Instructors

  • Meet the Kid Chess Team

  • We are a child centered program with highly qualified and experienced chess coaches. Our unique staffing approach utilizes the talents of both tournament chess players and educators.

  • Each of our coaches pass in-depth background checks and are trained to make chess fun! Meet the Kid Chess® team below.

    • Justin Morrison
      Founder

      Justin Morrison

      Founder

      Justin is the founder and owner of Kid Chess. He started playing chess in high school and has over four decades of experience. He was the 3-time Georgia High School Champion from 1976 through 1978, High School Champion of Southeastern United States in 1976, and Georgia Junior Champion in 1978. He is a current USCF-rated Expert, a certified USCF tournament director beginning in 1977, and has taught chess since 1976.

       

    • Kristi Morrison
      Instructor / Coach

      Kristi Morrison

      Instructor / Coach

      Kristi received an Elementary Education Certification from Kennesaw State College after graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in Psychology. Before working for Kid Chess, Kristi taught 1st and 2nd grades for 10 years in Fulton County, Georgia. Kristi first learned how to play chess in a chess class taught at her elementary school in Michigan. Kristi loves being a part of the Kid Chess team because it allows her to continue to teach. Kristi is a co-owner of Kid Chess with her husband, Kid Chess founder Justin Morrison. Kristi and Justin have a son and she has spent the last several years raising him. Kristi enjoys spending time with her family, practicing yoga, exercising, and reading.

    • Ratana Landry
      Instructor / Coach

      Ratana Landry

      Instructor / Coach

      (Shown here on the right) Ratana joined the Kid Chess team as Director of Operations in June of 2004. Ratana has been a casual chess player since her college days, and “hopes some of the chess talent currently surrounding her rubs off”. She is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She has an extensive background in Private Investigations having owned her own business in Louisiana. Ratana met our founder Justin Morrison when she first moved to Georgia in 1995 and has had the pleasure to work with him at various times over the last 20 years. When not engaged in the many facets of managing the Kid Chess operations, Ratana is likely out riding her Harley Davidson (fondly known as “Doux”) or enjoying the outdoors camping with family, friends, and her “four-legged” kids Nick, Chloe, and Chee Chee (the infamous Chocolate Chihuahua and his two “feline” sisters).

    • Bella Belegradek
      Instructor / Coach

      Bella Belegradek

      Instructor / Coach

      Bella has been playing chess for almost thirty years. She was a seasoned tournament player in Russia, where she acquired the title of Woman Chess Master’s Candidate at age 16. She earned Master’s degrees in Math and Computer Science, the latter from the University of Maryland. She was the university’s chess champion in 1994-95 and was a member of their chess team when they won two Pan-American Intercollegiate Championships. Bella started teaching chess while in elementary school and joined Kid Chess in 2005. In her spare time she enjoys photography, traveling, hiking, knitting and knitwear design.

    • Ben Vinyard
      Instructor / Coach

      Ben Vinyard

      Instructor / Coach

      Ben has been a Kid Chess instructor since 2004. He learned to play as a child when his cousin taught him the basics of the game, and started playing seriously as an adult. He attended Southeast Missouri State University and majored in Communications. His occupational experience involves years working in the film and television industry, including a position as the studio producer for the Kansas City Royals, as well as freelance assignments with ESPN, CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS and Entertainment Tonight. Ben is a certified tournament director and, since joining Kid Chess, has become an active tournament player, at one point gaining 150 ratings points in the span of a single year. He has coached several Kid Chess teams that have qualified for the State Team Championship.

    • Clem Wellman
      Instructor / Coach

      Clem Wellman

      Instructor / Coach

      Clem Wellman started with Kid Chess in 2007. He graduated from Lake Forest College in Illinois with a B.A. in Business Administration. He began to play chess with his father at age 8, played on his high school chess team, was Lake Forest College champion in the 1960’s, and began US Chess Federation tournament play in 1963. His rating has always been Class A, but his formal play stopped by 1970 when family and business demands increased. After retiring as a Vice-President of Sales for a packaging company, he joined Kid Chess in 2007 to fulfill his love of teaching kids to play the game. Proud to have four grandchildren who were Kid Chess participants, Clem is overjoyed with his second career as a chess instructor.

    • Gerald Stafford
      Instructor / Coach

      Gerald Stafford

      Instructor / Coach

      Gerald joined Kid Chess in 2006. He majored in elementary education, and has worked with children in different capacities including youth minister, activities director, camp director, physical education teacher, and sports coach. Gerald’s aspiration is to teach children life skills and values through fun and innovative games. A father of three daughters, he encourages all children as if they were his own. Gerald brings an exuberant amount of energy to every class and interacts with the children in a relatable way. He aspires to be a role model and to show caring and a positive character at all times.

    • Joey Weigel
      Instructor / Coach

      Joey Weigel

      Instructor / Coach

      Joey was taught how to play chess by his father when he was very young. He became absorbed in the game and began to independently read chess books in an attempt to better his skills. Joey attended Justin Morrison’s very first chess camp (based out of Justin’s home!) and won the outstanding player trophy. Joey earned a music scholarship to Kennesaw State University and then joined Kid Chess in 2006. In addition to being a Kid Chess coach, he is a musician and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor and competitor.

