La Jolla Unit teaches bridge at La Jolla High (2015)

by Ron Ignelzi
June 15, 2015

La Jolla High mascot

As education chair for our unit I am happy to report on our seventh consecutive year of our bridge teaching program at La Jolla High. For the last six years I have been the liaison with the school and selected the primary teacher and made sure that the ACBL teaching guidelines are incorporated into the program. The ACBL, with financial help from Warren Buffet and Bill Gates (bridge partners in real life), have sponsored the national program, providing the kids with a free copy of Bidding in the 21st Century, a baseball cap memorializing the student's participation, and a trophies for the winners of the tournament held at the conclusion of the class.

This year we had 120 students in four separate classes participate in the 20 days of teaching. The classes are taught as an elective in statistics and advanced math. The first class began at 7:25 am and the last concluded at 2:25 pm making for a long teaching day.

A published report says 97 percent of the seniors attending these classes are going to college and most of them of racked up at least a 3.5 grade point average during their four years.

The La Jolla High host teachers involved are Greg Kinsel, Melanie Menders, and Jessica Wills (two classes this year).

Sandra Gagnon, a La Jolla Unit member, was our lead teacher for the second consecutive year. She came from a card playing family in Michigan. Both parents played bridge. Sandra learned the game at the age of 13 years old and has indulged in the enjoyment of the game throughout her entire life. She started her own ACBL affiliated bridge game in Michigan that is still in existence to this day. Sandra is a certified bridge instructor and director and has been a public school teacher which gives her excellent credentials for this assignment. Besides giving private lessons, she also worked for the Sarasota County Institute of technology teaching bridge in the adult education program and has operated and directed several private clubs in Sarasota County.

Sandra has traveled and competed in many bridge tournaments throughout the United States. She is a Diamond Life Master (5000+ MP) with a 6500 masterpoint. Only 1.04% of ACBL members in the United States and Canada are in this category and higher. Sandra chaired and eight tournaments in Michigan and Florida while serving as a board member in Sarasota.

La Jolla Unit teaching assistants this year included Jill Seagren, Val Frager and myself every day and Steve Seagren periodically.

The students learned basic bidding, finesses, penalty doubles, and takeout doubles in that order.

For the last three days the students participated in a tournament. Hospitality was provided by me consisting of energy bars the first day. Val Frager provided cookies on the second day, and Jill Seagrin brought muffins and a graduation cake on awards day.

16 first place winners (8 pairs) received trophies with scores ranging from 56–64%. Val Frager's grandson placed first overall. You may recognize some of the winner's names as being grandchildren of unit members, other units, or friends in our community.

The results in Ms. Wills’ first hour class were:

Direction Rank Pct Partnership
North-South 1st 61% Jackson Hyyhren and Mark Rawdid
North-South 2nd 55% Ilana Farajzden and Delaney Forester
East-West 1st 62% David Schultz and Montana Ruderman
East-West 2nd 53% Sophia Moraes and Erica Skerven

In the second hour in Mr. Kinsel’s class the results were:

Direction Rank Pct Partnership
North-South 1st 61% Jack Frager and Bryce Watson
North-South 2nd 58% Jessie Hernandez and Daniela Anastasia
East-West 1st 58% Juntai Zheng and Joey D'angelo
East-West 2nd 54% Patrick Skeen and Sean Hofmann

In the third hour in Ms. Mender’s class tops were:

Direction Rank Pct Partnership
North-South 1st 63% Nicholas Nave and Jake Tear
North-South 2nd 60% James Trumbo and Allison Endo
East-West 1st 60% Sydney Davey and Vivianna Vasquez

Returning in sixth hour to Ms. Wills’ classroom, scores were:

Direction Rank Pct Partnership
North-South 1st 62% Sophia Woolevy and Eden Romero
North-South 2nd 60% Cameron Hu and Noah Shem
East-West 1st 58% Ella Wright and Katja Sarain
East-West 2nd 54% Jeanine Erikatand and Selma Hassane

GO VIKINGS! (the student emblematic nickname).

Among the student comments the most popular was, “my grandmother loves you because now I can play bridge with her.” A few commented that it rekindled a dormant college interest in their parents who began playing again with their children and others.

Some students saw it as a social means to meet new friends in college. Proof of the latter was when three recent La Jolla High alumni returned during one of our classes to report that they were now playing bridge at their respective colleges of Harvard, Vanderbilt, and UCLA.

All of this bodes well for bridge’s future.