2011 Teacher of the year — And the winner is:

Former Teacher of the year Tina Radding giving her congratulations to Kathie Walsh, the 2011 ABTA MPP Teacher of the YearCongratulations to Kathie Walsh, winner of the 2011 ABTA/Master Point Press Teacher of the Year award. Kathie teaches at the Hilton Head Island Bridge Club, Hilton Head, South Carolina. She is following in the steps of Tina Radding, last year’s winner, also from SC. Is there something in the air in SC that produces such fine bridge teachers?

Kathie was selected as the Teacher of the Year from a group of eight very qualified finalists from across North America. As winner, she received a crystal plaque and a cash award.

Kathie’s bridge playing began in the 60’s when she and her husband, Jim, played bridge with other young couples in their neighbourhood. The children were taken along and put to bed so that the parents could play bridge for hours. “And we thought we were good”, Kathie says, only to learn latter that perhaps they weren’t.

Kathie gave up playing bridge when she returned to teaching fulltime as a high school English teacher. She earned her PHD in 1990 and she worked as a college English professor until her retirement in 1998. The family moved from the Philadelphia area to Hilton Head in 1999 and she began playing bridge again at the local HHI bridge club. When partners asked if she played certain conventions, she realized that the modern game was quite different from the one she played in the 60’s. As she believes that the best way to learn something is to teach it, she accepted an offer to begin teaching at the club in 2003 and she hasn’t looked back since.

In 2003, she started with 14 students, once a week. Now she regularly teaches three classes a week at the club and two other classes in the community, with up to 250 students. Her classes range in skill level from the absolute beginner to the advanced player. Students show up early concerned that there won’t be room. Her classes often have 80 students, the number increasing to over 100 during the winter with the influx of snowbirds. Many snowbirds now come to Hilton Head, not for the golf but for the bridge, thanks to Kathie’s efforts and reputation.

Armed with diagrams, handouts and practice hands, she comes into the class and the magic begins. With such large numbers, she has to be the master she is at maintaining classroom decorum. Students appreciate her sense of humour as she brings sometimes dry topics to life. If she sees her students are not understanding, she will say, “I can see it in your eyes that you’re not getting it. OK. Let’s go over it again”.

Prior to her weekly lessons Kathie sends an email to all students giving them a preview of the upcoming lesson. At class she provides a write-up of the topic, complete with examples and exercises. She sends post class quizzes to everyone. Then she corrects the quizzes that are returned. When an answer is incorrect, she takes the time to give a personal explanation. Kathie always welcomes questions from her students, whether face to face, by email or telephone. One week this past winter she received and responded on an individual basis to 72 of her students emails.

In her teaching program she has used materials prepared by Pat Harrington, Eddie Kantar, Audrey Grant, Barbara Seagram and Edith McMullin. But the meat of her lessons she prepares herself from hands she’s found in newspapers, tournament bulletins, the ABTA Quarterly, Leslie Shafer’s newsletter and the Bridge Bulletin to name a few. She has attended every ABTA convention since 2005 and uses much of the material picked up from them.

Kathie personifies the teacher who really cares about her students. She speaks to everyone individually as they assemble for class. She knows them on sight by name. She knows the strengths and weaknesses of each. She follows their learning progression. She encourages students individually to participate in tournament play, recognizes their successes, verbally and by email.

In addition to her weekly classes, Kathy organizes weekend workshops when she sees the need. This past June she ran a successful Bridge Teachers’ workshop for anyone wanting to teach bridge.

Kathie has served on the board of the HHI Bridge Club and written the club newsletter. In 2007, she received an ACBL Star Recruiter Certificate for signing up 100 ACBL members. After having directed regularly at the club for several years, she gave this up two years ago because of her teaching load. She has recently begun teaching on bridge cruises. She annually gives free bridge lessons in support of at least twelve charities. She writes a bridge column for the local paper twice a month. Many students tell her that they are attending her classes because of what they read in the column, some even coming to class with a folder filled with her columns.

In 2008, Kathie organized a bridge land cruise to a 6th Century farmhouse in Tuscany, Italy, for 16 lucky bridge students. They would sightsee in the morning, have a bridge lesson in the afternoon and play bridge in the evening, after a gourmet dinner prepared by their host. She hopes to organize a similar yearly retreat to Cancun, Mexico, beginning next year.

Kathie’s uninhibited passion for teaching and bridge seems to capture and hold her students’ imagination and to focus their learning experience. Her students love her! She is an outstanding teacher who truly exhibits an in depth knowledge of bridge while passing on her love of the game to her students. As one student puts it, “Thanks to Kathie, I’ve caught the bridge bug. She teaches with patience, humor and clarity. We on Hilton Head are so lucky to have Kathie Walsh to teach us how to be successful bridge players while having fun at the same time.” Who could ask for anything more in a teacher?

Congratulations again to Kathie for her outstanding achievement as a bridge teacher as the well-deserved winner of the 2011 Teacher of the Year award. Congratulations, also, to the other seven finalists, all exceptional bridge teachers in their own right. Of course the true winners are all of their students!

The 2011 ABTA Teacher of the Year – Finalists were


Dick Early, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
David Glandorf, Houston, Texas
Linda King, Hollister, California
Gerry Lachance, Blue Mountain, Ontario
Jill McCormick, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Lyde McReynolds, Carmel, California
Mary Jane Orock, Fort Worth, Texas
Kathie Walsh, Hilton Head, South Carolina

The ABTA/ Master Point Press Teacher of the Year Award will be awarded for the second time this year, at the ABTA conference in Toronto. Master Point Press of Toronto provides the award to recognize a bridge teacher who has inspired his or her students, day in and day out, promoting the game of bridge and providing learning in a friendly environment.

Nominations for the 2011 award were held from November 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011. Over that time, twenty-two bridge teachers from across the USA and Canada were nominated. From these twenty-two, eight were selected as finalists. This selection process was not an easy job are there were many highly qualified nominees, all supported by enthusiastic students. Members of the selection committee carefully considered each of the eight finalists under four categories: teaching excellence, innovation, service to bridge and service to the community. The winner will receive a cash award and commemorative plaque at the Toronto conference. He or she will be highlighted in the next Quarterly and on the ABTA/Master Point Press Teacher of the Year Award Facebook page.

The number of nominees this year was down from last year’s total of sixty-five, even though the award was promoted in the same way through articles in the Bridge Bulletin and the ABTA Quarterly and on Facebook. Teachers who were nominated last year were contacted and invited to have their 2010 nomination reinstated. Few opted for this. But the quality and sincerity of those who were nominated was very high.

Special thanks are expressed to Master Point Press for providing the award and to the members of the selection committee who spent many hours determining the winner. Members of the committee were Joyce Penn, Barbara Seagram, Brenda Simpson, Marti Ronemus and Linda Lee, Vice President of Master Point Press (non-voting).

Respectfully submitted,
Marilyn Kalbfleisch, Chair
ABTA/Master Point Press Teacher of the Year Award Selection Committee



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