For a teacher, nothing beats seeing a student succeed. For Rajeev Wahi at Flintridge Preparatory School, helping 2011 graduate Kelly Yang get into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology resulted in success rebounding back to him.
Wahi is one of 33 teachers across the country who was named last month to receive MIT’s Inspirational Teacher Award. Freshmen at the Cambridge, Mass., university nominate their top high school teachers. The instructors who win the recognition gain access to MIT databases and teaching tools.
Wahi was recognized at a March 25 meeting of the MIT Club of Southern California, and will be honored at Flintridge Prep at a date to be determined.
Yang said that when she heard about the award she instantly thought of Wahi, who taught her honors chemistry and honors physics courses in her junior and senior years.
Yang said that Wahi’s enthusiasm for the subject matter spread to the rest of the class, and that he went above and beyond to help students.
“Several times I went in early, like 45 minutes before school started, and he was always there, available to tutor,” Yang said. “Even for AP stuff, he organized morning tutoring sessions and review sessions.”
Yang, who may major in mechanical engineering, said Wahi’s class gave her a head start when she started studying the subject at MIT.
“I understood a lot before going into that class, and that definitely made it a lot easier,” she said.
Wahi said Yang stood out among his students because of her inquisitive nature.
“She had my favorite characteristic of the science students I teach, which is that she wanted to know not just what happens, but why it happens,” he said. “She got us to have a higher-quality discussion because she was interested in why exactly does something happen in chemistry or physics.”
Wahi, who received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in chemistry from Houston’s Rice University, came to Flintridge Prep four years ago from the Ransom Everglades school in Miami.
He said he is flattered to receive the award, but said credit goes to the people around him. “I’ve got really supportive colleagues who set the bar very high, and I’ve got students who are not only very conscientious about what they do, but they’re also just nice people,” he said.