May 11, 2012

Psychology Teachers Earn APA TOPSS Award for Excellence in Teaching

Award recipients recognized for commitment to psychology education

WASHINGTON—The American Psychological Association’s Committee of Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) recently honored three high school teachers with the APA TOPSS Excellence in Teaching Award. Laura Brandt, of Grayslake Central High School in Grayslake, Ill.; Kimberly Patterson, of Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Fla.; and Maria Vita, of Penn Manor High School in Millersville, Pa., received the awards in April for their dynamic teaching and commitment to the advancement of psychology.

“The quality of this year’s winners stood out as among the best in the award’s history,” said TOPSS Chair Jann Longman. “Each winner not only met the minimum requirements of receiving the award, but went above and beyond in sharing their passion of psychology with their students.”

Since 2000, APA has presented these annual awards, in which students and peers nominate individual teachers. Teachers submitted letters of reference, a personal statement and an overview of a lesson plan designated for a topic in psychology and examples of activities, demonstrations or programs related to the topic. A TOPSS subcommittee chose the winners based on the teacher’s professionalism, commitment to academic excellence, passion for teaching and leadership in the field.

“The winners were not only up-to-date on the teaching material, but were also extremely innovative and positive forces for their schools,” Longman said. “The students who wrote letters of support were exceedingly positive about the teachers, with feedback on how engaging they were and how the study of psychology has influenced their lives.”

Winners receive a framed certificate, an engraved award, cash prize of $500, a copy of the High School Psychology Video Toolkit DVD and a free TOPSS membership renewal for the 2013 membership year. The Video Toolkit DVD was donated by Worth Publishers.

TOPSS celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and is currently disseminating two new APA policy documents: the Guidelines for Preparing High School Psychology Teachers: Course-Based and Standards-Based Approaches (approved in February 2012) and the National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula (approved in August 2011).

Through the APA Education Directorate, TOPSS offers teaching materials, professional development opportunities, the Psychology Teacher Network quarterly newsletter and programs for high school psychology teachers and students. There are approximately 1,700 APA high school teacher affiliates. Psychology continues to be a popular high school course. In 2011, nearly 198,000 students took the Advanced Placement (AP) psychology exam, and more than 16,000 students took the International Baccalaureate (IB) Psychology exam. 

TOPSS’s mission is to promote the highest standards in the teaching of psychology both as a science and discipline; promote professional development and other means for lifelong learning for high school teachers of psychology; increase professional identity and promote leadership for high school teachers of psychology; facilitate networking among teachers from all teaching levels of psychology; encourage recruitment and retention of students in the field of psychology; enhance the visibility and legitimacy of high school psychology; and recommend the appropriate response advocacy, education policy and certification issues that impact on the quality or viability of teaching of high school psychology. Learn more about TOPSS


The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 137,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.