Murcia, Giovanna Murcia, Kaily Argueta, Constantine Zelatis, Sofia Valencia and Joel Salick.
As the highest rated player on the team for Columbus, Gabriela Ceja competed in the Reserve section which is for students rated under 1000.
The day was also made notable when Legislator Jim Maisano stopped by the school to honor Columbus Chess Coach Mark Hegenauer.  The Westchester County Board of Legislators proclaimed that December 9, 2017 be declared Mark Hegenauer day in Westchester County.  He was recognized for faithfully facilitating the chess club at Columbus Elementary School since 1998.
In addition, Columbus Principal Michael Galland and his brother Jeremy spent much of the day encouraging students.  As a young chess player 30 years ago Jeremy Galland was coached by NSCF Director Sunil Weeramantry.  The team that Jeremy played on won a National Championship.
Columbus parents were kept busy throughout the day selling breakfast, lunch and snacks to help raise funds with the intention of sending the team to Nashville, Tennessee in May for the Scholastic Chess Nationals.

School Announcements

  • Half Days and Dismissal Times


    January 29, 11:10 Dismissal

    March 5, 11:40 Dismissal

    June 20 - 22, 11:40 Dismissal


    Columbus Elementary School

Mark Hegenauer, Chess Teacher

Chess in the Park - October 9th.

Presentation honoring Mark Hegenauer in celebration of his 20 years teaching chess in our schools.

Read the article in the National Scholastic Chess Foundation's Publication:

Because ESL teachers work with individuals or very small groups of students, many don’t have a classroom. When Mark Hegenauer came to Columbus Elementary School in New Rochelle in 1998, “I was set up in a closet.” While space may not be a problem for ESL, it’s definitely a problem when more kids are interested in learning chess than will fit into the room. But like any good chess player, Mark has figured out his way around the obstacles, working in the library, borrowing classrooms and sometimes even spilling out into the hallway (“That wasn’t very workable”). For a few years, he even had his own classroom. Along the way, he has taken his students, many of whom are the low-performing students he works with in his regular instruction, from learning so they could play a bit of chess with their friends to competitors on the national stage.

On Columbus Day, during our Chess in the Parkevent at Library Green in New Rochelle, the National Scholastic Chess Foundation will be honoring Mark for 20 years teaching chess in the schools.

Mark is an example of what the NSCF has been developing with its teacher training initiative as we are training teachers to be able to teach chess, at least at the introductory level. “A lot of schools have these highly-rated chess players. I’m not a tournament chess player and I didn’t grow up playing chess. I am an ESL teacher and that is really my main focus. But I definitely see the benefits of teaching chess and how it helps students of every ability level, especially the students I serve. They have to shake hands and they have to make eye contact. When I first play a child, I will hold the handshake until they make eye contact. I know it’s just a board game, but the kids are socializing and interacting with one another and that is so needed today.”

Mark got his start when he started as an ESL teacher at PS291 in the Bronx. He was set up in a closet there too and a teacher in “another closet” was Alan Abrams who was teaching chess. Mark was sitting in on one of Alan’s classes and was asked to play against two of the 4th graders. “I didn’t play much chess, but was just about to graduate with my masters degree and these were elementary kids… how hard could it be?” He was beaten by both boys. Thus, his interest was sparked. “These kids were tough kids. I would hear their conversations and they involved carrying guns and knives, even though they were only in elementary school.” But he saw Alan making progress, actually getting them interested and good at chess. “Alan was not only the chess teacher, he dealt with conflict resolution and his personality was such that he gained their trust.” 

“Many of these children who don’t do well in other subjects can perform on the chess board. It really helps with self-esteem and with self-control.… I like to tell the story of one boy Alan and I both taught. He was large for his age in 4th grade and then had to repeat the year. He couldn’t read and he had a lot of social problems. Many of the kids laughed at his deficits and picked on him. The first year I worked with him on his reading, but the following year Alan got him interested in chess and made a huge impact. Because he did well at chess, he earned the respect of the other students.”

Mark started helping take kids to NSCF tournaments with Alan. “The first tournament we took them to was in Greenwich. It was like the chess movies–underperforming kids from a low-income neighborhood where there wasn’t even a playground showing up to play other elementary kids whose school looked nicer than a college campus.” The kids, as it turned out, did remarkably well. 