    • John Austin
      Instructor / Coach

      John Austin

      Instructor / Coach

      John was born in Memphis, but grew up in Atlanta. He learned to play chess at the age of twelve. In 1955 he enlisted in the Army. After his discharge he earned a BBA degree from Georgia State University and became a CPA, working with Price, Waterhouse & Co. He was president of the Atlanta Chess Club between 1961 and 1964. Under his leadership, the club affiliated with the USCF, a move that ended segregated chess tournaments in Georgia. In 1974 he went to work at what is now Bank of America as their chief internal auditor. His roles as president of a commercial bank in suburban Philadelphia, a thrift bank in Virginia, and a mortgage bank in North Carolina culminated his successful career in the banking industry. In 1993, John suffered a heart attack. The doctors gave him six months to live. He decided to devote that time to chess, and in 1995 he turned in his best ever tournament result. He tied for the Georgia State Chess Championship with a performance rating of 2243. Still active in tournament chess, he ranks among the highest rated players in Georgia. He likes Baroque music, studying languages, and most of all, sharing his love of chess with children.

    • Joyce Doering
      Instructor / Coach

      Joyce Doering

      Instructor / Coach

      Joyce has been with Kid Chess since 2007. She attended Kennesaw State University in early childhood education. Joyce utilizes her many years of management experience by working with the staff and motivating them to reach goals. Joyce is a casual chess player and realizes chess can teach children the importance of good sportsmanship and achievement. She loves the interaction with children and helping them succeed. In Joyce’s spare time, she loves fitness including running 5K’s, 10K’s, and marathons. She especially enjoys spending time with her husband, two sons, family, and friends.

    • Laura Parker
      Instructor / Coach

      Laura Parker

      Instructor / Coach

      Laura was raised in Scotland and England before moving to the Atlanta area in 1978. She attended Auburn University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Education and then graduated with her Masters Degree in Education from Kennesaw State University. She taught fourth and fifth grades in the Cobb County School District for 26 years and enjoys continuing to work with children through Kid Chess. Her earliest chess memory is playing with her grandfather, and she now enjoys playing with her son. Laura enjoys reading, walking, and camping with her family.

    • Mercedes Wilson
      Instructor / Coach

      Mercedes Wilson

      Instructor / Coach

      Mercedes began to play chess at the age of five. She has many fond memories of watching her parents play the game. These memories inspired her to learn to play and to also teach her siblings. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration from Georgia State University and then worked in customer-service for both a major bank and a health care company. Her passion is helping others, especially children. She is very excited about teaching children to love chess as much as she does. In her spare time she enjoys reading, playing chess, and learning about new cultures. She is also learning how to speak Hindi/Urdu.

    • Wendy Rones
      Instructor / Coach

      Wendy Rones

      Instructor / Coach

      Wendy is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. She attended Louisiana State University and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. She taught first grade for twelve years and working with children has always been her passion. She lives in Marietta with her husband and three sons. Wendy enjoys hiking, theater, movies, travel and spending time with her family. She loves teaching chess and seeing her students grow and flourish from all of the wonderful benefits chess provides.

    • Akila Nagarajan
      Instructor / Coach

      Akila Nagarajan

      Instructor / Coach

      Akila (pictured here on the right) is originally from India. She earned two masters degrees and a doctorate in archaeology from Madras University. After moving to the United States, she worked as an accountant and office manager before becoming a recruiter for a consulting company. She lives in Duluth with her husband and two beautiful girls. She first learned chess from her older siblings, however they would always allow her to win. Therefore, Akila taught and challenged herself by watching them play with each other. She continues to enjoy to play chess, especially with her husband. Akila’s hobbies include oil and glass painting. She also volunteers in her children’s schools and was the team mom for their soccer and swim teams. She loves teaching chess to children as it is a game they can play all their lives.

    • Alonso Zapata
      Instructor / Coach

      Alonso Zapata

      Instructor / Coach

      Alonso is a Grand Master and FIDE Senior Trainer (currently one of only 52 people with that designation). He is a published chess author with extensive expertise as a presenter at conferences, lectures, and FIDE seminars. Alonso has trained many top players and was both the trainer and captain of several teams at Chess Olympiads. He obtained second place in the World Junior Chess Championship in Innsbruck, Austria in 1977 and has been ranked as one of the 50 best players worldwide numerous times since. He competed in several cycles for the World Chess Championship and competed 12 times at the World Chess Olympiad. He has been the Colombian National Champion 8 times.

    • Art Davis
      Instructor / Coach

      Art Davis

      Instructor / Coach

      Art is originally from Albion, Michigan. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting from Tuskegee University and is working on his MBA with a specialization in Organizational Behavior. His work experience is in the field of accounting and finance. He enjoys coaching children in a variety of sports including football, basketball, and girls fast pitch softball. Art’s hobbies include golf, weight lifting, singing, mentoring others, spending time with his family, and playing lots of chess. At age 8 his father taught the game to him, and he has enjoyed playing casually ever since. His passion is coaching chess strategies to young minds and emphasizing how those strategies can be applied to life.

    • Barbara Cramer
      Instructor / Coach

      Barbara Cramer

      Instructor / Coach

      Barbara was born to a U.S. Foreign Service Officer family, and experienced various cultures during her childhood. After nine years living in Madrid, Spain, she completed high school and joined her parents in Alexandria, VA. She studied at the Peabody Conservatory in Maryland and then enrolled at Georgetown University, receiving a B.S. in International Affairs. After getting married, she moved to Georgia, where she had a daughter. Homemaking and homeschooling kept Barbara busy until her daughter turned fifteen. At that point, Barbara enrolled at Kennesaw State University and earned a B.A. in English, with a minor in Music, and an M.A. in Professional Writing. Chess intersected her life at various points. She was taught the basics by a friend, and after her daughter learned the game, she began to play consistently. She played chess on her laptop and also read books to improve her skills. At KSU she played with classmates. She is excited to have found a company that not only promotes chess, but introduces and teaches it to youngsters. She enjoys working with children; teaching them to think and have fun at the same time.

