American Psychological Foundation

Psychology is the most popular elective at Hopkinton High School in Hopkinton, Mass., with around 90 percent of seniors signing up each year. To keep up with the demand, teacher Michael Hamilton has taught psychology exclusively for the past six years. And he's had no shortage of material since 2008, when he attended the APF-APA/Clark University Workshop for High School Teachers. Every summer, APA and Clark invite 25 teachers to Clark's campus in Worcester, Mass., for three days of networking and lectures on new research and teaching strategies.

"The networking opportunity is truly wonderful," says Hamilton, who participated in the workshop a second time as a presenter in 2010. "I've found it to be one of the best professional development opportunities available for psychology teachers."

Offering high school teachers a way to connect is exactly why psychologist Lee Gurel, PhD, initiated the workshop in 2004 with $100,000 grants to both APF and Clark. The workshop is celebrating its 10th anniversary next summer and will likely celebrate many more: In July, Gurel made a $250,000 bequest in his will to the American Psychological Foundation to continue to fund the workshop as well as several other professional development programs for high school teachers.

"I owe a great deal to the education I received," says Gurel, 87, who grew up in Worcester and attended Clark as an undergraduate before earning his doctorate in psychology at Purdue University. He spent his career working for the research offices of the American Psychiatric Association and the Department of Veterans' Affairs. "For me, there was never a question that I would support education and psychology."

Gurel's first gift to the foundation in 1991 provided computers with Internet access for APA's library in its Washington, D.C., headquarters. In 2010, Gurel donated $150,000 to APF to help APA's Education Directorate expand its professional development opportunities for high school teachers.

"Dr. Gurel really believes in the power teachers have to influence their students," says Emily Leary Chesnes, of the Education Directorate. By focusing on attracting students to psychology before they reach college, he is making a huge impact on the future of the field, she adds. "High school is the biggest part of the pipeline."

Perhaps the most far-reaching program Gurel has funded is an update of APA's packaged lesson plans for high school teachers of psychology as a benefit for members of APA's Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS). The lesson plans cover such topics as social psychology, statistics, biological bases of behavior and life span development. Each lesson plan includes five to seven days of curriculum content, resources and learning activities for high school students.

The funds have also allowed the Education Directorate and APF to offer the High School Psychology Teacher Network grants, which help teachers create a local network of colleagues for ideas and support. Hamilton used one of the grants to establish a group called New England Teachers of Psychology, which hosts a one-day workshop for high school psychology teachers every August.

Another Gurel-funded initiative, the APF Professional Development Awards for High School Psychology Teachers, offers high school psychology teachers up to $500 toward the cost of attending a psychology conference such as APA's Annual Convention. To reach teachers who can't attend APA's convention, TOPSS and the Education Directorate used some of Gurel's funds to videotape seven talks by prominent psychologists, including Daniel Schacter, PhD, and Derald Wing Sue, PhD, at APA's 2012 Annual Convention in Orlando. APA and TOPSS also filmed the entire 2012 Clark workshop as a teaching resource. All videos are available on YouTube and at www.apa.org/ed/precollege/topss/videos-teachers.aspx.

Gurel, who lives in Alexandria, Va., continues his own professional development in retirement by taking classes, including art history, Chinese and Spanish at Northern Virginia Community College. He has also donated money to the campus for a program that helps pay the tuition of students who have aged out of the foster-care system. A lifelong learner, he's envious of what today's high school students can master early on.

"I started from the ground up learning psychology in college," he says. "High school students today have the opportunity to get the basic stuff out of the way before they even get to college, and can pick up so much more coursework later."

For more information on the APF grants for high school teachers of psychology, visit APF Funding.