Meet Mr. Barnes- Payton’s new math and computer science teacher

By Olivia Sampson, Community and Culture Editor

As Payton welcomes the class of 2026 into the building for the first time, it also welcomes a new cohort of teachers. This year, there are 22 new staff members joining the WPCP community! I met with Mr. Barnes, a new computer science teacher at Payton to hear his story.

Mr. Barnes first taught in Georgia before coming to Chicago to teach.

Paw Print: Why did you choose to teach at Payton?
Mr. Barnes: I chose Payton because it offered a fresh and new opportunity within education. I [had] never taught at the high school level, but always wanted to.

Paw Print: What got you into teaching?
Mr. Barnes: I got into teaching during college. I had a hard time understanding what major I wanted to commit to and ended up being referred to [teaching] by a friend who was an Education major at the time. It sounded like something that I wanted to do.

Paw Print: Why do you want to teach high school students?
Mr. Barnes: I teach high schoolers because I like the idea of students having autonomy and opinions. Middle school focuses too much on the supervision of children for things that don’t have much to do with teaching. Teaching in high school allows me to get into my subject rather than focusing on who’s going to the bathroom or who is stepping out of line.

Paw Print: Why did you choose to teach computer science?
Mr. Barnes: I chose computer science because it was new and I was getting tired of the subject I was teaching. Social studies never really changes, and it’s not as interesting when relating it to students. I think I have a way more fun time teaching computer science.

Paw Print: What experience do you have in working for equity?
Mr. Barnes: I think part of my ethical duty is constantly challenging for equity in my students. I’ve found myself to be on the harsher end of administration because I usually stand up for them. Unfortunately, not every administrator cares for the well-being of their students or even their teachers as they claim. That leads to us bumping heads a lot later down the road.

Paw Print: What are your first impressions of Payton?
Mr. Barnes: My first impressions so far are even better than I expected. I’ve heard a lot of criticism about Payton during my first couple of weeks here from the students, and I honestly have to say that it’s very mild. I think a lot of students and even teachers don’t understand how rough it is at other schools. In my opinion, Payton is pretty great despite the negative parts.

Paw Print: What are the most important challenges for high schoolers to face? Mr. Barnes: I think the most important challenge that high schoolers have to face in this day and age is trying to find new skills to suit how the world is changing while also finding themselves. The requirements for reaching success in America are only getting higher, and I believe our students can sense that. I wish they had more time to just focus on being teenagers, rather than being so wrapped up in their grades and attendance. Those things are important and should be prioritized, but I’ve noticed that our students can take them a bit too seriously. Missing class a few times out of the year or scoring below a B on a test/assignment is not going to hurt anyone as a student. But unfortunately, with the way things are going in our society, it’s starting to become a reality for anyone who is trying to make something of themselves, students included.

Paw Print: How do you plan on supporting students through academic endeavors?
Mr. Barnes: I plan on trying to be as flexible and understanding to my students as possible. I remember when I was in school, I liked teachers who knew their subjects and taught well, but the ones I appreciated were the ones who could be patient and gave me room to make mistakes or time to get priorities together. Life is already extremely hard, and it feels good knowing I was able to make someone else’s just a little bit easier.

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