    • Bill Grossman
      Instructor / Coach

      Bill Grossman

      Instructor / Coach

      Bill has been playing chess for over 50 years. He grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee and learned to play chess in the fourth grade. He was very active with the chess clubs in junior high and high school. After graduation, he volunteered for the U.S. Army and was an instructor at the U.S. Army Infantry School in Ft. Benning, GA before serving as an infantry squad leader with the First Calvary Division in Vietnam. After three combat decorations and an honorable discharge, Bill entered the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. During college he took a part time job teaching chess at a local community center where he could instill his love of the game to elementary age children. After graduating with a B. S. in Psychology, he married his college sweetheart and moved to Dunwoody in 1978. Later that year, Bill started a company which provided services to the Theatrical Film distribution industry. In 2006 he sold his business and became more active in the Dunwoody community, where he serves as a Planning Commissioner and sits on other city boards and committees. Bill loves teaching chess to children and firmly believes that the skills taught in chess contribute to the concentration and analytical skills the kids will need to be successful in school.

    • Bill Noyes
      Instructor / Coach

      Bill Noyes

      Instructor / Coach

      Bill Noyes has been playing chess since 1972 and started working with Kid Chess in 1998, when he created the company’s first web site. Originally a MVS and OS/390 mainframe systems programmer, Bill is the Information Technology specialist for Kid Chess, and brings over two decades worth of professional data processing experience, standards, and procedures to his work with us. He is a former newsletter editor and Vice-President of the Georgia Chess Association, as well as former Secretary and President of the Decatur Chess Club. Bill was webmaster to the Georgia Chess Association’s Website GeorgiaChess.org, which under his administration was named Best State Chess Website in 2004, 2005, and 2006 by the Chess Journalists of America. Bill is also a classical pianist, playing the works of composers such as Beethoven, J.S. Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, Grieg, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and Franck.

    • Brian Meyer
      Instructor / Coach

      Brian Meyer

      Instructor / Coach

      Brian is a graduate of Milton High School currently enrolled at Georgia Perimeter College. His work experience includes retail sales, singing professionally, and working with children at Fulton County Schools and Gymboree Play and Music. Brian likes teaching chess because children’s personalities and natural exuberance make it fun and rewarding. Brian plays chess online but prefers a face to face opponent. He also enjoys the challenge of daily chess tactics problems. In his spare time, Brian enjoys spending time with his family, especially his nephews, and is pursuing his next belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

    • Chase Nixon
      Instructor / Coach

      Chase Nixon

      Instructor / Coach

      Chase started playing chess in elementary school. He was taught by his father and learned more about the game by participating in the Kid Chess program while in elementary school. Chase graduated from Kennesaw State University with a BS in Communications: Journalism, a film minor, and a music and entertainment business certificate. He is an active musician and taught music to kids of all ages both privately and at Camp Jam. Chase’s creativity is demonstrated through his music, writing, and filmmaking. He is always working on a project, learning new material, and striving to be the best person he can be. Chase loves helping kids learn new things and giving them the courage to succeed at what they want in life. Chase continues to play chess and reads books to better his game. He also enjoys spending time with his family and friends.

    • Cheri Drake
      Instructor / Coach

      Cheri Drake

      Instructor / Coach

      Cheri first learned to play chess in an after-school 5th Grade program while living in Michigan. “It was fun”, she says, “I loved it!” She then moved with her family to Roswell, GA and after high school, attended the University of Georgia where the second person she met was her future brother-in-law and Kid Chess Founder, Justin Morrison. After graduating with a degree in Speech Communication, Cheri worked as an on-air radio announcer and was the Assistant Production Director for Cox Media Group in Athens, GA. Cheri’s chess experience largely comes from playing with her son while he was growing up. For Cheri, the fun in chess comes from teaching the game and watching others grow as chess players.

    • Cheryl Jackson
      Instructor / Coach

      Cheryl Jackson

      Instructor / Coach

      Cheryl graduated with a B.A. from Villanova. She then earned her M.Ed. in Special Education at Antioch and taught high school and middle school in both Philadelphia and Las Vegas. She relocated to Atlanta in 2014 and began playing chess several times a week with a group of retirees. Cheryl loves sharing her passion for chess and seeing young people happy and engaged in their games. She also enjoys baking cheesecakes, cookies, and pies. A keen gardener, Cheryl likes to shop for pretty flowerpots to use for begonias, peace lilies, roses, and clippings.

    • Connor Clifton
      Instructor / Coach

      Connor Clifton

      Instructor / Coach

      Connor first learned chess in the first grade as a part of the Kid Chess program. He taught his sister to play chess and has always enjoyed teaching the game to others. He is pursuing a degree from Kennesaw State University in Theatre and Performance Studies and is an aspiring film director and comic book writer.

    • Dan Woodard
      Instructor / Coach

      Dan Woodard

      Instructor / Coach

      Dan joined Kid Chess in 2009 after working as an attorney and IT professional. Dan is currently the president of Quantum Leap Solutions, a management and leadership consulting firm. He has experience working with young adults in the mentoring program, Rising Star. Dan learned chess from his grandfather at the age of seven and played chess competitively for his high school and college chess clubs. He believes that learning chess is one of the best ways to teach young people how to think internally and to plan ahead, both essential skills in today’s world. He has a B.S. from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and a J.D. from Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama.

    • Daniel Ledoux
      Instructor / Coach

      Daniel Ledoux

      Instructor / Coach

      Daniel attended Florida Atlantic University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion. He attained his education certificate and taught kindergarten through 6th grade, specializing in science. He is a tournament chess player. When not teaching or playing chess, Daniel enjoys spending time with his family, writes lyrics for music, and plays sports.

