Steve Yeh’s attention to detail would have been admired by Edna Van Wart, who worked as a Huntington High School mathematics teacher for 40 years.
Valedictorian of Huntington’s Class of 2017, Mr. Yeh captured the Edna Van Wart Mathematics Award, presented annually to the high school’s top math student in the accelerated/advanced course track. The teenager is headed to Cornell University in the fall to study math, physics and/or economics.
Miss Van Wart graduated from Barnard College in 1919. She taught for three years prior to coming to Huntington and beginning her teaching career here in 1922. She was on the faculty for the next four decades before retiring in June 1962.
In 1955, Miss Van Wart became the high school’s first chair of the mathematics department. She also served as senior class advisor for 14 years. Huntington High School’s 1946 and 1962 yearbooks are dedicated to the longtime district teacher.
“We regret her retirement,” said Principal Robert A. Cushman in remarks republished on page 121 of the 1962 edition of the Huntingtonian. “Over the span of forty years, Miss Van Wart has taught skillfully and well thousands of Huntington students. Her warm friendliness, loyal devotion and superior work have inspired and helped generations of students and faculty. We give her our best wishes with the full appreciation in our hearts of the privilege of having known and worked with her. We honor a great teacher.”
Thomas S. Chieffo, one of Miss Van Wart’s most dedicated and loyal students and a member of Huntington’s Class of 1958 was on hand in the high school auditorium to speak about his former math teacher and mentor during the ceremony.
A member of the last class of seniors that graduated out of the old high school building on Main Street, Mr. Chieffo went on to earn a BS degree at Manhattan College. He is retired as a chief engineer with Penick, a worldwide engineering company.
Following Mr. Chieffo’s remarks, teacher Patricia Avelli, who serves as co-faculty advisor of the high school’s national Math Honor Society chapter along with colleague Monica Racz, formally presented the award to Mr. Yeh, who stood beaming nearby. Messrs. Chieffo and department chairman Clifford Swezey and fellow senior Ryann Gaffney, who won the Judith Gleicher Mathematics Achievement Award joined in posing for a commemorative photo.
Mr. Yeh’s spectacular academic and co-curricular success came by way of “working hard, never giving up and keeping an open mind in all situations and circumstances,” he said. Well known for being humble, calm and collected whether facing “triumph or disaster,” the teenager interned with Mrs. Racz in an AP Calculus BC class during his senior year.
President of the Math Honor Society and captain of Huntington High School’s Quiz Bowl and Science Bowl teams, Mr. Yeh also served as president of the Chinese foreign exchange club, treasurer of the Spanish Honor Society chapter and founder and president of the stocks analysis club.
A Long Island Math Fair gold medalist and National Merit scholarship program finalist, Mr. Yeh even found the time to volunteer as a homework helper at the Huntington Station branch of the Huntington Public Library.
Mr. Yeh’s powerful work ethic and towering intellect along with his sense of humor would have made the young man a sure hit with Miss Van Wart.