By Campbell Meszaros, Contributor
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 Ms. Dao, a new math teacher at Payton to hear her story.
Paw Print: Why Payton?
Ms. Dao: Why Payton? Well I’ve heard so many amazing things about Payton and especially the amazing students here, like hardworking students, supportive colleagues, wonderful teachers that care and have a strong passion and it’s just a school of wonderful vibes. After teaching for ten years at the middle school where I learned and grew a lot, I just felt like I needed a change, and why not join the number one school?
Paw Print: What got you into teaching?
Ms. Dao: Ever since I was a kid, I always loved learning and my mom introduced me to origami at an early age when I was in kindergarten. I was an avid learner, but then I started seeing the connections between art, origami, and math and that’s why I wanted to start teaching.
Paw Print: Why did you want to teach high schoolers?
Ms. Dao: After teaching middle schoolers for, you know, close to ten years, close to a decade, I wanted to try high school to see if high-schoolers are a bit more mature.
Paw Print: Why did you choose to teach math?
Ms. Dao: I chose to teach math because of my passion for math and art.
Paw Print: What did you do before becoming a teacher?
Ms. Dao: I was a student, just like all of you.
Paw Print: Did you always want to be a teacher?
Ms. Dao: My college professors know I really wanted to be a concert pianist, so I didn’t always want to be a teacher but then I started seeing the connections with what my passions were to become a math teacher.
Paw Print: What’s your experience working for equity?
Ms. Dao: So I’m part of this nonprofit organization called Nepantla Teachers Community, and it’s a nonprofit organization some of my U of I colleagues started with me to have a central focus for mathematics teachers committed to social justice. I recently got published for a lesson that I submitted for a middle school book that was focused on equity. I always loved connecting algebra to real-world situations and problems and so is the book. I submitted this lesson plan on gerrymandering and equivalent areas to this book called Middle School Mathematics lessons to explore, understand, and respond to social injustice.
Paw Print: What do you believe are the most important challenges for high schoolers to face?
Ms. Dao: I think, you know, the stress of balancing everything like homework, sports, applying to colleges, you know, and trying to find your own passions in the system of school where you’re working so hard. I think that’s been a challenge, but I do think we have wonderful enrichments and seminars to help Payton students find their passions.