    • David Barfield
      Instructor / Coach

      David Barfield

      Instructor / Coach

      David work ethic originated when he opened his own newspaper delivery service at the age of 14. Later, he worked for AT&T (Southern Bell, BellSouth) and also trained in art and drafting at DeKalb College. While working for AT&T, he opened a part-time photography business. This became a full time endeavor after retiring in 2006. He enjoys working with children as a professional photographer, Sunday school teacher, and chess instructor.

    • David Mbonu
      Instructor / Coach

      David Mbonu

      Instructor / Coach

      David first learned to play chess when he was 6 years old. He quickly developed a love for the game and in 2nd grade won his first school tournament 12-0. He rose to be the top ranked chess player in his elementary school, began competing in numerous tournaments, and playing online. He placed top 5 every year in the Middle School Grade Level Championships. Upon entering high school David was invited to the Georgia Junior Invitational/High School Championship multiple times, placing 2nd in 2012. David enjoys working with children, and in his senior year was invited to give a lecture to 8th graders about STEM education. David is near expert strength with a USCF rating of 1981 and actively competing while attending Georgia Tech for Electrical Engineering. David is the brother of Matthew Mbonu, fellow Kid Chess employee.

    • David Swanston
      Instructor / Coach

      David Swanston

      Instructor / Coach

      David was taught chess in 5th grade by his mother. He attended high school in Sandy Springs, GA, then moved to Oregon and lived there for twenty years, before returning to Georgia. He has a Masters of Education and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, both from the University of Oregon. He taught high school English and math for ten years, and was the chess coach at the high school for eight of those years. He was also the sports announcer for the basketball, football and volleyball teams. In his spare time he enjoys playing guitar and ukulele for his aging parents.

    • Deborah Ifill
      Instructor / Coach

      Deborah Ifill

      Instructor / Coach

      Deborah is originally from New York. She graduated from Queens College with a degree in psychology and went on to earn her Masters in Social Work from Rutgers University. She was a psychotherapist/counselor and then transitioned into wellness training management. Upon retirement, she and her husband moved from New Jersey to Alpharetta and are enjoying the change in climate! They have one daughter who lives New York. Deborah enjoys playing chess with her husband, family, and friends. The challenge provided by her husband, Kid Chess coach Ken Ifill, strengthened her game. Deborah worked with children during her master’s program and enjoys volunteering in an elementary school after school program. She also volunteers at her church providing hot lunches for the homeless and other needy people in the community. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, entertaining, watching old movies, and playing competitive games with friends. She and Ken love to travel. They have ventured all over the world including China and especially love cruising with family and friends.

    • Dionne Eargle
      Instructor / Coach

      Dionne Eargle

      Instructor / Coach

      Dionne received her undergraduate degree from Kean University in NJ and her Masters Degree in Management from Southern Polytechnic University in Marietta. After 14 years at AT&T, she received her Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential in the field of early childhood learning. She became the director of an early learning center and while there she taught two classes: American Sign Language and “Confident Kids, a life skills curriculum. Dionne also worked for Georgia Public Broadcasting and as a teacher for Primrose Schools in Dunwoody. Dionne is a certified Laughter Yoga Leader – a health movement in which anyone can learn to laugh for no reason without the use of humor. Dionne insisted her sons learn to play chess but thought it was too complicated for her to learn as an adult. However, she did become a skilled player, becoming an example of the saying “life is for learning”. She considers herself as a casual player. Dionne donates to the Red Cross up to 6 times a year. In her spare time, she plays chess with her husband. Her favorite quote is: If the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.

    • Donna Phillips
      Instructor / Coach

      Donna Phillips

      Instructor / Coach

      Donna is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. Her professional background is with IBM in a marketing and sales capacity. She enjoys playing classical piano, volunteering for community projects, caring for the elderly, and playing chess with friends and family. She believes in Kid Chess because of the leadership, analytical skills, and friendships that develop as the children learn to play.

    • Ed Felts
      Instructor / Coach

      Ed Felts

      Instructor / Coach

      Ed is a class A USCF rated player who was introduced at a very early age to the game of chess. His older brother explained how the pieces moved and he won the first game he ever played. He then went on to play his first tournament in Mississippi Junior Championship and won as well. Ed is a retired engineer who is enjoying his grandchildren along with his wife. Ed continued to pursue his love of the game when he joined the Kid Chess team in 2009. He now shares his passion for chess with many young students, encouraging them to develop their own skills and grow.

    • Eugene Motz
      Instructor / Coach

      Eugene Motz

      Instructor / Coach

      Eugene was born in Arad, Romania in 1957. He immigrated to the United States in 1978 where he attended Los Angeles City College and UCLA. He began to play chess when he was 13 and is a Class A chess player. Eugene is also an artist who works in many mediums, including paint, collage, printmaking, and glass. His pieces are mainly in an abstract style.

    • Fred Judson
      Instructor / Coach

      Fred Judson

      Instructor / Coach

      Fred began playing at chess in Milford, Connecticut. He initiated his chess career by reading Capablanca’s “A Primer of Chess” and Reuben Fine’s “Chess the Easy Way” and was recognized as “All Campus Champion” at the University of Connecticut. He graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Bridgeport Engineering Institute, now part of Fairfield University. His accomplishments include two time Club “Blitz Champion”, holding Grandmaster Pal Benko to a draw in a simul, defeating a Master at the Connecticut Blitz Championship, and sharing 1st place with a blind player at the 1990 Hartford Open. Fred has over thirty years of experience as a chess instructor and is a registered Chess Coach with the United States Chess Federation. Fred started working for Kid Chess in 2002.

