Born in New Jersey but raised primarily in the Midwest, I attended Villanova University in Philadelphia, where I played on the women's tennis team and earned a B.A. in English. I continued my studies at DePaul University where I received a M.A. in English Literature and a M.Ed. with a concentration in Secondary Education. I recently completed my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. I began my high school teaching career in Chicago at Marshall High School and spent five years as a teacher and member of the Instructional Leadership Team at Brooks College Prep. My passion for teaching comes from the shared learning experiences both inside and outside of the classroom and the continuous inquiry of the world around us. Along with teaching in the Payton English department, I also serve as the coach of Bomic Sans, the Payton Louder Than A Bomb Poetry Team. During breaks from school, I enjoy spending time with family & friends, visiting the Friendly Confines, running along the lakefront, and seeing live music.
I received my B.A. in English from Clark Atlanta University and a M.Ed. from Georgia State University. I joined the Payton community in 2003. Prior to being a Grizzly, I taught at Northview High School in Duluth, Georgia. I currently teach African American Literature, American Literature, and World Literature: Sacred Texts and Philosophy. I have been a Nationally Certified Teacher since 2008.
This is my sixth year at Payton. I studied Theatre and English at Northwestern University. After college, I worked as an actor, director, and writer in Chicago. I have worked with Lookingglass Theatre Company, Next Theatre Company, Chapel Perilous Theatre Ensemble, Actors Gymnasium, etc. After teaching acting and theatre for a number of years, I decided to make a career change. I earned my teacher certification and M.Ed from DePaul University and began teaching full time. I began my career at Farragut Career Academy. I next taught at Von Steuben Metro Science Academy. After the birth of my two daughters, I took an extended family leave. I was thrilled to return to work in such a dynamic, challenging, and nurturing community.
I am a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, having immigrated to the States from Vietnam as a child. I earned a B.A. in English at UC Davis where I also played club volleyball. My graduate studies included a master's degree in English from San Diego State University and doctoral coursework at the University of Chicago, also in English. Highlights of my school days included playing club volleyball as a long-in-the-tooth graduate student at the University of Chicago and semesters spent abroad at University College of London and Cambridge University. Prior to joining Walter Payton, I taught at a charter school on the northwest side of Chicago. In my spare time, I enjoy volleyball and tennis, reading, traveling, gardening, and keeping tropical freshwater and marine/reef aquariums. I have been able to bring my interests to Payton by offering gardening/greenhouse and aquatic nano biotope seminars and enrichments. Besides my work in the English department, I also serve as an assistant boys' volleyball coach.
Formerly a housing and environmental policy advocate, I decided to pursue my interest in the humanities and education after living for three years in the region of Provence, France. Following my student teaching in Wellington, New Zealand, I joined Payton in 2001, and after two years teaching Honors American Literature and Honors Contemporary U.S. History, I left to attend the University of Chicago. There I completed the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities, concentrating my studies on Renaissance art and history. After working as a program manager for a national health advocacy organization, I decided to return to Payton in 2006. In my Advanced Placement English Literature and Honors American Literature classes I take an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning by integrating literature, history, and the arts. During the summer of 2011, I studied Dante's Divine Comedy in Siena, Italy for six weeks through the National Endowment for the Humanities seminar program. I also hold a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oregon in Planning, Public Policy and Management and a Master of Education from DePaul University.
Michelle Dueñas Mowery
I became a teacher many years ago after initially working as a writer and grant administrator for the EPA; as a journalist; as a free-lance writer for a Chicago press; and as a Publicity Director for an animal shelter where I hosted a weekly cable television show. I earned an A.B. and an A.M. in English Literature from the University of Chicago and later earned an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Loyola University. I achieved National Board Certification many years ago and was a mentor for the CPS program. I also serve as the Vice-President of the Scholastic Press Association of Chicago. When I began my academic career, I was a Lecturer in English at St. Xavier University and Loyola University Chicago. I then served as English Department Chair at Regina Dominican High School. Later, I taught honors students at Lake Forest Academy where I was also the girls j.v. tennis coach. My passions at Payton include leading the Animal Society at Payton (ASAP), hosting international student exchanges, serving as Senior Events Coordinator, and working with student journalists on Payton News Network (newspaper and broadcast). My most savored summer activities are: binging on British detective novels (P.D. James, Tana French); rereading Jane Austen novels ("Pride and Prejudice" rocks); watching science fiction television series ("Fringe" and "X-Files"); writing poetry and science fiction stories; and playing with my 4 dogs, 4 cats, and a box turtle at my farm in Michigan.
A graduate of Dartmouth College, Leslie A. Russell is in her 18th year as an educator. She is a certified Reading Specialist with a Master's degree in Instructional Leadership: Literacy, Language, and Culture, and she has taught literacy in each grade, K-12. Ms. Russell teaches English I and Advanced Placement Language and Composition. She is an elected member of the Local School Council, co-chairs the Professional Personnel Leadership Committee, and leads professional development for Payton. Ms. Russell's work in education is focused on building equity in the curriculum and deconstructing hegemony in classroom and school-wide structures. Particularly, she aims to equip her students with the writing skills that will allow them to create space for themselves and others who are underrepresented in the power structure. She believes that this is the work of writers: to name ideas that are persistent but have no voice. She is an avid genealogy researcher and mother to four active children.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Literature modified by Women's Studies from Dartmouth College and received a Masters in Secondary Education with a focus in English Literature from DePaul University. Since, I have also completed Masters level coursework in English from Northwestern's Continuing Studies program. Previous to teaching at Walter Payton, I enjoyed three years at John Marshall Metro H.S. This will be my seventh year at home with the Grizzlies. At Payton, I am proud to be the sponsor and collaborator of the Payton Advisory Leaders program. Additionally, I help facilitate the student-run Payton Organization for Women. Finally, I am always willing to organize Open Mic and Rap Battle performances. I have collaborated with my colleagues to create and then recreate the Honors Survey of Literature program, and am currently part of the Honors World Literature team.
Born and raised in Chicago, I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I received my B.F.A. degree in Theatre. More recently, I received my Master's Degree in Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to my work at Payton, I spent time as a company member of the Utah Shakespearean Festival. I also work as a Teaching Artist for Lookingglass Theatre Company. I currently teach AP English Language and Composition and Honors Drama I/II, and serve as co-sponsor/director of Payton's resident drama club, Payton Players.