APA honors outstanding
teachers of high school
Across the country, high school psychology students are ngaging with animals, competing in psychology bowls and participating in other activities that are a far cry
from the old textbook-and-lecture routine.
Each year, APA’s Teachers of Psychology in Secondary
Schools ( TOPSS) committee recognizes the high school
teachers at the front of such exciting classrooms with its
Excellence in Teaching Award. TOPSS honors the awardees
with a certificate, an engraved silver cup, $500, a DVD video
toolkit donated by Worth Publishers and a yearlong TOPSS
Patterson, who is trained to teach
medical skills to students in the health
professions, was switched to psychology
because she didn’t have a nursing
membership or renewal.
She’s launched a county-wide psychology bowl — expected
“We hope [the award] will inspire them to keep learning and
to include up to eight schools next year — and instituted
trying to improve teaching,” says TOPSS Chair Jann Longman, a
her school’s psychology honor society, a national pilot that
high school psychology teacher in Washington state.
involves community service, guest lectures and field trips to
mental hospitals and sleep clinics. “I love everything I do,” she
you a more empathetic friend, a sharper
student and a stronger leader, believes
Laura Brandt, who’s been teaching
the subject in northern Illinois for 19
years. That’s why her goal is to impart
psychological principles to all students,
Laura Brandt, Grayslake Central
High School, Grayslake, Ill.
Understanding psychology can make
Maria Vita, Penn Manor High
School, Millersville, Pa.
As a native of New York City, Maria
Vita might have felt out of place in
Millersville, Pa., a small farming
community with a large Amish
population. But Vita, who’s taught
whether or not they want to study
psychology there for nine years, isn’t
psychology in college or become psychologists.
predictable — and neither are her
“If they can understand how this affects their lives, behavior
classes. She is U.S. history buff who
and the people around them, I’m happy,” she says.
Brandt has organized a psychology quiz bowl and
hosted regional conferences with her colleagues in the area.
Although she’s recognized as an “all-around school leader,”
according to Longman, Brandt’s not interested in a position in
administration. “I can’t imagine coming to school every day and
not spending the majority of my time with the kids,” she says.
“It never gets stale.”
has taught on a Native American
reservation in New Mexico and never thought she’d teach
psychology, but now says the subject exemplifies why she
went into teaching in the first place. “I like when students
are able to think critically and demonstrate their learning
in a creative way,” like when their work in her rat lab makes
classical and operant conditioning come to life, she says.
In the lab, students use principles like the cognitive map,
Kimberly Patterson, Cypress Bay High School,
Whether her students are splitting into competing teams to
learn about social psychology or asked to dance like neurons
positive punishment and generalization to train rats to respond
to clickers, push marbles, navigate mazes and even play the
piano. “The rats aren’t the only ones learning,” Vita says. ;