“My first major was computer science. After spending many hours in the computer lab in front of a computer I decided that was not the career path for me. It was then, for the first time that I really thought about what I wanted to do with my future,” CHS math teacher Michael Rust said. “I put behind me what others were telling me what I should do and made my own decision about my future.”
When Michael Rust was a sophomore in college sitting at a computer, he never dreamed that down the road he would be an award winning math teacher.
In October, Rust was honored as this year’s Clayton School District’s recipient of the Emerson Award.
The Emerson Award is sponsored by Emerson and is designed to recognize outstanding educators in the St. Louis metropolitan area each year. School districts around St. Louis each select one teacher from their district for this prestigious award. Once selected, the award recipients are then allowed to apply for a grant.
Rust is still in the process of deciding on an idea for his grant proposal.
Rust has appreciated the study of math from a young age. So when he realized being a computer science major wasn’t for him, he switched his major to mathematics education.
“I have always enjoyed math, working with people, and participating in high school sports and teaching sounded like a career for me,” Rust said. “It was then I decided to change my major from computer science to mathematics education.”
Rust works to make his joy for math evident in his classroom. When he teaches any class subject ranging from AP Calculus to Geometry, Rust continuously attempts to display his deep interest for the subject matter to his students.
“I try to show my passion for teaching and enthusiasm for my subject area on a daily basis,” Rust said.
He tries to make his classroom very unique by creating an atmosphere where students feel comfortable taking risks and asking many questions.
“I try to treat my students with respect, show empathy when needed, and challenge them while making it fun,” Rust said.
Instead of just focusing on math, Rust likes to check in with his students and make sure they are doing okay outside of the classroom.
“I would describe Rust’s teaching as very student oriented. If any of us has a question, he answers it immediately. Mr. Rust tells great stories and gives us lots of college advice,” CHS senior Ashleigh Williams said, who is in his AP Calculus AB class.
Rust also likes to makes sure all of his co-workers are also doing well both inside and outside of school.
His colleague, Katelyn Long said, “He is a fantastic colleague. He has been a role model ever since I started teaching. Mr. Rust has also given me great financial advice when saving money, purchasing a car, purchasing a home, and making sure I’m set for retirement. He also convinced me to get my Masters degree when I did.”
Long has taught math with Rust ever since she started working at Clayton 10 years ago. Last year, they both taught Honors Calculus together. Since it was Long’s first year teaching that class, Rust gave Long any advice he could on teaching the course. Each day, Rust’s work ethic never fails to amaze her.
“Mr. Rust is always ready to help solve any classroom or math challenge,” Long said. “He is a great team member to work with, and you always know he is giving you his best effort.”
Rust not only dedicates his time inside of the classroom, but he has also coached multiple sports while at Clayton.
Being a coach offers Rust a unique perspective that he brings to the classroom.
“I have coached football, volleyball and track at different times in my career at CHS,” Rust said. “As a coach you are able to make a connection with students and parents that is on a different level than in the classroom. I continue to stay in touch with a few student athletes that I coached and/or taught early in my career.”
Rust believes the Clayton community has strengthened him into the teacher he is today.
“I am very thankful for the support and opportunities provided by the district for my continued personal and professional growth,” Rust said. ‘Being nominated [for the Emerson award] by my colleagues is a great honor. I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without the support of many colleagues, parents, students and the district as a whole.”