Frank Procopio is a certified chess coach and principal instructor of the Academy of Chess LLC. Procopio, 65, graduated from Christian Brothers Academy in Fayetteville, N.Y. He received a degree in economics from King's College. Frank and his wife, Lucille, live in Wilkes-Barre and have two children: Steven and Shelley.
You mentioned that teaching was your avocation early in your career. What jobs did you hold throughout the years before coming back to teaching? "I originally taught high school for four years after college. I then left teaching for the business world and started an 1 1-year career with Jewelcor in the sales department. After that stint I hooked up with a financial services company as a municipal pension administrator. A couple of years ago my thoughts turned back toward teaching. In 201 1 I received my teacher's certification in general science and social studies history. I have been busy as a substitute teacher at six different schools the last year."
So when did teaching chess come into play? "It goes back to around 1988. My wife, Lucille, was teaching at St. Joseph's in Hudson. I was a rep at that time and my wife called me one day to teach chess to a seventh-grade class. There was great reception to it and I taught the game till the school closed in 1995. During that time I became a certified chess coach in 1990. My wife then taught at St. Peter & Paul's in Plains Township and I continued to teach the strategies of chess for the next decade there. Around 2005 I expanded and started to teach a series of smaller schools that fed in Bishop Hoban."
Tell us about your growing business, the Academy of Chess LLC. How did it come about? "I decided to take the game I love and turn it into a business around 2010. I started it with my wife and in 201 1 we opened it to students in both private and public schools in the entire county. It has evolved into a great platform for kids in grades 3 through 8 to learn strategy and gain self-confidence."
What can kids hope to gain from your teachings? "It's a basic course. It has two parts. The first half of the classes teaches students strategies, tactics and theories while they participate in over-the-board casual play. The second half of the course we hold round robin tournaments and provide medallions and trophies for those who compete. A student will most likely see improvement in their game play and academic scores as they stay with the program. I once had a student who had no wins in fourth and fifth grade. He won a few games in sixth grade and by the seventh grade he could not lose. He now wants to be a teacher and is attending college. I had a student who had ADHD and I had no idea he had it as I taught him. He gained great confidence and eventually graduated from college as well. Those are just some of the great memories or stories that have partly resulted from some of my students learning this great game, I believe."
So these success stories are actually part of what you like to see continue as a trend in Northeastern Pennsylvania? "I definitely think that kids need better self-image in these parts. They need to feel more confident and feel as if they can make a difference or contribute within society. The tools are here and the kids have the ability. They just need more places to use them, like these chess clubs."
You could say these kids have someone to look up to in you. Who was a role model to you growing up? "Without a doubt it would have been my mother and father. They were always there for me, supporting me."
What do you like to do in your spare time? "The wife and I like to make what we call Pocono or Tunkhannock runs. We like to visit small towns and look at antiques and crafts for relaxation. We also like to visit historical places like Jim Thorpe and Gettysburg."
Speaking of relaxation, what type of music is soothing to your ears? "I really like music. The spectrum can go from the Rolling Stones to Celtic music by Loreena McKennitt. I love guitar music because I play the guitar. Musicians like Simon and Garfunkel and Peter, Paul and Mary are also some of my favorites."
What book are you reading? "11/22/63 by Stephen King. It is a time travel story about a man who travels in time to try and prevent the Kennedy assassination. I also enjoy science or history books."
Is there any quote out there that you fancy? "Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows."(Sydney J. Harris)
What is on the horizon for the Academy of Chess LLC? "We will be holding an open house on Sept. 1 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the cafeteria of the former St. Peter and Paul's School in Plains Township. Chess clubs meet 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and you can get more information by going to academyofchessllc.com."
John Gordon writes about area people for the Meet feature. Reach him at 970-7229.