The past school year was one of sterling recognition for nine-year Glen Rock High School psychology teacher Alan Feldman.
The Paramus resident is one of three 2015 recipients of the "Charles T. Blair-Broeker Excellence in Teaching Award" from the American Psychological Association's (APA) Committee of Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools.
Basing the distinction on demonstrated student performance and the professional assessment of school administrators, the APA observed that Feldman's "students and colleagues note his dedication to student excellence, and the results show," in its statement announcing him as one of three recipients.
Observing that the number of GRHS students earning passing scores of 4 and 5 on the Advanced Placement (AP) psychology exam has more than doubled in the past eight years, the APA quoted Glen Rock curriculum and instruction director Kathleen Regan as saying, "Our students are experiencing this high level of success in psychology because of Mr. Feldman's sincere efforts to help them understand the material.
"He spends many extra and long hours helping our students before and after school. He also holds additional evening AP test preparation sessions during the two weeks before the AP test administration on his own time," Regan said.
Her praise was underscored by GRHS Principal John Arlotta in a recent comment to the Glen Rock Gazette.
"Alan is a respected and dedicated educator, whose students' results each year in the AP Psychology exam are truly outstanding," Arlotta said. "He devotes a great deal of time to his students and we are all proud of his recognition."
Rounding out the plaudits was Mike Hamilton, chair of APA's Teachers of Psychology committee.
"Alan shares a dedication to teaching in the classroom that is simply awe inspiring. The committee strives to honor greatness in the classroom and Alan exemplifies that," Hamilton said.
The APA also cited Feldman's commitment to the national psychology curriculum — and his having led numerous peer workshops training AP psychology teachers to master the course curriculum and exam.
"Alan has a unique ability to make teaching applicable to real life," Hamilton concluded. "As a teacher, having an impact on your students for life is ultimately what it's all about."
In addition to reflecting the respect of supervisors and peers, the honor had personal as well as professional meaning for Feldman, which he recently related to the Gazette.
"The award was renamed this year for a friend of mine, Charlie Blair-Broeker, who was a high school psychology teacher in Iowa for 39 years until he retired this year," Feldman said. "We worked together for many summers at Texas AM and at the University of Northern Kentucky, and also served on a national board to develop psychology curriculum and resources."
Feldman said he was especially grateful for the recognition given the makeup of the donor committee.
"The award winners are chosen by a committee of very experienced psychology teachers who know the content and pedagogy of teaching the course," he said.
Alongside empirical student achievement, recommendation letters were submitted to the committee by Regan, who Feldman described as "an invaluable mentor to me for many years."
GRHS social studies department colleague Donna Maasarani and a former student of Feldman's also submitted testimonials, and all nominees submit complete lesson plans and a written philosophy of teaching for evaluation.
Besides the professional accolade, the award brought Feldman a $500 prize, which he elected to donate to "two very deserving GRHS seniors in recognition of their record of (community) service," which he presented to them on Senior Awards day.
"It was personally gratifying to be able to give this money to two students who have done so much to help others," he told the Gazette.
Asked about the present level of student interest in psychology, Feldman observed, "The high school psychology course is taken by over a million students each year. This year 283,000 students took the AP Psychology examination. It is currently one of the five largest AP tests given."
That compares to the 3,250 students who took the test in 1992, the first year it was administered, "so it has grown tremendously" both nationwide and locally. Feldman said that as in all academic disciplines, the ongoing challenge for teachers is maintaining awareness of how the test is devised and scored, and keeping abreast of new content as testing and curricula evolve.