Jan Siwanowicz, the math genius and former school aide, returned to Stuyvesant, for several visits during which he has volunteered to help out in math classes.
Siwanowicz left Stuyvesant after the spring of 2006 to work at Bergen County Academies (BCA) in Hackensack, New Jersey, at the request of former Stuyvesant Assistant Principal Mathematics Daniel Jaye, who was also leaving to become the principal of that school.
This year, Siwanowicz returned to New York City to pursue a degree in mathematics at City College. Siwanowicz first thought that leaving BCA would allow him to resume contributing in classes at Stuyvesant in the morning. Afterwards, however, he said he “found the workload too much and could not come back on a daily basis.” Instead, he has been making occasional visits.
Siwanowicz came to Stuvyesant in 2000 as a school aide and was assigned to library and scanner duties. But Siwanowicz also contributed in math team and math research classes, guest-lectured in other math classes, and helped out with the Board Game Club and the Robotics Team. Because he did not have the necessary license, Siwanowicz did not officially teach any classes.
But according to Jaye, he was “the spinal cord of the math department.”
Jaye said in an e-mail that he first met Siwanowicz at a New York City Math Team training session at Stuyvesant. Jaye said he saw Siwanowicz as an invaluable resource for students and looked into how he could bring Siwanowicz to Stuyvesant.
“It became clear that the only way he could join the math department was signing on as a school aide, a position not typically held by world class mathematicians,” Jaye said.
According to Alec Klein’s new book about Stuyvesant, “A Class Apart,” Jaye felt Siwanowicz, at Stuyvesant, was not living up to his potential. “Mr. Jaye knows that Mr. Siwanowicz is wounded by the indignity of his monitoring duties even though he accepts them in silence,” wrote Klein.
At BCA, Siwanowicz was hired primarily as a technology specialist.
According to Jaye, this was the only title that provided Siwanowicz with a fair salary without a teaching license. Such a position was not available at Stuyvesant because the Department of Education did not provide it.
According to Klein, Siwanowicz also received a 30,000 dollar salary increase in his move from Stuyvsant to BCA.
Siwanowicz also worked on curriculum development with Jaye, helped out with classes, and ran a tutoring center to help students get into the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.
This fall, Siwanowicz returned from BCA to enroll as a full-time student at City College. There, he is currently taking Statistics for Computer Modeling, Physics and Systemic Sciences, a course he described in an e-mail as “a combination of geology, chemistry and meteorology with a dash of microbiology and astronomy.”
Jan said, “ [I am] sad that I can’t be at Stuy regularly because I miss seeing students. [I] love being in front of the blackboard and have to keep myself from talking too much in [my classes], but I believe I am doing the right thing for me.”
Students said they will continue to miss him. Junior Albert Lee, who had Siwanowicz for math team freshman year, said, “He was a good teacher and I hope he’ll be able to come back [to Stuy] in the future.”
Math teacher Jim Cocoros said Siwanowicz is “incredible, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met [in the] Stuy community, or at least New York City math community, for a very long time, so it’s unfortunate that he’s not able to come in anymore.”