    • Herman Jones
      Instructor / Coach

      Herman Jones

      Instructor / Coach

      Herman Jones is a Sprayberry High School graduate with work experience in the fields of customer service, music production, and childcare. He began playing chess when he was 8 years old and likes to play with friends and online. Teaching children to play chess allows Herman to help them take each concept to the next level where there is always something new to discover. His hobbies include playing basketball, soccer, piano, trombone, singing, and songwriting. Herman has perfect pitch and auditioned twice for NBC’s The Voice.

    • Ivan Nikitin
      Instructor / Coach

      Ivan Nikitin

      Instructor / Coach

      Ivan was born in Obninsk, Russia and moved to the USA as a child. His father and brother taught him to play chess, and he continues to improve his game on the computer. Ivan is a graduate of Lassiter High School and attended The Atlanta Institute of Music specializing in the guitar. His work experience is in the service industry, specializing in customer relations. Ivan’s hobbies include boxing/martial arts, music production, music education as a guitar teacher, and performing. He loves to play both video and card games. Ivan believes teaching chess is important as it helps children find solutions to problems using logic and reasoning.

    • Jared Radin
      Instructor / Coach

      Jared Radin

      Instructor / Coach

      Jared has been playing chess for approximately 45 years. In the 70’s he was one of the top players in Georgia and won the State Championship in 1973. Jared is a former President of the Georgia Chess Association, and he has also directed and organized many chess tournaments. Jared is a computer programmer by trade and he created KCEasyChess and the interactive chess puzzles in the “fun house” section of the Kid Chess website.

    • Jayashree Sekar
      Instructor / Coach

      Jayashree Sekar

      Instructor / Coach

      Jayashree is originally from India and moved to U.S. in 1998. She first learned chess from a friend and has been playing since middle school. She is an active USCF Rated Class B tournament player, a USCF Certified Tournament Director, and holds a FIDE Trainers Title as a Developmental Instructor. Jayashree loves to teach children to play chess. Jayashree joined Kid chess in 2008.

    • Jim Varda
      Instructor / Coach

      Jim Varda

      Instructor / Coach

      Jim is a native of Chicago. He earned a B.S. from Purdue University and a MBA from Loyola of Chicago. He worked in Operations Management for Oscar Mayer/Kraft Foods for 25 years before retiring. He enjoys golfing, reading, chess, cooking, and working for Kid Chess. He has been playing chess for over 50 years and enjoys teaching kids how to play as it reminds him of coaching his son’s little league teams.

    • John Papp
      Instructor / Coach

      John Papp

      Instructor / Coach

      John moved to Atlanta from Ohio in 2009 and joined Kid Chess in 2010. John is an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified Personal Trainer with a degree in Middle School Education. He has been a head coach in girls’ volleyball and boys’ basketball. John loves the safe and stimulating environment Kid Chess creates for kids. He believes chess is the best game there is for children’s social and cognitive development.

    • J.T. Henricks
      Instructor / Coach

      J.T. Henricks

      Instructor / Coach

      J.T. was born and raised in Kennesaw. He received a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Toccoa Falls College and a Masters in Accounting from Kennesaw State University. His work experience includes tax preparation and working at a hobby and gaming store. As a child, he attended Kid Chess classes and has been a competitive chess player since 5th grade. In the 10th grade, he tied for 2nd place in the country at Bughouse Chess. He has worked for Kid Chess since high school, beginning as one of the company’s first Junior Coaches. He loves speed chess, playing all manner of board and card games, and enjoys traveling.

    • Jordan Page
      Instructor / Coach

      Jordan Page

      Instructor / Coach

      Jordan attended Kennesaw State and currently works at Publix as well as coaching for Kid Chess. He is the son of Tory Page, a former Kid Chess trophy coach. Tory taught Jordan how to play at an early age, and he became an avid player. He stopped playing to be involved in sports and other activities, but has begun playing again. He enjoys reading chess books, playing online, and entering tournaments. Jordan has experience working with kids as a camp counselor and a sports coach. In his spare time, Jordan likes to watch sports, go to the gym, and stay up to date in politics. He has also ventured in to realm of amateur standup comedy.

    • Julia Radin
      Instructor / Coach

      Julia Radin

      Instructor / Coach

      Julia was born in Helena, Montana. She then lived in Utah before eventually moving to Georgia. She worked in banking for thirty-two years, and graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2010. Julia enjoys working with children and she is always amazed as to how quickly they learn the moves and tactics of chess. Her hobbies include scuba diving, reading (when she can find the time), and playing chess and Scrabble. Julia joined Kid Chess in 2008 and is happily married to Coach Jared Radin.

    • Kearstyn Denton
      Instructor / Coach

      Kearstyn Denton

      Instructor / Coach

      Kearstyn works in the Kid Chess office and as well as coaching chess in schools. She currently attends Kennesaw State University and plans to apply to nursing school. She enjoys working with children through Kid Chess and various volunteer positions, including the Boys and Girls Club. In her spare time, Kearstyn is training for a half marathon, enjoys reading, and spending time with her family and friends.

    • Ken Ifill
      Instructor / Coach

      Ken Ifill

      Instructor / Coach

      Ken has played chess for over 40 years and plays regularly with friends and family members. He also finds time to challenge the numerous chess programs on his laptop. Ken graduated from St. Mary’s College in Trinidad, and retired after 30 plus years of service as a locomotive engineer at New Jersey Transit Rail. He comes from a musical family and started working at a young age as a professional musician. Ken and his wife, Deborah, are involved in a bi-weekly lunch program to feed the homeless. He also mentors children through teaching chess and has taught the game to his many nieces and nephews. He believes learning chess fosters creative thinking and its positive influence may be the thing that helps a child achieve greatness in life. Ken’s hobbies are photography and riding his bicycle on trails.

