High school teacher recognized for real life math applications

Philip Rash ’99 MAEd ’03 (above, right), a high school teacher who has been fascinated by mathematics since childhood, loves helping his students with the math applications in everyday life. “I try to instill in them both the value of learning in general as well as interest and appreciation for mathematics because I think it is interesting in its own right and useful for a lot of things later in life,” Rash said.

A math instructor at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, Rash is one of 17 outstanding faculty members who received the University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ 2016 Awards for Excellence in Teaching. The recipients, representing all 16 UNC campuses and the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, were nominated by special committees at their home campuses and selected by the Board of Governors.


Rash has had a long association with WCU. As a high school student, he participated in Summer Ventures, a four-week academic program led by Joseph Klerlein, WCU professor of math who is now retired. Rash said the experience gave him instruction and research opportunities that were not available in the high school curriculum and influenced his later decision to enroll at WCU. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees, he taught courses in the WCU math and computer science department and at Tuscola High School in Waynesville before becoming part of the faculty at NCSSM. He has been teaching there for 12 years.

The recipient of many teaching awards, Rash is widely praised for his service beyond the classroom. He coaches academic competitions, attends his students’ extracurricular events, takes them on field trips, coordinates their math contests, attends state and national professional conferences to strengthen his teaching, and even finds teaching opportunities in his hobbies. A pilot with his own small airplane, Rash teaches a popular aviation mini-course at his school. He also serves as the coach for NCSSM student teams that compete annually with students from all over the world in the annual Singapore International Mathematics Challenge. His students won the competition in 2012.

As a Board of Governors teaching award winner, Rash received a commemorative bronze medallion and $12,500 cash prize.