COQUILLE — Local family practice physician Dr. Nancy Keller has a volunteer day every Tuesday where she goes around to local schools holding chess clubs.
Every Tuesday she gives back to the community by teaching chess at local schools. Her morning begins with a book challenge called Battle of The Books at Coquille High School. Then, at 11 a.m., Keller holds a chess club with Coquille Middle School students. She then makes her way to the elementary school and Winter Lakes for their chess clubs. Keller finishes her day by going back to Coquille High School where she leads the chess club there.
“I’m now doing chess from first grade through 12th here in Coquille, and I’ve been doing it in Myrtle Point as well,” Keller said.
For the past 23 years Keller has been playing chess with kids in Coquille.
“I’ve been blessed with having some really fantastic chess players over the years,” Keller said.
Many high ranked, competitive chess players have come out of Keller’s programs. Keller often pays for these students to attend competitions. One of her chess players will be representing the State of Oregon in a national tournament this summer
“I make sure they have opportunities to go to chess tournaments," she said. "Since this is an economically deprived area, I’m glad I have my work so I can take them to tournaments."
She’s taken students to tournaments as far away as Disney World. She’s currently looking forward to a tournament in Las Vegas coming up this summer.
“I figure it’s sort of like my vacation. I get to watch them play chess, and then I can go out,” Keller said.
Keller feels that it is important to expose kids to chess. Her argument for the importance of chess being that there are studies that show kids who are exposed to chess have better science and math scores.
“Chess helps the brain. It’s just like music, music helps the brain identify rhythms and such. In chess you have to learn patterns and think ahead… I figure this is my way of trying to help kids learn in a fun way,” Keller said.
Keller also runs a youth center in downtown Coquille that is gearing up to offer summer programs to youth in the area.
“We’re trying to get a summer program for our Awesome Thursdays for the kids, so they can’t complain they’re bored this summer. We’re getting together programs in art, martial arts, dance and tumbling, and a game day,” Keller said.