    • Kevin Holmes
      Instructor / Coach

      Kevin Holmes

      Instructor / Coach

      Kevin began taking lessons with Kid Chess when he was five years old and was his class champion numerous times. He enjoys playing chess with his brothers, former Kid Chess instructors, and also plays chess against opponents from all over the world via the Internet. He is pursuing a degree in math. Kevin also enjoys various outdoor activities with his venturing crew such as caving, skiing, and whitewater rafting, is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and plays the ukulele and piano.

    • Kirby Jones
      Instructor / Coach

      Kirby Jones

      Instructor / Coach

      Kirby grew up in Charlotte, NC. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1972 with a BA in Business Education. While there, he was a member of varsity basketball team. He worked for the Campbell Soup Company in sales, marketing, and logistics until his retirement in 2008. He is a member of Campbell’s Sales Hall of Fame. He coached baseball and basketball teams through Roswell Recreation Department and founded and coached a travel basketball team. He served as head coach and program director for Roswell High School Junior Hornets Basketball and is building a business selling sports collectibles on the internet. He was taught chess at a young age and really enjoyed it. His children participated in the Kid Chess program during their elementary school years.

    • Kyley Smith
      Instructor / Coach

      Kyley Smith

      Instructor / Coach

      Kyley is originally from Boone, NC.  She is a classically trained pianist and composer with a B.A. in Piano Performance from University of Tennessee Knoxville. She continued her education with pedagogical and performance training at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Salem College, and Wake Forest University. Kyley also studied piano at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in, Russia. In addition to teaching chess, Kyley teaches piano and arranges classic rock tunes, pop music, and video game soundtracks for solo piano. As an educator, Kyley has experience with all levels of instruction including students with special needs.  She began playing chess as a hobby and plays on the computer, in a chess club, and is a member of the USCF. When not playing chess or teaching piano, her hobbies include golf, learning other languages including Albanian/Shqip, and taking her dachshund, Xander, to the park for play dates.

    • Lawrence Matthews
      Instructor / Coach

      Lawrence Matthews

      Instructor / Coach

      Lawrence is originally from Michigan and moved to the Atlanta area in 2005. He studied business administration at Charter Oak State College. Lawrence first learned chess from his uncle when he was 9 years old, and he still enjoys playing with his family and friends. In his spare time, Lawrence enjoys traveling and reading books on the topics of psychology and business. He is also conversant in Haitian Creole, a language he acquired while doing volunteer outreach work. He loves teaching chess to children as he believes their natural inquisitiveness is suited to the game of chess and that the game teaches good habits such as thinking before making decisions.

    • Lee Miller
      Instructor / Coach

      Lee Miller

      Instructor / Coach

      Lee began playing chess as a sophomore in high school. He was founder and president of the chess club at Berry College, where he graduated with a B.A. in English Literature. He has taught chess professionally since then. Lee has achieved the second category (USCF) in his many years of tournament competition. He is married with three children and enjoys reading and walking in his spare time. As for his thoughts about chess in education, and the tremendous benefits of chess for children (and adults!) they are nicely summed up in this original quote: “Chess is a chimera, a fabulous mystery, ever medieval yet eminently modern, a moving myth. While all at once a sport that edifies, a science that engages, and an art that enlightens, chess is a game that anyone can play, an ennobling quest for all who venture it.”

    • Leslie Nicodemus
      Instructor / Coach

      Leslie Nicodemus

      Instructor / Coach

      Leslie hails from Baltimore, Maryland, though she spent most of her adult life in Florida and California before settling in Cobb County in early 2014. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland in Elementary Education. Leslie taught third grade for more than 20 years and then switched gears and became an Instructional Technology Specialist for fourth through eighth grade. She has presented at more than a dozen conferences on such subjects as how to engage students in learning and how children can learn to think and ask questions, rather than memorizing facts. Kid Chess is a natural extension to these skills, as chess playing has been scientifically proven to help build cognitive skills. 

       
      Leslie has two grown children and lives in Marietta with her Lhasa Apso, Harpo. She considers herself a casual chess player and enjoys reading, traveling, movies and developing her chess skills on line and with family and friends. Working with kids is entertaining and satisfying. There is nothing quite like the “Eureka” moment when a child makes a discovery or learns something new. She enjoys the challenge of chess. 

    • Lia Walker
      Instructor / Coach

      Lia Walker

      Instructor / Coach

      Lia first learned chess in her elementary school gifted program and enjoys playing casually with friends. Lia’s work experience is in the business management and healthcare fields. She currently attends Georgia State University and is seeking a degree in nursing. Following her passion for assisting people, she has tutored high school students in math, her favorite subject. She also learned Hindi to assist people with their religious education and installs drywall for building and disaster relief work.

    • Louis Alderman IV
      Instructor / Coach

      Louis Alderman IV

      Instructor / Coach

      Louis works in our office as well as being a chess coach. He was a member of the Milton High School Chess Club and president of the club 2003-2005. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Southern Polytechnic State University. In his spare time, he also works with students of all ages at a martial arts school. He also volunteered with Georgia BEST robotics in 2008 and 2009.

    • Matthew Mbonu
      Instructor / Coach

      Matthew Mbonu

      Instructor / Coach

      Matthew originally learned chess from his mother and through his kindergarten gifted program. He developed a passion for the game, becoming one of the founding members of a successful chess club in which he was ranked in the top 3 for his entire tenure; playing in many rated scholastic and individual tournaments. While attending Mill Creek High school, he tutored elementary students in reading and math which sparked a love of teaching. He earned a certification in fitness training and continued teaching in a children’s fitness boot camp. Matthew enjoys working for Kid Chess as it allows him to combine his passion for chess with his talent for teaching.

