American Psychological Association 'Excellence' award goes to North Jersey teacher
Article by, Marsha A. Stoltz
TEANECK — During her 20 years of teaching at Teaneck High School, Susan Morton has seen the district's single psychology class grow to multiple periods taught by three certified instructors.
For her efforts in advancing high school psychology education, Morton has received the 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award from the American Psychological Association's Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools. She was honored for her achievement by the Board of Education at its meeting last week.
The association is the leading scientific and professional psychology organization in the United States, with more than 146,000 member researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Morton is one of three members to receive the award this year.
Teaneck teacher Susan Morton with high school students in one of her psychology classes.
The goal of the Charles T. Blair-Broeker award is to promote "excellence in the teaching of psychological science at the high school level." For those who think of psychology as something more likely encountered as a requirement for college freshmen, Morton agrees that the "curriculum has changed so much, it's much more complex."
"Psychology was taught by my gym teacher when I was in high school, and it was more about feelings," Morton said. "By the time I got out of grad school we were shifting to the biology of behavior, the science of why we behave like we do."
Morton teaches Advanced Placement psychology, for which students receive college credits, but the school also offers college-prep-level classes.
"Genetically, we are so similar, the differences are minute," Morton said. "We may be predisposed to diabetes, for example, but why do some of us develop the disease but not others? It's how our behavior interacts, how our body deals with shifts in behavior."
Morton said her favorite lesson is "teaching the theories of emotion."
"Emotions are something we've all experienced, and we can all agree on their basic parts," Morton said. "But each theory explains why those parts happen in a different order. I love how the lesson unfolds and how students change their opinions of the topic."
Morton was nominated by colleague Derek Zoppi.
"She's a brilliant teacher," Zoppi said. "She's a dear friend who has also been there to help me."
Teaneck teacher Susan Morton received the Excellence in Teaching Award from American Psychological Association.
Association Committee Chair Terri Lindenberg said they were particularly impressed with Morton's "commitment to recruiting and including students of diverse backgrounds."
The association estimates that 30% of high school students now take a psychology course. The number of high school students taking an Advanced Placement course test grew from 4,000 nationally in 1992 to 313,000 students in 2018.