BPHS Teacher Wins National Psychology Teaching Award - Brooklyn Prospect Charter School

BPHS Teacher Wins National Psychology Teaching Award

A Brooklyn Prospect psychology teacher has received a national award—she’s only one of two in the country to receive the honor this year. Caitlyn Homol, who teaches at Brooklyn Prospect High School, has been awarded the 2024 American Psychological Association (APA) Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) Charles T. Blair-Broeker Excellence in Teaching Award.

According to the APA, the prestigious award is “given to outstanding high school psychology teachers recognized for exemplary teaching, for advancing the science of psychology, and for their commitment to academic and professional excellence.”

Homol, who was born in Virginia and raised in various places, including Alabama, said she is honored to have received the award because teaching psychology means she exposes students to a whole new way of learning and thinking.

It’s the first time that students take a social science class— it’s an entirely new way to think about how we create knowledge,” she said. “It’s cool to see students come in with some initial ideas about psychology, and then they take the course and realize, wow, this is a discipline. It’s a science.”

At the core of the IB program, the psychology course introduces three approaches to understanding behavior: biological, cognitive, and sociocultural. Students study and critically evaluate the knowledge, concepts, theories, and research that have developed an understanding of these fields.

In some ways, the type of thinking that students have to develop in psychology can be more challenging than the lab sciences,” Homol said. “Let’s say we want to study the effects of self-esteem on school performance. Researchers have to ask, well, how do we define what self-esteem is? How do we measure it? How do we describe it? And it’s almost like a puzzle. So it’s inviting students to start really by assessing how good other people have been at figuring out that puzzle and then slowly shifting to, like, well, how would you do it if you were a researcher? I really like seeing students develop that new way of thinking.”

BPHS Senior Yousef Salem said Homol is dedicated to her work and students.

There was a time when she stayed with her students until 6 p.m. on a Friday to make sure all her students who went to her office during office hours were able to succeed with an IB Project that had a very rapid deadline,” Salem said. “She is such a wonderful teacher.”

Homol, who attended high school in the UK and went to Ohio State as an undergrad, got her start in teaching through the Teach for America program in Baltimore. She went on to earn her Master’s in Education from Johns Hopkins University. She taught physics, chemistry, and biology as a teacher at a DC-area high school. One year, she got the opportunity to teach a psychology course. She said she became instantly hooked.

I came to Brooklyn Prospect because I saw a chance to teach [psychology] full-time,” she said. “Rarely from the [high school] teacher perspective do you get to teach a full prep load of psychology. It’s just very cool.

When asked about her future, Homol gave an answer that is typical of a psychology researcher; however, one that wants to see her work in practice.

I would love an opportunity to do research that could become meaningful in application within schools,” she said. “How do we take more of what we can understand from research and use it to improve the student experience in schools?? How do we use it to increase the sustainability of some of these challenging courses in the IB program?”

Honestly, overall, teaching this course has given me an appreciation for how much students want to understand their own behavior,” Homol said.

Homol led the May 1st edition of the Chalkbeat NYC newsletter as she was featured in a column called “How I Teach.” Read it here.