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Even with three children of his own, James Tabourne spends time with many local elementary students teaching chess and helping with homework.

Tabourne’s volunteer efforts earned him a nod for the 2012 Charles County Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Award.

The award puts him in the running for the state award.

Tabourne is the father of two fifth-grade students at Eva Turner Elementary School and one student at Maurice J. McDonough High School.

He began volunteering when his oldest son was in fourth grade at Eva Turner.

Tabourne said volunteering in schools or anywhere children need mentors is important because “when kids have adults they can look up to ... it helps them mature into the adults we want them to be.”

It’s through the game of chess that Tabourne reaches many Turner students.

Eva Turner Principal Stephanie Nottingham said Tabourne is the coach of the chess club at the school, but he also will help out any student with whatever she needs.

Nottingham said last year a student needed help with math so Tabourne agreed to tutor him.

She said the two played chess and worked on homework together.

“Whether it was right or not, they did it together,” she said.

By the next marking period, Nottingham said the student exceeded his expectations and even his teacher’s expectations.

Nottingham said a group of staff nominated Tabourne for the award for more than just his efforts with the chess club, but also because he is always willing to help whether it be chess, Destination ImagiNation or class field trips.

Nottingham said Tabourne is a very kind and helpful man.

When it comes to coaching chess, Tabourne said he’s not the most skilled player himself but is familiar enough with the game to volunteer.

While he teaches the game to those who have never learned, Tabourne said the students, some as young as 7, teach him things, too — mostly humility and patience, he said.

Tabourne comes to the elementary school every Wednesday to help out with chess club and volunteers for field trips and other school events when he’s available.

Working as a field engineer, Tabourne said he has the flexibility to volunteer at the school regularly.

His chess club friends are glad he does.

“He’s a nice instructor. He taught me how to play chess because when I first came in, I had no clue,” said Christian Gomez, 9.

Nicholas Brown, 8, said when he first played chess, he was confused.

“I’m glad that he actually helped me,” Nicholas said.

Tabourne said he enjoys playing chess with students, as their skill levels increase.

But those in the beginner levels and younger students are just as much fun to work with.

“They don’t put me in checkmate as fast,” he said.

Receiving the Comcast award for Charles County is humbling, Tabourne said, but he is appreciative of it and said it’s a good idea to have that type of recognition.

“I hope it encourages more parents to be involved,” he said.

Tabourne will be recognized at a ceremony May 18, where the five semifinalists and the state award winner will be announced.

The finalists will be awarded a cash prize to further their efforts to improve the public schools they represent.

gphillips@somdnews.com