Forest Hills teacher inspires students through chess
By Jessica Meditz
Although some teen movies portray the game of chess as a thing for “nerds,” Shawn Eldot strives to prove to kids how cool it can be.
The Forest Hills resident works full time as a chess instructor, teaching people of all ages the ins and outs of the board game that’s been around for centuries.
Eldot first discovered his love of chess at the age of nine.
He played in tournaments throughout his childhood and teen years, racking up numerous awards for his impeccable performance.
A Bayside native, Eldot attended Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, where he played less frequently due to the stress from college applications, SATs and other exams.
However, he did play one High School Championship and won.
“Chess is an art and a science, and it shows a lot about a person. It teaches many disciplines,” Eldot said.
“It also builds critical thinking skills and builds friendships because a lot of people learn to play at some point. Chess has so many benefits and beautiful aspects,” he continued. “It’s a beautiful thing for kids to learn as well because parents don’t want kids to play video games all day. Chess is not only fun, but it shows a competitive spirit.”
Eldot, who has a background in mathematics, earned his master’s degree in higher education administration at Queens College and is in a PhD program at Liberty University.
His ultimate career goal is to one day be a dean of a university, but teaching children will always remain special to him.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he ran a large chess program at P.S. 196 in Forest Hills for years.
But similarly to the way he’s pursuing his PhD, Eldot quickly began to see the benefits of the technology right at his feet.
He offers online chess lessons to both adults and children via Zoom, and teaches students from coast to coast.
“I try to bring a fun aspect to the game, because chess was always kind of a competitive sport. But I try to make it a fun thing where it doesn’t matter if one wins or loses. It’s all about having fun, enjoying and thinking,” Eldot said. “Any time that anyone learns something new is always a beautiful thing. Once you start learning, you enjoy the beauty of it.”
Eldot added that his students are always extremely appreciative of his efforts, and make it known to him that he’s the best chess teacher.
On top of that, the video chat giant, Skype approached him in 2016 to write an article about his work as a chess instructor.
The article named Eldot as one of the nation’s leading instructors.
“A lot of my references are not only from New York, but all over the U.S. — California, Arizona, Texas. Everyone gave positive feedback…for example, ‘I had chess instructors before but Shawn’s different.’ It makes me feel good,” he said.
“Even when I would walk inside the elementary school, the kids loved me so much,” Eldot continued. “As soon as I stepped foot in there, I made such an impact because I understand what it means, maybe not to have the nicest teacher. I want to make everyone comfortable and provide a learning environment.”
Along with technology on his side, Eldot is grateful for the grassroots and word-of-mouth support he’s received from students and parents, helping him gain exposure for the services he provides.
He offers single-person lessons as well as “chess buddy” lessons, where two people can join the lesson at one time to play with one another. Each session lasts about an hour.
Eldot says he’s happy to be able to teach people the art of chess who may have never had an opportunity to learn the game before.
“It’s such a benefit to one’s life and it shows a lot about personality. When you play a chess game, it shows who you are as a person. Even if you don’t know a person, but you sit in front of them and you play them, you know who you’re dealing with, whether they’re a giving person, a creative person or a tricky person,” he said. “Without words, chess could tell you a lot about a person, even if you speak two different languages, but we both know how to play, a friendship is built on that.”
He appreciates the fact that the game brings communities, families and friends together, and continues to highlight the benefits of playing chess.
“My main goal in life is just to help someone learn and have fun,” he continued.
“When someone ever calls me and says, ‘Shawn, what’s the difference between you and someone else?’ My answer is always the same: ‘Do one lesson with me, and you’ll be the judge.’”
For more information on Eldot’s chess lessons, give him a call at (347) 471-4890 or visit his Craigslist page.