"Education is the acquisition of the art of utilization of knowledge." These are the words of the great educational leader and Harvard professor Alfred Whitehead and epitomize my teaching. My goal is to create an environment where each student will develop the motivation, problem-solving skills, and reflective metacognitive abilities to apply physics knowledge; and develop into independent learners possessing the skill set necessary to be successful in this new millennium where each adult will change jobs and careers many times in their lifetime. I am an example of such a career path. After graduating from Brown University with a BS in Electrical Engineering, I spent five years in the Information Technology services industry developing software and managing projects for clients ranging from General Motors to Chicago Public Schools. During this work I found that I had a passion for education and began exploring options to make a career change. I accomplished this through the GATE program at Northwestern University, where I earned my MS in Education. Before teaching at Walter Payton College Prep, I spent four invigorating years at Farragut Career Academy located on Chicago's West Side. I am an athlete at heart and after a very successful career as an offensive lineman at Brown I have reinvented myself as an athlete and compete at the elite amateur level in cycling races. I also enjoy reading the great novels; 2666 by Roberto Bolano is currently my favorite novel.
Phone: 773.534.0034 Ext. 24993
Hello! I'm excited to be teaching AP Biology and Anatomy & Physiology this year, as well as continuing to coach the Jones-Payton swim team. I previously taught and coached at Kenwood Academy. Prior to teaching, I attended the University of Chicago and graduated with a BA in Biological Sciences with a specialization in Neuroscience, as well as an MAT in secondary education through UChicago's Urban Teacher Education Program (fun fact: I was classmates with Mr. Srivastava and Ms. Heiberger). While in college, I was part of UChicago's swim team, specializing in the 100 and 200 yard backstroke and butterfly. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, running, biking (I usually do the Chicago triathlon), practicing yoga, watching football and baseball, and just enjoying the outdoors. I'm originally from New Jersey, so Let's go Mets and J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!
I am a National Board Certified Teacher, having received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Chicago. After first getting involved in public education as a parent volunteer, I went on to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University. I started with CPS at Reilly Elementary School, on Chicago's northwest side, where I developed and implemented a hands-on/minds-on science curriculum for middle school students. During this time, I began many long standing collaborations in curriculum development with educational groups, such as the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory, the Depaul Nasa Center and Hands On Universe. After ten years at Reilly, I left to become part of the original faculty group at Payton. I have continued my involvement with educational groups while at Payton adding additional collaborations such as UIC-Fermilab's Quarknet group, Beyond the Solar System project from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Chicago Public Schools/University of Chicago Internet Project and the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. Besides working with scientists and educators to develop cutting edge curriculum, these projects give my students access to authentic scientific research. I have also created and implement the Astronomy @ Payton outreach program which provides an astronomy field trip experience at Payton for Chicago's elementary school students. In 2016 I was awarded the Thomas J Brennan Award by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for demonstrating excellence in the teaching of astronomy at the high school level in North America.
I am proud product of Chicago Public Schools, just like my students. With a science teacher for a mother and a math major father, I naturally gravitated to the sciences. After studying physics and astronomy for four years at Ball State University I realized that I loved learning about these things more than just about anything. I decided the best way to keep learning (and to inspire others to learn) was to teach science. So after graduating, I went straight to Northwestern to earn a degree in secondary science education. Upon graduating I followed my mother's footsteps (her actual, literal, footsteps since I teach in the room next her) and began teaching at Payton. Each year brings exciting new opportunities to learn more (about physics and learning) as I interact with the best teachers and students on the planet!
