Math education student wins honor

Caitlin Yencha, a mathematics and secondary math education major at Western Carolina University, was recognized recently by the N.C. Council of Teachers of Mathematics as its outstanding mathematics education student from the western region for 2011. Yencha is shown here doing her student teaching at Tuscola High School in Haywood County.

The North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics selected Caitlin Elise Yencha, a Western Carolina University senior majoring in mathematics and secondary math education, as its outstanding mathematics education student from the western region for 2011.

Yencha received the recognition in October during the NCCTM annual state conference, held in Greensboro. The daughter of Sue and Jeffrey Yencha of Cary, Yencha is a 2008 graduate of Green Hope High School. She is currently in her first of two semesters of student teaching at Tuscola High School in Haywood County and expects to graduate from WCU in May.

Each year the NCCTM, the professional organization in North Carolina of all persons responsible for the teaching of mathematics, recognizes students from the western, central and eastern regions of the state. Recognition is based on the criteria of GPA and the student’s involvement in NCCTM, campus and community activities, said Bampia Bangura, a professor of mathematics at N.C. A&T State University and chair of the NCCTM special awards committee. WCU students have a tradition of winning the recognition. Ralph Willis, professor emeritus in WCU’s Mathematics and Computer Science Department, said WCU students have earned the recognition for the western region 22 of the award’s 25 years.

Willis nominated Yencha for the award after she served as his office assistant. “Caitlin, because of the various activities that she had participated in, was the likely choice. She’s an excellent student and excellent person,” said Willis, who founded WCU’s High School Mathematics Contest more than 40 years ago.

Yencha carries a 3.9 GPA and is a N.C. Teaching Fellow, a member of WCU’s Honors College and a recipient of the Genevieve and E.J. Whitmire Scholarship. She has attended NCCTM conferences since her freshman year; has made a conference-wide presentation at WCU’s Smoky Mountain Undergraduate Research Conference on the History of Mathematics; served as a student representative on bodies in the College of Education and Allied Professions and the College of Arts and Sciences; and assisted with WCU recruitment, open houses and campus tours.

Yencha hopes to return to the Piedmont after her graduation and teach middle school algebra or geometry. “I definitely would prefer to teach ninth- or 10th-graders,” said Yencha, whose mother is a teacher of 28 years, currently in a fifth-grade classroom.

Two educators who have worked closely with Yencha predict a promising future for the young teacher. Yencha is a student with “passion and a heart for service for others,” said Jacqueline Smith, director of WCU’s Office of Teaching Fellows, adding that Yencha will be a “true asset to any school system.” Mary Ann Smith, the Tuscola mathematics teacher overseeing Yencha’s student teaching, called Yencha “an extremely responsible and conscientious student teacher” and praised the skills Yencha already is showing in the classroom. “She connects well with the students, and she has the ability to meet them on their level mathematically and draw them to a higher level of learning,” Smith said.

For more information about WCU’s mathematics education program, contact the WCU Mathematics and Computer Science Department at 828-227-7240 or go online to