Dr. Haewan Rho redefining retirement


Mary Forbes

After 16 years at NPHS, math teacher Haewan Rho has decided to retire and return to Korea.

Life doesn’t always go as planned. With many twists and turns, your path may take you in a completely different direction than was once thought to be impossible. And for North Penn High School math teacher Dr. Haewan Rho, that’s exactly what happened. 

“I actually never planned to be a teacher. I really wanted to be an engineer. I was born and raised in Korea, and I graduated college and met my wife during my senior year,” Rho explained. “She came to the United States before me. I came to the United States in December of 1985 and moved right to Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.”

Once he arrived in the United States, Rho decided to continue on with his studies. In Korea, he was focusing on architectural engineering but decided to go for civil engineering. 

“I ended up going to the University of Pennsylvania for one year, but when my first son was born, I was very busy trying to balance making a living and studying,” Rho shared. “The workload became too much for me, so I changed to part-time and ended up transferring to Drexel, where I got my master’s in civil engineering, specializing in structural analysis.”

While searching for an engineering job in 1990, a friend offered Rho a teaching position at a local school. Since he wasn’t having any luck, he decided to take on the role of an SAT mathematics teacher. And that’s where his teaching career began. 

“I started out teaching SAT math, and I did that for nine years. During that time, I went back to school again part-time at Arcadia [University] for my M.A. in secondary education for mathematics,” Rho explained. “Then, I took the risk of interning at Plymouth Whitemarsh for a year, which was difficult to go from a non-paying job to just interning. But then I became a long-term substitute at Penndale. A year after that, I came to North Penn and I’ve been here ever since.” 

After working at North Penn High School for sixteen years, Rho has decided it’s time to retire. And although his love for fishing may take him on some boating trips, he has some more teaching to do. 

“I’m very involved in my church, and I’ve heard from some people who were missionaries that they’ve been struggling to teach their kids about religion. So a few years ago I went to Indonesia as a missionary and I met some people there and felt like if I’m able to when I retire, I should go again,” Rho stated. “So, my three children are grown, and even though I’m going to miss them, I’m going to go on this mission trip. I found a mission opportunity in Korea, so after 36 years in America, I’ll be going back for a few years.”

I’m going to go on this mission trip. I found a mission opportunity in Korea, so after 36 years in America, I’ll be going back for a few years.”

— Dr. Haewan Rho

Although his time at North Penn is coming to an end, Rho has fond memories of his time spent teaching mathematics over the years. His appreciation for meeting new people has never dwindled.

“I had always looked forward to the new school year. Every September, it’s brand new. It’s a new group of students, and I think that’s very exciting because you get to meet new faces. Once in a while, I see former students and get to say, ‘Hi’ to them in the hallway. It’s always good to meet so many students in such a diverse background,” Rho concluded.