By Anna Calkins, Arts and Entertainment 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. Williams, a new social studies teacher at Payton to hear his story.
Paw Print: Why Payton? Mr. Williams: Payton was a school that I’ve tried to get to for years. I’ve been in Chicago now for eight years and I was teaching at a different school for seven years and, you know, Payton has this incredible reputation. I wanted to be a part of that. So when a position opened up, I immediately applied and jumped in and tried to throw my hat into the ring.
Paw Print: What got you into teaching? Mr. Williams: I originally was going through the business process when I was in my first semester of undergraduate at Michigan State. I was kind of struggling with the business classes. They didn’t really pique my interest too much. I called my dad and said I’m having some trouble, and he told me to find a job that I truly do enjoy, that keeps me lively and is fun. So he asked, well, what does that for you? And I was like, I really love history. I love reading about history, learning about it. And I do enjoy helping people and he suggested maybe going into the field of teaching and I gave it a shot and really connected with it.
Paw Print: Why high schoolers specifically? Mr. Williams: Y’all are just fun to interact with. I can throw jokes at y’all and, you know, within reason, you guys can throw them right back. It’s also fun just to see how dedicated and how gifted high schoolers are. I feel like a lot of times, people may write high schoolers off as lazy or dramatic or something like that. There’s so much more to high schoolers that people don’t see unless you really work with them. And it is fun to see you guys challenge yourselves. You push yourselves and do it in a way that would probably impress most people if they took the moment to see what you do.
Paw Print: What do you believe are the most important or significant challenges for high schoolers? Mr. Williams: The world is constantly changing. It seems like high schoolers nowadays are expected to grow up faster. There’s a lot of pressure thrown upon kids these days. And social media is great, but it’s also one of the worst things in the world because it’s so easy to bully someone. Kids should feel comfortable in their own skin and with how they represent themselves. When you have people that are typing behind a keyboard and critiquing your every move that affects your mental health and you know, that’s hard for a kid to go through. And I want my students to know, at the end of the day, I’m always gonna be there. I’m always there to listen and support them if they ever need it.
Paw Print: What piece of advice do you wish you’d received when you were in high school, or a piece of advice you’d give to current high schoolers? Mr. Williams: I think one piece of advice I wish I would have received in high school is just like right now, you might sweat specific things. But the moments where you may feel like you’re being judged are not going to define you as a person. No one’s gonna remember anything like that. Live your life. Do what you want to do. Don’t think that specific moments define you as a human being or a person.