APA has honored three teachers who've made exemplary contributions in teaching with the association's 2011 Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) Excellence in Teaching Award.

The winners are:

  • Nancy Diehl, PhD, of Hong Kong International School, Tai Tam, Hong Kong.

  • Sheryl Freedman, of Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, Md.

  • Melissa Kennedy, PhD, of Holy Names Academy, Seattle.

"These teachers all have a passion for psychology and an incredible depth of knowledge," says TOPSS Chair Jeanne Blakeslee.

Diehl was honored for her innovative and creative teaching methods. At her school, an international institution with a U.S.-based curriculum, she uses such hands-on, collaborative and experiential methods as a version of the "speed dating" game in which each student portrays an important psychologist and explains that person's work to their partners in three minutes. Follow-up assessment to the exercise involves choosing which psychologist you'd go on holiday with and explaining why.

"I feel like that's one of the hardest things to teach, those names, because the research and content in psychology are inherently interesting...but tagging the name onto it is harder for students," Diehl says.

Freedman was recognized for fostering deep learning and understanding of the brain through creative activities. "What I try to infuse throughout the units and the content are more active methods, involving more movement, experiential learning and sometimes learning through game play," she says. For example, she developed a novel way for students to learn the location and function of 12 parts of the brain by combining images, words and physical movements. "I'm looking for that 'aha!' moment," she says.

Kennedy was honored for giving students hands-on learning experiences, such as learning about brain structure by dissecting a sheep's brain. She says her previous clinical experience leading group therapy sessions helps her make sure that her students grasp the content. "I think it influences my ability to listen to them, and hold their curiosity, and read their expressions to see if they're understanding the material,'' she says.

APA's TOPSS has presented the annual teaching excellence award since 2000. This year's winners received a framed certificate, an engraved award, a $300 cash prize, a copy of APA's "High School Psychology Video Toolkit" DVD and a free TOPSS membership renewal for 2012.

To nominate a teacher for next year's award, go to APA TOPSS Excellence in Teaching Awards.

—C. Munsey