    • Meredith Smiles
      Instructor / Coach

      Meredith Smiles

      Instructor / Coach

      Meredith attended the University of Alabama and the University of South Carolina where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Management. She went on to receive her MBA from Kennesaw State University and then worked in the management field for several companies, most recently as a human resources/business consultant. She and her husband have two children. In her spare time, she loves to play tennis and read. She learned to play chess in elementary school and considers herself a casual chess player. She enjoys sharing the strategy of chess and seeing the children have fun while learning the game.

    • Michael Hyde
      Instructor / Coach

      Michael Hyde

      Instructor / Coach

      Michael began playing chess in grade school. He went on to become the chess club champion his senior year. Since then Michael has been playing many different strategic and tactical board games including historical military games. After a long absence from chess, he began playing chess again at the local chess club meeting at Borders a few years ago. He enjoys music, reading and spending time with his wife and three children. Michael holds a BS in Education and is a partner in his computer company.

    • Mike Ericson
      Instructor / Coach

      Mike Ericson

      Instructor / Coach

      Mike graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting & Finance. He has worked as both an accountant and a software & network engineer. Mike started playing chess with his high school physics teacher and plays games, reads about chess, or works chess puzzles every day. He believes chess teaches people to stop and think before acting; a skill that carries over to all aspects of life, therefore helping people to make better life choices. As a logical thinker, chess appeals to Mike as it is all about logic and planning. He loves the challenge and the way it makes him work his brain. When not playing chess, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife and son, who is also a chess player. His hobbies include mountain climbing, rock and ice climbing, scuba diving, and hiking. His hobbies have provided Mike with the opportunity to ride on the back of a giant sea turtle while he was diving off the coast of Borneo and he has also climbed the Grand Teton in Wyoming!

    • Mike Gordon
      Instructor / Coach

      Mike Gordon

      Instructor / Coach

      Mike Gordon has played tournament chess for almost 40 years and in more than 30 states. He has achieved USCF expert ratings in both over the board and correspondence play. He also has served as editor of the Georgia Chess Magazine. Mike holds a BS in Economics from the University of Florida and an MBA in Finance from Florida State. He recently retired from a 32 year career as Logistics Manager at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and is enjoying teaching and playing chess. Mike likes working with kids and was also a volunteer with Big Brothers of Atlanta.

    • Myron Morgan
      Instructor / Coach

      Myron Morgan

      Instructor / Coach

      Myron was raised in a family of eight and is now married and the proud father of three young children. He attended Ball State University in early childhood education and has worked with children in a variety of areas, including Little League soccer and as a Sunday School teacher. He began to play chess at an early age and is excited to share his love of the game through Kid Chess.

    • Norman Stokes
      Instructor / Coach

      Norman Stokes

      Instructor / Coach

      Norman has been with Kid Chess since 2005. He learned to play chess s an elementary school student, improved throughout high school, and played in his first tournament in 1977. Norman has been interpreting for the deaf for more than 40 years and has taught many deaf people how to play chess. In 1984, Norman graduated from University of Alabama in Birmingham with a MA degree in Special Education. Norman taught in Cobb County Schools and used chess as a teaching tool with some of his students.

    • Patrick Davenport
      Instructor / Coach

      Patrick Davenport

      Instructor / Coach

      Patrick was born in Virginia and learned how to play chess at the age of 5. He is primarily self-taught and enjoys playing chess on the computer. Patrick received “Top Unrated” the first time he participated in a USCF rated tournament. He has achieved a 2097 Blitz Rating and a 2100 Standard rating on Chess.com. Patrick attended Tidewater Community College for Automotive Electronics. In his spare time, he plays video games, chess, and the guitar. Patrick also records gaming videos for his YouTube channel in an effort to raise money for The American Heart Association.

    • Paul Taylor
      Instructor / Coach

      Paul Taylor

      Instructor / Coach

      Paul is currently enrolled at Emory University Goizueta Business School and a graduate of Chamblee Charter High School and Emory University at Oxford College. He began playing chess at 5 years old and loves to play both chess and other games with his family. He also enjoys staying fit by playing tennis. He is a published author and has written articles for Georgia Chess Magazine. Paul was president of his college chess club and has won 4 national and 13 state chess championships.

    • Peggy Casstevens
      Instructor / Coach

      Peggy Casstevens

      Instructor / Coach

      Peggy was born in Dallas, Texas and learned to play chess while in elementary school from her older brother. She attended the University of North Texas, married, and moved to Georgia in 1991. Her main focuses were raising her three children as a stay-at-home mom, volunteering as an elementary school tutor, Sunday school teacher, and working as a caregiver for the elderly. She taught her three children how to play chess in elementary school, two of which attended Kid Chess in one of the first classes taught by the founder, Justin Morrison. She loves working with young children while they are learning the game of chess and developing chess skills.

    • Ramadevi Muppiri
      Instructor / Coach

      Ramadevi Muppiri

      Instructor / Coach

      Ramadevi is originally from Hyderabad, India. Her cousins taught her to play chess when she was nine years old. She attended Osmania University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science and later a Bachelor of Library and Information Sciences. She moved to America in 2000 with her husband and son. She has worked with children as a volunteer in schools and with the Girl Scouts. Ramadevi started with Kid Chess as a parent helper for Cogburn Woods Elementary School before becoming a coach and loves to help the children learn to play chess.

