‘BB&N legend’ departs after nearly 30 years

Math teacher, student council adviser, student adviser, Ms. Payne leaves US


Graham Lee, Arts Editor

Upper School (US) Math Teacher Peggy Payne has taught at the school for 28 years, instructed over 700 students, and affected hundreds more through her involvement as the student council adviser for the past 9 years

Alumnus Bayard Eaton ’17 said Ms. Payne was pivotal in his high school trajectory as she pushed him toward challenging classes and new clubs.

“Ms. Payne was not only a math teacher but also a valued adviser in all spheres of my life,” Bayard said. “Ms. Payne is a BB&N legend,” he said. “She truly cared about me and pushed me to find what I really enjoy at a crucial point in my high school journey. I don’t know who I would be without her. Her words and demeanor still resonate with me to this day.”

During her time at the US, Ms. Payne has taught every math course except for AP Statistics. Head of the US Math and Computer Science Department Chip Rollinson said she is valued by students and teachers alike for her passion as an educator.

“I’ve always appreciated her honesty and her directness. I will miss her voice in our department, as it is one I have trusted a lot,” Mr. Rollinson said. Though Ms. Payne is an excellent math teacher, she also impacts the lives of her students in many other ways, Mr. Rollinson said.

It’s not just about the math concept she’s teaching, she also cares deeply about her students and their lives both at and away from BB&N.”

US Math Teacher Christine Oulton recalled working with Ms. Payne in Algebra 2 Honors to provide engaging and helpful problems for their students.

“She came up with something we called a ‘death-factoring’ worksheet for both of our classes. Collaborating and getting excited together about the challenges we could present to our students is something I will remember fondly.”

Ms. Payne’s long list of accolades as a BB&N educator includes running the former US bookstore, advising ninth graders, founding and running the sophomore guide program, and serving as a tenth-grade dean.

For the past 27 years, Ms. Payne has also served as a student adviser.

In this position, Ms. Payne has helped many students find their bearings in the Upper School. Sam Modur ’23, one of her advisees, said Ms. Payne will be remembered for caring a lot for her students and advisees.

“Having experienced her as a teacher and as an adviser, I’ll fondly remember her even after graduating high school. I’m really going to miss her as my adviser, as I really felt like my advisory period with her was a break from everything else in my life.”

Ms. Payne also worked as the faculty adviser to the student council for the past nine years. During her tenure in this position, Ms. Payne witnessed the passing of multiple bills such as the recent Ranked Choice Voting Bill and said the passion of student councilors is what brought her the most enjoyment.

Though not every proposal put forth by the student council passes immediately, it provides an opportunity for the student council members to learn how to collaborate and compromise with others, she said.

“There are certain proposals that we take to [the administration] where I tell the co-presidents that there’s no way it is going to pass, but we can still fight for it. From that stems a great conversation, and the members start to understand more about that domino effect, which is a great learning process for them,” she said.

Through her long career as an educator, Ms. Payne said communication is a key factor in promoting learning. This includes keeping open discussions and emphasizing more than just the assigned curriculum from class, she said.

“Education is a conversation, and as long as we continue to talk together, then there’s hope that the school will continue to improve,” she said.

“Those conversations happen in a very small group, or where somebody says something in a class, and I might drop whatever I’m teaching and go into discussion with that kid. That’s more important to everyone’s learning than the math or English that is being taught.”

Though the life lessons outside of the curriculum may not immediately be realized by students, they are still extremely important to develop and teach, Ms. Payne said.

“In teaching, your effect is not known, and could be something that doesn’t impact students until years and years later,” she said. “They see that it’s not about the grades or the tests, it’s about later in life, being a productive citizen and lifelong learner. Even if you never end up using math again in your life, you need to figure out whether you were resilient and got through struggles.

All of those are still math related, teaching related, and human related.”