The students at the Hilton Head Island Bridge Club always knew they had a good teacher in Kathie Walsh. Now the whole bridge world knows it, too.
The American Bridge Teachers Association named Walsh the 2011 Teacher of the Year last month. She's known around the club for her passion for the game, quizzing students after class is done and even embarking on bridge cruises where she teaches the game around the world.
Walsh, who also holds the coveted ranking of Life Master, discusses how teaching bridge isn't all that different from teaching English.
Question. When did you get involved in teaching?
Answer. I got into teaching 10 years ago. A gentleman was here from England (teaching) but he had to go back. He said, "We can't let this teaching thing go." I said, "I don't think I can do it." He said, "But you taught English." When I taught English, I'd have to know the books inside and out. To teach bridge, you have to really know it. Teaching has helped me become a better player.
Q. Do you still play much?
A. Teaching takes up a lot of time. It takes up a lot of time at home preparing for the classes. I send an email every week with little quizzes. It's like any teaching. Hard work but very rewarding.
Q. Do the people in your beginners classes come with an idea of how to play?
A. Not all. A lot think it's hearts. Bridge is not like any of those games. You're constantly learning about the game. And you can't learn it all.
Q. When did you start the cruises?
A. One year I took 16 students to Tuscany to play bridge. Audrey Grant heard about that. Audrey Grant is like the Martha Stewart of bridge. She featured something about it in her magazine (Better Bridge Magazine). She asked if I'd ever be interested in teaching on the cruise ship she has a contract with. I do them for four or five weeks in May and June. This year I've signed up for the Baltic.
Q. When are the busiest times for you?
A. January and February are the busiest times of year. We have so many snowbirds. I taught four days a week. But recently I thought to myself, "I am a retired lady." I passed on the beginners class.
Q. How did you get into bridge to begin with?
A. I started in the '60s. I played when I was a young mother. I didn't work until my kids went to school. I thought I was pretty good. Until I got down here. I realized I never really had any lessons. I was just playing kitchen bridge or social bridge, as they call it. A lot of people come down in the same situation. They may not have played in 30 years and they ask, "Do you have a class for me?" And I say, of course we do.