Getting Personal: Rachel Schechter
Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, staff writer Paul Wood*chats with **RACHEL A. SCHECHTER** of Champaign, the Illinois Chess Association Youth Committee member who serves as chess instructor at the Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana and is a former instructor at Carrie Busey and Dr. Howard elementary schools and Dr. G's ChessWorks. Schechter, who says she's "old enough to remember rotary phones," loves cats and the Northern Lights.*
Where are you from?
I was born in New Jersey and have lived in Maine, California and briefly in Scandinavia.
How did you get into chess?
My parents gave me a chess set when I was 7. I have been playing ever since; my cousin and I made our own pieces out of empty perfume bottles. We filled them up with colored water and named each piece. I competed on the club level, but I'm a much better teacher.
What interests you the most right now?
Right now, I'm committed to establishing a permanent chess center here in C-U for players of all ages. I've taught kindergarten through college for 20-plus years and can honestly say that everyone can learn and benefit from the royal game. Parents, educators, supporters — the community itself. It's all about "playing it forward." Today's premiere Treasure Chess K-12 Scholastic Tournament (from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) at the Illini Union is the beginning, with 100 percent of net profits going to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank and Family Service of Champaign County.
What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?
October 1999, I was teaching a lit class at Ramapo College, N.J. "The Seventh Seal"? "Alice Through the Looking Glass"? Chess metaphors took hold. Naturally, we discussed the elusive genius, Bobby Fischer, whom I once met. I took out a chessboard; several students took to the game. A few started a chess club. I'd played in clubs and tournaments when I was younger but chose to steep myself in poetry rather than pawns.