Hamilton teacher wins prestigious national award - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Hamilton teacher wins prestigious national award

November 11th, 2021 development
Hamilton teacher wins prestigious national award

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Hamilton High School teacher Scott Reed says you generally see the same faces in most advance placement classes. One source of pride for him is that’s not the case in his AP psychology class.

“About a third of my students, it’s their only AP class they take,” Reed said. “They’re challenging themselves to hang with the ‘honors’ kids. And I think that’s a huge help to them.”

Reed was named the high school winner for the 2021 Mary Margaret Moffett Teaching Excellence award. The award is one of six awarded nationally by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

It wasn’t so long ago that psychology wasn’t taught in high schools. Now, it’s all Reed teaches. And, Hamilton has hired a second full-time AP psychology teacher.

“People don’t realize like a million students take high school psychology throughout the United States,” Reed said.

When he first started teaching AP psychology 24 years ago Reed said he had one class. Now, there are ten.

What draws them?

First, one topic they learn about is developing your memory, something every student can appreciate. They also research different personality types, which is a topic that is usually popular with students. They enjoy taking personality tests that reveals something of their own nature.

They also study cognitive biases.

“Students definitely learn about themselves,” Reed said. “They’ll do this project called 50 slips, where they ask 50 different people to write a word down about their personality, and they’ll compare it to the [personality tests].”

Despite the popularity of psychology at Hamilton, Reed says it’s still not taught everywhere. He said he doesn’t have the exact numbers, but suspects it’s getting close to being taught at a majority of the nation’s high schools.

Despite the popularity, Reed says he still has to dispel some misconceptions when a new year begins.

“They think it’s going to be all about like disorders, and they also think it’s about reading people’s minds,” Reed said. “Another misconception is they don’t understand it’s a science. And we need to treat it as a science.

“One of the things we do the first few weeks is get rid of a lot of the common misconceptions – 10 percent of our brain; left brain right brain.”

Reed said he always had the backing of both the school and the district in getting AP psychology started at Hamilton. However, he hears from other teachers around the country that is not always the case.

He said one teacher told him they had 100 students sign up, but the school was only willing to give them two classes.

“There’s no way in hell they’d do that to AP history, or AP language,” Reed said.

He said he knows he has the support of his administration. Especially because of the results. Last year more than 100 Hamilton students passed the advance placement test. Reed said no other school had more than 40.

“When we go take the AP test, some of my students who take five or six AP tests, say it’s a totally different crowd on AP psychology day.”


About a third of my students, it’s their only AP class they take. They’re challenging themselves to hang with the ‘honors’ kids. And I think that’s a huge help to them.– Scott Reed


A Q&A with Hamilton teacher Scott Reed

The American Psychological Association asked Hamilton teacher Scott Reed about teaching.

What do you hope students take away from your class?

I do love the term “psychological literacy.”  I hope students will see the world differently and understand themselves and others with a broader understanding that psychology can bring. For many of our students this might be their only exposure to psychology in a classroom, and I hope they leave wanting to know more about the science of psychology.

What is your favorite topic or lesson to teach?

I love teaching “research methods” as I can see students throughout the year critique research from a variety of fields including psychology.

The students today are bombarded with information from so many sources, and it is a critical skill for everyone to learn to properly critique what they are seeing. I also really enjoy “personality” and see a lot of students become comfortable with who they are as a person through learning about this topic.

What is the most memorable moment in your teaching career?

My most memorable moment was finding out I was elected to the TOPSS Committee, first as a member-at-large and then as the chair. The APA members and their committees are so supportive of high school psychology.

The TOPSS website and lesson plans were so important in my development as a psychology teacher; it was wonderful to be part of some of the accomplishments of this Committee. Thanks to TOPSS I was able to attend the 2017 National Summit on High School Psychology Education, two APA conferences, and the APA/Clark University Workshop for High School Teachers twice, and meet so many other psychologists and psychology teachers.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I taught 6th grade, and then middle school math, and then high school math as I was building the psychology program at Hamilton High. I really loved teaching in general, but the students love psychology.

My students have done a number of service projects for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and participated in many of the NAMI walks. Many of my students’ passions go beyond the classroom.

What advice would you give to newer teachers of psychology?

When I started teaching psychology almost 25 years ago there were not a lot of materials that were easy to obtain. Now I feel there is so much out there that it is overwhelming.

Every single one of us has a different situation as most new psychology teachers have to teach other subjects and are often the only psychology teacher at the school. It is a good thing to look to see what others are doing but be careful of making social comparison to other teachers.

What advice would you give to veteran teachers of psychology?

Be an advocate for our subject! Psychology should not take a “back seat” to other subjects.  I hear too many stories of this from teachers I have met over the years. Also do your best to try to network with the newer teachers in the area. I also somewhat jokingly tell psychology teachers to not let out the secret that we have the best teaching job on campus.

What does it mean to you to receive the Moffett award?

Seeing the names of past recipients is so humbling. One of the nice things about teaching psychology is that the community is strong. I am so grateful to have been able to meet and learn from so many of the prior winners of this award.