Polk County High School science teacher Leslie Rhinehart has been selected as a North Carolina finalist for the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

The PAEMST is the nation’s highest honor for teachers of mathematics and science in the United States. The award recognizes teachers who serve as role models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.

Rhinehart, who teaches chemistry and engineering at PCHS, is one of three science teachers across the state nominated for the award. A panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators will select one winner from that group to represent the state.

“I decided to give this process a try in an effort to find a stronger voice for public education in general as well as my passion of science,” Rhinehart said. “I feel like public education is seen through a negative lens by many and want those in my community to recognize the phenomenal job the public school system does to educate and grow their children.

“I also want to use this process and recognition to continue to explore and find best practices and opportunities for my students.”

Along with the other state nominees, Rhinehart attended a recent North Carolina Science Teacher Association Professional Development Institute in Greensboro where she spoke with others about public education and the current crisis of fewer students pursuing higher degrees in STEM fields.

Rhinehart will also be recognized at the December State Board of Education meeting in Raleigh.