sylvania schools
Sarah Rhine, MAT, receives a national Excellence in Teaching Award
Sylvania teacher recognized for commitment to psychology education.

Sarah E. Rhine, MAT, a psychology teacher at Sylvania Northview High School in Sylvania, Ohio, has been named a national winner of a 2021 APA TOPSS Charles T. Blair-Broeker Excellence in Teaching Award by the American Psychological Association's Committee of Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS).

Sarah Rhine

Sarah Rhine, MAT

Rhine’s “drive for excellence both with her work with her own students, and in the value she added to [the school] faculty, school community, and among a broader network of colleagues certain made a profound impact,” noted Steve Swaggerty, a former Sylvania Northview High School administrator. Rhine “blended instructional practices to include the pace and rigor required for her students to achieve at higher rates on the [Advanced Placement (AP) psychology] test, and also more modern techniques that capture the hearts and minds of her students,” Swaggerty noted.

In her classes, Rhine makes her expectations of her students clear and sets her students up for success throughout the year. Former student Kai Richmond noted that “The meticulous degree of organization combined with her flexibility allowed a system of interaction between [students and teacher] to develop into mutual respect and success… AP Psychology became a class where we were all treated as equals and felt comfortable not only speaking in class but asking for help when necessary.”

Richmond noted Rhine’s passion for psychology and her competence and communication skills. “Without the passion, hard work, and competency displayed by Mrs. Rhine, I find it unlikely that I ever would have settled on psychology as my future career path,” said Richmond.

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“Among Sarah’s many talents are her ability to make psychological science real and tangible to her students, as evident by their participation in studies of psychological science and in learning by doing,” said APA TOPSS Committee chair Amy Ramponi.

Rhine is a leader to both her students and her colleagues and has taught for the past 14 years. She has organized an AP Psychology Research Fair at her high school, which has allowed her students to show the school community their research projects relating in-depth aspects of their studies.  She led the establishment of a comprehensive ACT preparation program at her school, meeting with students twice a year after school to practice the ACT and recruiting other teachers to work with students to improve their scores.  Rhine has attended and presented at multiple conferences and workshops and also helped launch the Ohio Psychology Teachers Conference at the Ohio State University.  She also participates in the AP Psychology examination reading.

For her commitment to her students and the teaching of psychology, the APA TOPSS Committee is excited to present this award to Rhine.


APA TOPSS Committee Member-at-Large Terri Lindenberg interviewed Sarah E. Rhine, MAT, to ask about her experiences and advice as a teacher:

Terri Lindenberg: What do you enjoy most about teaching psychology?

I love teaching a class that students voluntarily take. Walking in with a sliver of interest makes my job that much easier. But I also love that everything we talk about relates to students' lives in some way. The student who pipes up that they noticed their 2-year-old brother being in the two-word stage after learning about language development, that is really cool. Seeing them find connections makes my teacher heart happy. 

What is your favorite lesson or topic to teach and why?

I end the school year teaching the basics of Social Psychology. My students and I know each other so well by that point that the lessons and labs that we complete in class become so much more engaging. By the end of the year, they are so tuned into class that I think our learning just really comes alive. I also love classically conditioning them in class!

What advice would you give to new psychology teachers?

It's ok to not feel super comfortable with the content right at the beginning. I know I didn't! Let yourself take the time you need to figure out what works for you. Teaching is something that is never mastered, just improved upon. If you improve slightly every year then I say you are winning.

What does winning this award mean to you?

I feel very honored to be included with such a collection of teachers. I also feel very grateful to the TOPSS and AP Psychology communities for their generosity and support of high school teachers. I especially appreciate our collection of shared resources and digital community. Many of us are the only people in our buildings who teach psychology, so being able to connect with other psychology teachers from across the country is incredibly helpful and a big reason why I am the teacher I am today. 

Rhine will receive a framed certificate, engraved award, cash prize of $500 and a complimentary TOPSS membership renewal for the 2022 membership year. Additionally, Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishers is generously donating a $500 credit to Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishers to each of the winning teachers.

Now in its 29th year, TOPSS is the voice of high school psychology teachers within APA. Through APA’s 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 2,200 APA high school teacher affiliates in APA. High school psychology is a rapidly growing course option. In 2020, just over 295,600 students took the Advanced Placement (AP) psychology examination.


Additionally, just over 24,280 high school students worldwide took the International Baccalaureate (IB) psychology exam in psychology last year. Other psychology courses are taught at the high school level, including on-level and dual credit psychology courses.

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 APA Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools webpage and on its Facebook page.

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