Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (2023)

Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (1)


  • Philosophy of Teaching
  • January 14, 2013
  • Maria Orlando EdD

Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (2)

Years ago, as a young, eager student, I would have told you that a great teacher was someone who provided classroom entertainment and gave very little homework. Needless to say, after many years of K-12 administrative experience and giving hundreds of teacher evaluations, my perspective has changed. My current position as a professor in higher education gives me the opportunity to share what I have learned with current and future school leaders, and allows for some lively discussions among my graduate students in terms of what it means to be a great teacher.

Teaching is hard work and some teachers never grow to be anything better than mediocre. They do the bare minimum required and very little more. The great teachers, however, work tirelessly to create a challenging, nurturing environment for their students. Great teaching seems to have less to do with our knowledge and skills than with our attitude toward our students, our subject, and our work. Although this list is certainly not all-inclusive, I have narrowed down the many characteristics of a great teacher to those I have found to be the most essential, regardless of the age of the learner:

1. A great teacher respects students. In a great teacher’s classroom, each person’s ideas and opinions are valued. Students feel safe to express their feelings and learn to respect and listen to others. This teacher creates a welcoming learning environment for all students.

2. A great teacher creates a sense of community and belonging in the classroom. The mutual respect in this teacher’s classroom provides a supportive, collaborative environment. In this small community, there are rules to follow and jobs to be done and each student is aware that he or she is an important, integral part of the group. A great teacher lets students know that they can depend not only on her, but also on the entire class.

3. A great teacher is warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. This person is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone on campus. This is the teacher to whom students know they can go with any problems or concerns or even to share a funny story. Great teachers possess good listening skills and take time out of their way-too-busy schedules for anyone who needs them. If this teacher is having a bad day, no one ever knows—the teacher leaves personal baggage outside the school doors.

4. A great teacher sets high expectations for all students. This teacher realizes that the expectations she has for her students greatly affect their achievement; she knows that students generally give to teachers as much or as little as is expected of them.

5. A great teacher has his own love of learning and inspires students with his passion for education and for the course material. He constantly renews himself as a professional on his quest to provide students with the highest quality of education possible. This teacher has no fear of learning new teaching strategies or incorporating new technologies into lessons, and always seems to be the one who is willing to share what he’s learned with colleagues.

6. A great teacher is a skilled leader. Different from administrative leaders, effective teachers focus on shared decision-making and teamwork, as well as on community building. This great teacher conveys this sense of leadership to students by providing opportunities for each of them to assume leadership roles.

7. A great teacher can “shift-gears” and is flexible when a lesson isn’t working. This teacher assesses his teaching throughout the lessons and finds new ways to present material to make sure that every student understands the key concepts.

8. A great teacher collaborates with colleagues on an ongoing basis. Rather than thinking of herself as weak because she asks for suggestions or help, this teacher views collaboration as a way to learn from a fellow professional. A great teacher uses constructive criticism and advice as an opportunity to grow as an educator.

9. A great teacher maintains professionalism in all areas—from personal appearance to organizational skills and preparedness for each day. Her communication skills are exemplary, whether she is speaking with an administrator, one of her students or a colleague. The respect that the great teacher receives because of her professional manner is obvious to those around her.

While teaching is a gift that seems to come quite naturally for some, others have to work overtime to achieve great teacher status. Yet the payoff is enormous — for both you and your students. Imagine students thinking of you when they remember that great teacher they had in college!

Dr. Maria Orlando is a core faculty member in the doctoral Educational Leadership and Management Specialization at Capella University. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.

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(Video) Top 9 qualities of a great teacher

This Post Has 72 Comments

  1. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (3)

    Pat Boling 14 Jan 2013

    This strikes me as a list of necessary but not sufficient conditions for being a great teacher. What makes a teacher great is reaching to present difficult content, ideas, debates, issues in a lucid, compelling way, time after time. A great teacher works hard to prepare, to think freshly about the material she's teaching, and to find current examples that will grab her students' interest. A great teacher makes the classroom magic happen, regularly. She or he elicits her students' best efforts and engages their minds, so that they leave class still alive with ideas and comments, and they talk about what went on in class with their friends, roommates, family when they get home too.

  2. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (4)

    @MagdinStoica 14 Jan 2013

    Once in a while, something comes along that you want to carry with you, make a poster of and post it in your office; something you need to read every now and then to remind you of your destination, something to aspire and inspire. Today, your post was that "something". Thank you and thank you @FacultyFocus.

  3. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (5)

    suehellman 14 Jan 2013

    I'd like to add several points to this list of 'greats' — (1) great teachers create learning experiences rather than instructional episodes — by constantly refining how to get the students from what they arrive knowing to what they need to understand or be able to do when they leave; (2) great teachers walk their own talk — by that I mean they embody and model the spirit of what they teach & expect of their students; and (3) great teachers can see their own work through their students' eyes — they have not lost their personal connection to what it's like to be a student. When the learning goes well, a great teacher ensures the students own this success. When it doesn't, the 'buck' lands firmly in the teacher's lap.

    1. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (6)

      Old School 14 Jan 2013

      When learning doesn't go well, it is not necessarily the teacher's fault. I think the teacher has the responsibility to understand why it didn't go as well as hoped, but students are accountable for their own learning and often do not accept that responsibility.

