By Sanaa Taqvi, Staff Writer
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. Murphy, a new science teacher at Payton to hear his story.
Paw Print: Why did you elect to teach at Payton?
Mr. Murphy: The recent reputation. How diverse it is here…even for the teachers. I was at a point in my career where I wanted to grow professionally and this is a great place to be to do that.
Paw Print: What got you into teaching in the first place?
Mr. Murphy: So I’ve always had a passion for working with youth, which sounds weird. Mostly teenagers. Even when I was in my first career, which was marketing and management, I was always working with teenagers. Through my church, through my fraternity, doing like community service stuff – creating programs and trying to help. So, when I wasn’t happy in my career anymore, even though I was making really good money, people close to me started saying things like “Hey, why don’t you think about teaching?” and I was like “You’re asking me to take a pay cut…you sound crazy.” But, I respected the opinions of those people who were saying that so eventually I had to step back and reassess things. Is this [current career] gonna continue to make me happy? Should I switch careers, which sounds insane right now, and try to do something that makes me happier? And I did. I reached back out to my mentor and he got me into a program for career switchers going into education. And, I’ve loved teaching ever since.
Paw Print: Why did you elect to teach high schoolers? Because you like working with teenagers?
Mr. Murphy: I have a very relaxed and sarcastic personality…that doesn’t bode to well with younger students. They wouldn’t pick up [on] my sarcasm. They wouldn’t get my jokes. So I’m able to be a little more real with teenagers. Like with you all…I’m able to relate more; I’m able to I don’t know, just be myself more instead of being like…in elementary school you have to be like “All right guys, here’s what we’re gonna learn today! We’re gonna do some math,” It’s not me. Yeah, it just fits my personality more.
Paw Print: Why did you choose science?
Mr. Murphy: Ooh. I cover all sciences. So I do Honors Physics, Honors Chemistry, Honors Biology. I love science. I’ve always loved science, even from the high school level. I knew I didn’t want to go into a career as a scientist. I love the process of scientific thinking.
Paw Print: So you’re a Co-Teacher?
Mr. Murphy: Yup. I work in the science department and the Diverse Learner department. Co-teachers…we’re here to kind of support anybody and just help teach but we’re also here to provide those extra supports if you need them: extra time, accommodations. So yeah, I’m in the middle of two departments.
Paw Print: What did you do before becoming a teacher?
Mr. Murphy: I was in corporate America. So, I worked for a sport’s marketing company that was the marketing firm for the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, St. Louis Blues, and minor league teams. And then I was a manager and corporate trainer at Aldi, the grocery store, so my job…I was a manager first and then I started going to help open new stores and train their managers. So it was cool like traveling and going to new states for a couple of months and just like, living out of hotels.
Paw Print: What are your further career plans?
Mr. Murphy: I plan to be in Chicago for the next, at least, five years. At least. I would like to raise my family in Chicago. Alright, but once my kids are of age, I mean anything is up for grabs. Um…I am currently in school to get my certification to become a principal. So working on that and in the next five years I plan to be administrator…either assistant principal or principal. And like I said most of my degrees are… in marketing and management. I have a masters degree in organizational leadership and then I have a masters in education. So I have more degrees on the business and corporate side. So professionally I plan to run an organization and use my business degrees to become a principal or chief. Since I love traveling, like I said, after five years…who knows. I could teach overseas, that’d be cool.
Paw Print: What are you experiences with equity?
Mr. Murphy: What I think is fair or equal…you could have a completely different perspective on what that looks like. Even in a classroom, in a school, person-to-person like what’s fair…even when you’re dealing with organizations and think that that’s common…it’s not. So I think…my experiences have been difficult because it looks different for everybody and it’s hard for people to understand equity outside of their own experiences. So, I’ve spent a lot of time, even when it wasn’t intentional, I’ve spent a lot of time working under equity and outside of school, even in the corporate juncture, because it’s so important, and I think people are starting to realize that it’s important for people to feel like their being treated with equity…I don’t know why we’re just getting there now but…yeah so understanding what that looks like for everybody and then trying to find common ground is something that is important in every organization. And I’ve had to work in this school, in the last school I was in, the last company I was at. So I’m glad that it’s becoming more important, but I’m understanding that it’s also becoming more complex.
Paw Print: What are your first impressions of the Payton community? Mr. Murphy: Prideful. Inviting – I thought there was gonna be a lot more snobs here. Wow that’s gonna suck as a quote. And people here are more open. People here are still open to learning, open to different personalities. It’s a lot of unique culture, identities, and things of that sort so people are more open and inviting. My first week here…the people were so nice. People were nicer than I expected and very welcoming. So it’s this sense of like pride and “we know who we are and we’re proud of that, but we’re also willing to learn from somebody else and invite people into our culture.”
Paw Print: What do you believe are the most important challenges for high schoolers and the biggest obstacles that they face?
Mr. Murphy: You all do a lot. I think one is understanding how to balance the different identities with the different environments that you all have to go in between, cause a lot of people don’t live where you go to school. This is a school where a lot of people are commuting, so balancing that personal life and school life and, for some of us, student athlete lives and jobs and all of that. Like you all have a lot on your plate and just learning how to really manage all of it. So I think that’s one of the challenges. The social aspect of it all – learning like which groups I identify with – I think that in itself is maze. And I think you all handle it better than most people think you handle it. Or manage it better than most people think you manage it. But that in itself is difficult. So I think that’s a challenge. Payton specifically has such high standards. I, as well as somebody else who’s new here this year said, and this was an administrator, that they were a little intimidated and overwhelmed walking into this building and seeing like “First, first, first. We’re first in this, we’re first in that, number one, number one, number one, number one.” And you’re like, “Wow. Do I deserve to be here? Do I belong here?” Like it’s such rigorous and high standards for everybody and you start to question like your own motives. If we do that as professionals and adults, like I couldn’t imagine how you all feel coming in and seeing all of the accolades and seeing like “How am I gonna survive here? How am going to, not just survive, but how am I gonna be successful? How am I gonna be number one in a place where it seems like everyone is number one in everything?” So, I think that that’s difficult for Payton students.
Paw Print: How do you plan on supporting Payton students throughout their academic endeavors?
Mr. Murphy: I don’t. I plan on supporting my students as whole students, not just academically. Because I think as teachers and educators, we focus a lot on the academic, which we should, but we also forget about like the personal. Like, the rest of the stuff I said you all have to balance in high school. So I do plan on supporting my students academically just by providing extra resources, providing a road map on things: what to do and what not to do based off of my experiences and so many others that I’ve gathered. But also understanding the social and emotional development part of that, and supporting my students. So making them feel good about who they are, where their going, having their minds right, making sure that their taking care of themselves and knowing how to love themselves. That along with the academic rigor and like what their academic goals are. So just trying to help them reach their goals no matter what they may be.