By Megha Khemka, Junior Editor-in-Chief
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. Bauer, a new science teacher at Payton to hear his story.
Paw Print: What got you into teaching?
Mr. Bauer: It was a combination of really enjoying chemistry as a student in high school and then doing a lot of programs in my undergrad with students in the middle school and high school range. We did a chemistry demonstrations program, so we brought kids in from local schools to watch a show we put on with skits while doing chemistry demonstrations, just to incite an interest in science. That was another thing that really put me on the teaching path.
Paw Print: Why did you want to teach high schoolers, specifically?
Mr. Bauer: My interest is chemistry, and high school really the only place I would find that. I’d looked into being a chemistry professor, but what deterred me from that is there’s less of that interactive, fun component usually. In high school you get to really incite excitement, whereas in college it’s more of, “you need to know this for your future.”
Paw Print: Why Payton?
Mr. Bauer: I thought of Payton as being a place I’ve always wanted to work. I visited this city for the first time four or five years ago, and just walking around this neighborhood, I was like, how cool is it that there’s this high school right here in the middle of Chicago? And here we are. I felt it was a good challenge and place for me to end up, so I’m excited to be here.
Paw Print: What are some of your first impressions of Payton from your time here?
Mr. Bauer: I love it. I love the camaraderie between all of the faculty. Everyone’s been so nice in the process of learning a new school and new school system. The students are incredible. They challenge me every day, which I think is the greatest part – questioning things I thought I knew.
Paw Print: What are some of your goals as a teacher? What do you hope to teach your students?
Mr. Bauer: My biggest goal every year is making sure that my students have a sense of scientific literacy—understanding science—and being able to go out into the real world and use their understanding to make informed decisions. I think there’s a lot going on right now in the world where we need more of that, so I just hope I can instill it in my students to go out and make informed decisions based off of their understanding of the scientific world.
Paw Print: What are your thoughts and experiences on working for equity in the classroom?
Mr. Bauer: I think it’s really important. Most of my teaching experience was in a really rural community in Indiana, so we had all sorts of differences in one classroom. It’s really helped me realize you have to understand not just what’s going on in the classroom but what’s going on outside of the classroom, and make sure every student has an opportunity to succeed, whatever that might look like.
Paw Print: What did you do before becoming a teacher, and what would you do if you weren’t a teacher?
Mr. Bauer: Before becoming a teacher, I was actually trying to get my PhD in medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology. I think if I were to do anything besides teaching… it would not be to do that again. There’s a reason I stopped that. But it would be pharmacy school. Being a pharmacist has always been a dream and I think that’s also what pushed me into chemistry – understanding how pharmaceuticals are made and function. Otherwise, a Starbucks barista.
Paw Print: What’s one thing you want to tell your students?
Mr. Bauer: I think the biggest thing for me is just to be yourself. That’s what I try to do myself in my classroom, just act my genuine self. I just want you to be true to who you are and live your life to the fullest.