The next year, Mark took a position at Columbus Elementary School and determined that, in addition to his ESL classes, he would continue to teach chess and started reading chess books to improve his own knowledge. “Alan used to have chess puzzles all over his walls and I would faithfully copy them. Now I was finding that he got these from (Bruce) Pandolfini and other books I was now reading myself!”

The Columbus program began modestly using photocopied puzzles and some discount store chess sets. In 1999, Mark took some of his players to a tournament in Sleepy Hollow where he met Sunil Weeramantry, executive director of the NSCF. “When Sunil found out what we were working with, he arranged for the NSCF to donate 10 boards and sets, a demo board and to give us 50% off the registration fee so our students could play in as many tournaments as possible. We’ve had a tremendous relationship ever since.” For several years, Mark was teaching chess during the day and NSCF chess instructor Polly Wright was leading an after school program. “That was when the program was the strongest really,” Mark said.

Mark also pointed out that the program, in its early years, was supported by some of the parents. “One student, Evan Posner, had a dad who was this traveling accountant. He would go to these meetings with different companies, and then, at the end of the meeting, ask for a few extra minutes; he'd tell the story about our little chess team and pass the hat. In 2001, we were able to go to Saratoga for the New York State championship and we came third in our section. Then we went to SuperNationals in Kansas City. We had three boys score 5 ½ games in K-6 under 900 and one little girl won 6 (out of 7). It was such a magical experience. In 2002, we again went to Nationals and our youngest players moved up to the K-3 Championship section. We came 12th, and that was against all these private schools with some of the best chess teachers in the nation.”

Afterwards, another couple stepped forward, Wendy and Martin Sanchez, to support chess at Columbus. They held monthly parent meetings, and coordinated events, such as a yearly spring fair, car washes and raffles, allowing Mark to take even more children to state and national events.

Beyond the chess board, at this time, Mark was in a position to access student test scores. “This was by no means a scientific study,” he said, “but all the children who were taking chess were showing improvement in their classes. It would have been interesting to be able to study this in more depth.”

The program changed a bit when Mark became a father himself. The class has since been limited to lunch times and it has been a struggle to teach all the grades and give them playing time. And the parent support also dwindled as students moved on to middle school and beyond. But one parent, Joan Waldron, came along in 2007 who has been a faithful and diligent supporter ever since. Even though her own son is now in 11th grade, Joan continued to support chess at Columbus Elementary. “I don’t know if I would have continued (with chess) without her ongoing support,” Mark said. Fundraising has taken a back seat as well but Mark still sends a team to Nationals every other year.

As for the results beyond the chess board, Mark said one of the parents hosts an annual summer party for the chess club and many former students come back to say hello and play some chess. Again, it’s only anecdotal he said, “But they tell me 99% of the children who were in the chess program have gone on to college – that’s pretty remarkable.”

Recipient of Fulbright Grant

     Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn, the science coordinator for Columbus Elementary School, has been offered a Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Short-Term grant to travel and teach in Vietnam for the summer.
   Zahn will be among nine U.S. citizens who will travel abroad through the Teaching Short-Term Program in the 2017-2018 school year. The award is granted by the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
   Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential. Zahn will work with Huu Nghi Primary school in Hai Phong City in northern Vietnam to help develop an authentic, hands-on approach to teaching science.
   "I am super excited and honored to have been chosen for this amazing educational experience," said Zahn. "Teaching children to think critically and creatively is at the heart of all learning.  To do this, we must also be willing to take risks and extend our own learning to beyond the classroom walls."
   The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries that are needed to solve global challenges.
   Zahn has taught in the New Rochelle school district for 24 years. She has worked summers in science labs in Columbia University, and participated in programs that took her to classrooms in Malaysia, Singapore and Japan. She has also taken part in a leadership program at Mercy College.
   Last year, Zahn received the 2016 Anton Banko Award for excellence in elementary school science teaching. The award is given by the Science Teacher's Association of New York and includes a $1,500 grant for classroom use. (News from Our Schools 5/26)

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