Interview by Anisa Nixon
This past July at the 2013 ABTA Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, the ABTA was proud to accredit four new teachers. To introduce them to the ABTA world, we’ve asked each of them a few questions.
Please join us in welcoming Hank Meyer to the ABTA’s ranks of Master Teachers.
How did you get into bridge?
When I was 8, my mother ‘made me’ watch the very first showing of Championship Bridge with Charles Goren. I was so captivated by watching the game of bridge, I scoured our garage and found a copy of Point Count Bidding in Contract Bridge (by Goren) and an Autobridge board game. I spent the next six months teaching myself to play, then looked around for partners, and finding none my age (!), I offered my services as a ‘fourth’ to my elementary school teachers, many of whom played during lunch time. I played regularly with them up until sixth grade. Moving to a junior high school, and once again finding no 13 year-olds interested in bridge, I took up duplicate with a couple of adult neighbors. I have not stopped playing since!
How long have you been playing?
This is my 55th year playing bridge.
What do you like best about the game?
The constant weighing of both complete and incomplete information and having to make considered decisions with same while placating partner throughout!
What are your favorite bridge books?
All of Eddie Kantar‘s works, Watson’s Play of the Hand, most of Mike Lawrence’s books and just about everything Kelsey wrote.
What is your favorite convention?
The Jacoby 2NT response to one of a major openings.
How long have you been teaching?
Since age 19 (I taught several shipmates onboard the USS Oriskany during the Viet Nam war) on and off… Full-time for about 9-10 years (with a gap in between about half of that time when I joined the Foreign Service).
What is your teaching philosophy?
I use the ‘Socratic’ method, framing questions throughout my presentations so as to stimulate logical thinking rather than forcing students to memorize a great deal of material. I am not afraid to challenge the intellect of my students at any level.
How many times a week do you teach?
About 6 times on average.
How do you develop your lesson plans?
I use Pat Harrington’s materials for the basics; I compose tailored hands to meet the desires of my intermediate students, often drawing upon my own experience from tournament play or modifying hands to make a certain point. I listen to my students (at the intermediate level and above) to try and discern what frustrations or difficulties they are experiencing, then compose hands to show them how to logically solve certain problems.
Are you currently taking new students? [If so, what is your location or bridge unit?]
Yes, in the Maryland area Unit 147.
Do you have a website where students can find you? Or any other contact information you would like to share?
Currently I share space with Leslie Shafer (Bridge Students ‘R’ Us) but I am developing my own independent site as we speak. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have any advice for other teachers?
Watch your speed of delivery and use of certain bridge terminology that some of your students may not understand. Try to put yourself in their seats and imagine what it is like to see the material for the first time, and how might you find ways to encourage thinking on their parts rather than resigning themselves to rote memorization of key principles.
Do you have any other hobbies, in addition to bridge?
I am an avid runner (having run more than 87,000 miles), love German board games, many other card games, I enjoy watercolor painting and baseball and poker.
Any advice for teachers thinking of applying to the Master Teacher’s program?
Try not to put on an ‘act’ but instead, be yourself. Treat the examination as if you were teaching one or more of your favorite classes… get the examiners fully engaged instead of just standing by the easel (or blackboard) regurgitating bridge jingles.