April 28, 2014
Psychology Teachers Earn APA TOPSS Award for Excellence in Teaching
Award recipients recognized for commitment to psychology education
WASHINGTON — Three high school psychology teachers have been honored with the Excellence in Teaching Award by the American Psychological Association’s Committee of Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS).
Recognized for their dynamic teaching and commitment to the advancement of psychology, the recipients are: Lara Bruner, MA, of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix; William Elmhorst, MS, of Marshfield High School in Marshfield, Wis.; and Joseph Swope, PhD, of Northwest High School in Germantown, Md.
“This year’s winners shared a love of promoting psychology to their students and communities,” said TOPSS Chair Michael McLane. “They all had a desire to help other people and enhance the growth of psychology.”
The award recognized Bruner’s student-centered teaching style that encourages students to think about psychology outside of their own lives. “Lara engages students in learning by developing a greater curiosity about the world around them,” said Anna Battle, PhD, principal of Desert Vista High School. “She develops meaningful relationships with her students in class and she intentionally attends activities and functions to support each of them.”
Elmhorst’s colleagues also noted his dedication to his students. His teaching success is demonstrated with 85 percent of his students scoring a 3 or higher (out of a maximum 5) on College Board Advanced Placement exams, and his passion for teaching reaches into the school community with initiatives for traditionally underrepresented groups, including bullying prevention activities and an event for students skilled in video gaming.
One of Swope’s students said his teaching style was “unlike anything I had ever imagined — breaking the infinite measure of the mind into teachable lessons” and another said, “he is an incredible teacher and an inspirational individual.” The award cited Swope’s ability to present psychology to students in a way that makes it interesting. He was so popular among his students that the senior class voted for him to be the first staff member to be keynote speaker at the Northwest High School graduation in June 2014.
Since 2000, TOPSS has made it possible for students, supervisors and peers to nominate outstanding teachers. The nominees then submit an application, a resume or curriculum vitae, letters of support, a personal statement and an overview of a lesson plan for a topic in psychology with examples of activities. A TOPSS subcommittee chooses the winners based on the teacher’s professionalism, commitment to academic excellence, passion for teaching and leadership.
“These teachers all share a love of teaching psychology and applying that to the everyday lives of their students,” McLane said. “Their teaching not only helps students academically, it also influences them to make better life decisions.”
Winners receive a framed certificate, an engraved award, $500 and a complimentary TOPSS membership renewal for 2015. Worth Publishers donated copies of the Interactive Presentation Slides for Introductory Psychology, Volumes 1 and 2 and the Worth Video Anthology Flash Drive for Introductory Psychology to each winner.
Through the APA Education Directorate, TOPSS offers teaching materials, professional development, the Psychology Teacher Network quarterly newsletter and programs for high school psychology teachers and students. There are approximately 1,900 APA high school teacher affiliates. Psychology continues to be a popular high school course, with some 239,000 students taking the AP psychology exam in 2013. Psychology will be emphasized for the first time in the revised 2015 Medical College Admission Test, in which psychology and behavioral science will receive as much attention as biology and biochemistry.
TOPSS’s mission is to promote the highest standards in the teaching of psychology as a science and discipline; promote professional development and other means for lifelong learning 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 advocacy, education policy and certification issues that impact the quality or visibility of teaching of high school psychology. Learn more about TOPSS on the webpage and on its Facebook page.
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 130,000 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 the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.