What makes a great teacher?

lady reading You can probably think of at least one of your teachers who was absolutely phenomenal. Maybe you were mentored by many amazing teachers! But what makes a teacher great? How do the amazing, top-tier teachers do what they do? Were these superhumans just born that way?

Many people assume that teachers are born, not made; that they are destined for this calling. That isn’t always the case. If you are considering pursuing teaching as your profession, then you probably already possess qualities that students want to see. You can grow to be a great teacher simply by practicing the characteristics of great teachers.

What are these characteristics? Here is a list of 15 qualities found in great teachers that are consistently referenced by education researchers.


Great teachers...

  1. Care. Although fairly obvious, this quality is vital, nonetheless. Students can tell when their teacher sincerely cares for them. The love that great teachers show their students can make all the difference.
  2. Are Perceptive. Great teachers listen to their students. These teachers notice when their students need their help.
  3. Know Their Students. Great teachers get to know who they teach! They build a trusting relationship with their pupils.
  4. Continue to Learn. Great teachers always improve their practice, and they are willing to learn new things in front of their students.
  5. Take Risks. Great teachers show their students that making mistakes is a part of the learning process.
  6. Persevere. Motivated by love for their work and their students, great teachers do not skip the hard parts of teaching; they push through.
  7. Empathize. Great teachers try to see from the student’s perspective.
  8. Are Humble. Their ability to recognize their own faults and shortcomings helps them become better each day. Great teachers collaborate with peers and seek advice from their mentors and their students.
  9. Respect. Great teachers make their students feel heard and valued. This is a two-way street: as respect is given, respect is more often returned.
  10. Do. It’s not enough to tell; great teachers teach by example.
  11. Know Their Stuff. Great teachers are very familiar and comfortable with the content they teach.
  12. Are Enthusiastic and Engaging. This enthusiasm is infectious! Learning comes easier to students when their teachers obviously love it too.
  13. Hold High Expectations for Every Student. It can be easy to make excuses for students, but great teachers help every student reach their highest potential.
  14. Are Flexible. Great teachers are able to change their plans when something else will work better for their students.
  15. Prepare. Great teachers don’t waste their students’ time because they have planned a clear learning path—from the end to the beginning.


people talking If reading this list makes you feel overwhelmed, you’re in good company. It is normal to think of admirable teachers and compare yourselves to them.

But don’t get too caught up in comparison, even if you admire them. Instead, be patient with yourself, and trust that if you have the desire to become a great teacher, then you can use that desire to become a better version of yourself, rather than a copy of those you admire.

You are capable of becoming a better teacher than you are now—you are capable of becoming a great teacher.