    • Render Cutts
      Instructor / Coach

      Render Cutts

      Instructor / Coach

      Render is originally from New Jersey and attended Seton Hall University. For the past 30 years, she has been involved in chess, volunteering as an instructor at libraries, recreation centers, and schools. Render’s passion for chess was first instilled by her mother who taught her the game. She continued this tradition with her own children. Volunteering at her children’s schools, she had the opportunity to work with many children, including gifted, learning disabled, and special needs. It was during this time she realized that within the broad scope of learning, children from all backgrounds could benefit from chess. After living in Atlanta for a number of years, Render returned to New Jersey in 2007 where she renewed her commitment to working with children. In 2009, she obtained her CDA Certification. Beginning in 2010, she taught chess at a counseling center for children. Render returned to Atlanta and continues to dedicate herself to engaging children in activities like chess that can raise a child’s expectation of what they can achieve.

    • Renee Joyner-Garrett
      Instructor / Coach

      Renee Joyner-Garrett

      Instructor / Coach

      Renee’ is a native of Queens, New York, who moved to Georgia with her family in 1994. While in New York she acquired a B.S. in Human Service from Metropolitan College of New York formerly known as Audrey Cohen College. Renee’ earned the standard for achievement of Summa Cum Laude and was listed in the 1993 Honor Society. In 2008, Renee’ completed her graduate studies at Argosy University, Atlanta in Community Counseling. She has worked extensively with children and adults for over sixteen years who were deemed “at-risk”. Her work has involved program development, implementation, and teaching within non-profit entities such as prisons, homeless shelters, and schools. She is currently employed as a substitute teacher within the Fulton County School system primarily in classes involving students with behavioral disorders or special education needs. Renee’ was taught to play chess by her husband and enjoys the game because it teaches the necessary components for life’s skills involving discipline and concentration. She believes that Kid Chess is integrating these components into the lives of young players. Her hobbies include writing poetry, singing, painting, and drawing.

    • Rennie Phillips
      Instructor / Coach

      Rennie Phillips

      Instructor / Coach

      Rennie has been playing chess for over forty years, starting in high school while living in Jamaica. At 16, he placed second in the national high school championships and had a FIDE rating of 1683. Since then, he has played in tournaments and simultaneous exhibitions with FIDE Masters. Rennie has a BS degree in Mathematics from St. Augustine’s College and a MS degree in Management Studies from Carleton University. Rennie enjoys teaching children: he has taught math to students at all levels and is also a certified tennis and soccer coach.

    • Rich Staples

      Rich Staples

      Rich’s work experience is in the area of retail, title, and pawn business management. He received a Bachelor of Science in Management from the University of West Florida and a Masters in Information Systems Management from Devry University/Keller Graduate School of Management. Rich is a tournament chess player and was the 2004 and 2010 U-1600 Georgia State Champion.

    • Roopa Tak
      Instructor / Coach

      Roopa Tak

      Instructor / Coach

      Roopa relocated to Atlanta from India in 2012. She is the mother of two and her favorite game has always been chess. She was the captain of her college chess team and taught chess to her children, nieces, and nephews. Her work experience is in the area of accounting and office management. She earned a Bachelor’s in Commerce from Osmania University, India and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from California State University.

    • Shea Kaste
      Instructor / Coach

      Shea Kaste

      Instructor / Coach

      Shea is originally from Alabama. She attended Kennesaw State University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree. Previously, she taught science to elementary age students and worked in the project management field. She is our Kid Chess office manager and also teaches chess in schools. In her spare time, she enjoys playing chess with her family, especially her son and daughter. Shea joined the Kid Chess team in 2010.

    • Tom Chow
      Instructor / Coach

      Tom Chow

      Instructor / Coach

      Tom was born in Taiwan and went to high school and college near Philadelphia, PA. He has a B.S. in math and has been playing chess since 7th grade. In 1979, Tom became the Delaware State Champion and had a rating of 2025. Tom joined Kid Chess in 2007 as a coach and has also worked on the Kid Chess video lessons.

    • Tom Kayma
      Instructor / Coach

      Tom Kayma

      Instructor / Coach

      Tom learned how to play chess shortly after Bobby Fischer won the World Chess Championship in 1972. He has been playing tournament chess for almost forty years and achieved the USCF Master title in 1990. He is a long time USCF Expert and active tournament player. Tom graduated with a degree in Accounting from Texas Tech University and obtained a CPA license shortly afterwards. Currently he is a mergers and acquisitions advisor negotiating the sales of various businesses. Tom is also a huge fan of the Braves, Falcons, and his alma mater’s football and basketball programs. His daughter teaches elementary school in Mississippi and recently learned how to play chess. His son-in-law plays the game as well. Tom is the proud grandfather of a beautiful baby girl. He believes that chess teaches many positive critical thinking skills and is a fantastic game for children and adults regardless of their individual aspirations for the game. He has a passion for teaching children and wants to share the beauty of chess with them as a way of giving back to the wonderful game that has influenced both his personal and business life.

    • Zac Bolton
      Instructor / Coach

      Zac Bolton

      Instructor / Coach

      Zac first learned to play chess as a teenager. He pursued his love of the game by volunteering at Kid Chess camps, and his game progressed from not knowing how to play to reaching a peak rating of 1836 in four years. He was ranked in the upper half of the top 100 scholastic players in the nation and an assistant instructor at Emory Castle Chess Camp. He loves regular, bullet, and bughouse chess. Zac graduated from The American School of Correspondence while dual enrolled at Chattahoochee Technical College. He then attended Furman University and worked in the area of food service management. In his spare time, Zac likes to paint, play guitar, and read, especially Ray Bradbury’s books.