Donna Figenshu, more commonly known as “Ms. Fig”, is passionate about moving toward a more holistic education system that not only covers content knowledge in Chemistry and Physics, but also integrates aspects of neuroscience and positive psychology to help students become more in touch with their own cognitive and emotional strengths and weaknesses. When we understand how our brains process information from our senses, we can learn how to manage the intense emotions that occur in turbulent times like adolescence. Integrating neuroscience with chemistry allows students to immediately see how chemistry can be useful in their daily lives, which is another goal that Ms. Fig has for her students. Of the Four C's that Payton strives to instill in each student, CURIOSITY has the most impact in Ms. Fig's classroom. She encourages students to not only question everything, but to try to answer everything! We take time out each week to answer student generated questions like, “Why do we itch?”, “Why do phones shut off in cold weather?”, “Why is most of our eye white?”, “How do fireflies glow?”, “Why do onions make you cry?”, “How do allergies work?”, “What exactly is a black hole?”... “The important thing is to not stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing” – Albert Einstein Ms. Fig has a true passion for learning and hopes to instill this virtue in every student. Both Ms. Fig and her students take time to reflect on the teaching and learning that happens throughout each unit and both parties receive feedback to help them improve their skills. Other ways Ms. Fig fulfills this desire for learning is through coaching the girls' basketball team, gardening at home, and exploring the beautiful city of Chicago. She most recently obtained a Graduate Certificate in STEM Learning and Leadership from Michigan State University and has her Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
Ms. Ingham has been teaching high school Chemistry for nine years in CPS and is beginning her second year at Payton for the 2017-2018 school year. She is from the small town of Xenia, Ohio which is most known for the tornado that hit them in 1974. She received her B.S. in Chemistry at Spelman College and her M.A. in Science Education at New York University. Before becoming a teacher Ms. Ingham worked in the research industry including time at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In her free time Ms. Ingham enjoys working out, cooking, and spending time with her fiance. Ms. Ingham will also begin her pursuit towards a PhD in Science Curriculum and Instruction at UIC this year.
Welcome to my bio! I am currently teaching AP Chemistry and sophomore chemistry. I have an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a masters degree in biochemistry, both from DePaul University in Chicago. I have also completed a physics endorsement program at Loyola University in Chicago. I am a US Navy veteran, having served several tours of duty in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. I am also the faculty sponsor of National Honor Society, whose mission is to promote education and ethical responsibility, and faculty sponsor of the Payton Science Club, the Science Fair Coordinator, and the Bridge Building Club, which all promote scientific inquiry.
I'm excited to be joining the learning community at Payton this year! I have a bachelor's degree in Physics and Mathematics from Cornell College in Iowa and an M.Ed. from UIC here in Chicago. During my free time, I enjoy reading, writing, running, art, learning languages, and swing dancing with my wonderful husband Timothy.
I'm very excited to be at Payton! I'm currently teaching Honors Physics and Honors Chemistry. I have an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. I received my masters of art in teaching in secondary education from University of Chicago. At University of Chicago, I met Mrs. Heiberger and Ms. Ang, who currently teach math and science, respectively, here at Payton! Before arriving to Payton, I taught at Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men in Englewood. I taught Chemistry, Anatomy & Physiology, and Genetics. On my free time, I love watching movies, spending time with family, watching football and basketball, and, when I get a chance, spending time outdoors or camping. I look forward to my time here at Payton, getting to know my learned fellow colleagues and, most of all, getting to teach and learn from all the Payton students!
Valentin John Torres
AP Biology Instructor
I am a proud father of three wonderful children and a husband to a wonderful woman. My passion is teaching - to help young individuals realize their potentials, this is my calling in life. At Payton I teach AP Biology and Biotechnology courses. My pedagogical principle is to make learning meaningful, relevant to my students' lives, where the students are engaged in hands-on learning, and to establish a positive relationship with the students so that learning can happen in a trusted & safe setting. Furthermore, other notable accomplishment includes the first development of biotechnology course at Payton, a partnership developed with Northwestern University neuroscientists to establish a neuroscience seminar, established internship opportunities for Payton students at NU research labs, and sponsor annual international science trips taking 12-30 students to expose students to the science of ecology. My educational background is that I have three degrees in three distinct fields - psychology (B.S), biological science (B.S.), and Educational Leadership (M.A.). Moreover, I was a third year Ph.D. clinical psychologist candidate working at Cook County Hospital specializing in treatment of chronic pain until I had found my calling for teaching. For the past 6 years I have been working during summer periods at UIC bioengineering labs conducting research in astrocyte cells and 3D brain imaging. Recently, I was a recipient of Stanford University 2017 Exceptional Teacher of the Year Award. My recent extracurricular activities are the following: a writer for the REACH assessment for AP biology subject for CPS (2016-present), member of Northwestern University Biotechnology Course Development Program (2014-present), and one of the coaches for CPS AP biology Professional Learning Community implemented in 2014-present to enhance AP biology instruction for CPS, and currently developing a 2018 neuroscience summer research opportunity in partnership with Northwestern University Brain Awareness Organization (NUBAO) for 15-30 Payton students to conduct authentic experiments with innovative EMOTIV EEG headsets.