What Makes a Great Teacher?
Contributed by Laura Trujillo-Jenks, Ph.D.
A great teacher doesn’t know he/she is a great teacher. He/she seeks to perform his/her teaching duties well and with persistent excellence, and focuses on ensuring that the learning environment is welcoming, nurturing, and safe for productive learning to take place. Each great teacher also understands good teaching, meaning that he/she can adjust his/her teaching style to meet the needs of each individual student in the classroom. For example, the great teacher plans lessons recognizing the abilities of each student and includes assessments and critical thinking activities that are aligned to curriculum standards.
This innate ability to ensure that each student receives a quality education is an intangible factor that allows the greatness of a teacher to be illuminated. It cannot be measured, but it can be observed through the hours a teacher spends on creating interactive learning activities that relate to the real world and other disciplines. Additionally, the genuine love for teaching and desiring students to perform better than expected is the quality that inspires. This love can be observed through the rapport that students have with the teacher and with each other during a lesson. This love extends to lessons, which are created with a commitment to representing the subject matter through a critical lens. Great teachers continuously seek to be up to date in the changes that may affect their discipline and subject matter and allow for purposeful technology to be used that will enhance learning and not detract from learning.
Overall, a great teacher also understands the expectations that are required by a school district. There are specifics that are outlined in a teacher contract, Educator Code of Ethics, State/National Teacher Standards, and Teacher Competencies that a great teacher is aware of. Therefore, a great teacher knows when to perform prescribed duties through an understanding of:
- ethics and morals,
- encouraging students to critically think and question what they are learning,
- evaluating the needs of students in special programs and applying differing learning strategies to allow for optimal academic success,
- implementing the Student Code of Conduct to ensure good classroom management and school safety, and
- encouraging meaningful parental involvement. (Trujillo-Jenks, 2012)
Ultimately, a great teacher is one who enjoys what he/she is doing and is eager to continuously perfect his/her craft. The teacher who seeks constructive criticism to constantly grow has the trait of a great teacher.
First published with Texas Education Agency. (2018). Texas teacher evaluation and support system. Retrieved from Teachfortexas.org.Trujillo-Jenks, L. (2012). Survival guide for new teachers: How to become a professional, effective, and successful teacher. Austin, TX: Park Place Publications, LP.
Laura Trujillo-Jenks, Ph. D., an associate professor, currently teaches courses in the Educational Administration (Leadership) Program. She is an Associate Professor a the Department of Teacher Education at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas.