Ann Trenk, VCS Class of 1977
Stuyvesant High School
Johns Hopkins Univserity, PhD. in Mathematical Sciences
Currently: A Professor of Math at Wellesley College; works with K-12 teachers through the Teachers as Scholars program.
VCS gave me a love of learning and being in school. I’ve gone to school my whole life and I love going to work each day. I had some wonderful teachers at VCS. My math teacher for sixth, seventh and eighth grades was a huge influence in my becoming a mathematician. He taught us what was then called the “new math” and it put me on the path to thinking like a mathematician at an early age.
I also loved gym—it was an important part of the day at VCS and for us city kids. My love of sports started at VCS and has continued to this day. I also loved the flexibility of VCS. In fifth grade, I was allowed to go back to my fourth grade class once a week to help the kids with math. I loved softball, and in sixth or seventh grade I was allowed to go to the Big Yard once a week and pitch to the younger kids during their gym time.
In seventh grade I had a math assignment that was harder than anything I’d ever seen before. Math had always been so easy for me, but our math teacher gave us an assignment to prove there was no axiomatic affine geometry on 6 points (or some such thing). I worked hard on this, considering all possibilities and proving that each led to a contradiction. I remember feeling proud that I had managed this proof on my own and amazed that he would assign something so hard. I remember thinking, “how is anyone going to do this?” because I worked harder on it than I had ever worked on a math assignment before.
I learned that as you go farther into a field, you just have to work harder to get things done. You don’t have to quit when things get harder, but you do need to shift into a new gear.