      1. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (7)

        AbigailB 31 Jan 2013

        I agree with this completely. As adults students must take charge of their own learning. As instructors we do our best to provide learning experiences, but if the student doesn't want to take charge and learn, they're not going to.

  4. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (8)

    emn789 14 Jan 2013

    Those who don't see themselves being all nine (or at least working diligently toward excellence in), shouldn't be teaching. Having said that, perfection in all areas and all circumstances isn't attainable either. So, I strive to learn and grow daily in these nine (and the additional items recommended by suehellman). Some days are better than others (-:

  5. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (9)

    Greg C. 14 Jan 2013

    A great list…and some great follow-up comments & suggestions – here's another one:
    A teacher is human and one of the best role modelling strategies we can impart on our students is to learn from our mistakes. If you are wrong – 'fess up and fix it! We expect nothing less from our students. I think this is a subset of high expectations and accountability, yes?

  6. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (10)

    Syed Sohail Ahmed 14 Jan 2013

    In short a great teacher always follow
    A RA , A=Acknowledge, R=respect and A= Appreciation

  7. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (11)

    Wayne 14 Jan 2013

    A great teacher also encourages both genders. There is only on male pronoun used in the article!

    1. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (12)

      Guest 14 Jan 2013

      I see two. Also, some of the points are written in gender-neutral language. Please don't be so silly.

    2. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (13)

      a teacher, too 19 Jan 2013

      I find it interesting that substituting "she" for the usual, acceptable "he" pronoun is somehow seen as a glarring omission……I doubt if keeping with the typical default pronoun "he" would have even been recognized, much less commented upon. Think about it….

  8. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (14)

    aurora ma. veronika 14 Jan 2013

    a great teacher do not allow exploitation of her environment, of her institution… especially when the teaching is happening in the most uncomfortable, and among the poor countries in asia….

  9. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (15)

    John 15 Jan 2013

    A great teacher is a guide and a facilitator, who leads by example.

  10. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (16)

    Laxmi Garigipati 15 Jan 2013

    A great teacher is always a best guide, Friend and philosopher. This is a very good article and the points gives a teacher a right direction.

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  11. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (17)

    Kristin 15 Jan 2013

    What a great article! I'll be sharing this with my Adult Education students this semester…

  12. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (18)

    lirek 15 Jan 2013

    Fantastic article!! Thank you Maria! If I could be so bold as to add one more to the list? I believe great teachers teach problem solving, not just how to find the "answer."

  13. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (19)

    Jeremiah Stanghini 15 Jan 2013

    I think #5 (A great teacher has his own love of learning) is really important. Teachers needs to continually renew themselves and their knowledge. The wisdom of today may not be the wisdom of tomorrow. In fact, the wisdom of today may be proved wrong tomorrow.

  14. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (21)

    Anjie Kokan 18 Jan 2013

    This is a wonderful reminder of what teachers who want to be great strive to do. I also like what Pat Boling added to this. Thank you, Maria and Pat!

  15. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (22)

    Shawn Johnson, EdD. 23 Jan 2013

    Reading the posts after the article was as informative and helped me grow as much as the article. Kudos to you all. I would like to add that as elementary as this seems, creating a learning environment online that helps students feel "safe." Safe to explore, to make mistakes, to try and not be judged for his/her thoughts and opinions….to me, that is true learning and growth. Shawn Feaster Johnson, Ed.D.

  16. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (23)

    guest 27 Jan 2013

    A great teacher is one who has an incredibly challenging class, a class of uninterested students – and the teacher tries EVERYTHING but never gives up. One can have all the skills mentioned here and still not move a class – and that is the biggest challenge of all – coming to class everyday willing to try something new, never giving up although the class just never ignites. I've only had one class like this in my career, fortunately. The comment that the students need to want to learn is a wise observation, and a true one; a teacher is half the equation, and can only do so much, even the great ones. Not all students can be inspired, unfortunately. But we can't stop trying!

  17. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (24)

    @judartbarnside 29 Jan 2013

    A great teacher doesn't allow the students who struggle more often to fall through the cracks. The best teachers are definitely the ones that treat each and every student with respect and the ones that will have complete gratitude for you when you accomplish something, and be disappointed when you let yourself slack. If you see your teacher's disinterest in a topic you tend to allow yourself to drift away, nothing is more interesting to a student than seeing passion about a topic. Great teaching to me was the incorporation of different teaching styles when one wasn't working and understanding that extra time outside of class is necessary for every student to get where they need to be. There was students in my classes who thoroughly didn't want to learn and if they even came to class, actively tried to disrupt it. The teacher that got through to those students, even just once, were the most skilled as they understood that everyone strives for something in life and could be personable enough to any student that the student would reveal that dream. I am most grateful of the teachers in my life that embodied any of those aspects and any of the nine above because without them I may not be where I am today.

  18. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (25)

    mbaskaran 30 Jan 2013

    A great teacher inspires and heroic in communication.Usually teachers who teach primary level are those who are fresh in the minds of students. These students keep their teachers in mind fresh and adore at all time. They are great. So that type of qualities-NOBLE -MINDEDNESS- are essential

  19. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (26)

    AbigailB 31 Jan 2013

    Personally, I believe that these characteristics ARE the bare minimum for being even a decent teacher. That may be because my background is in elementary education, but I was taught that these were just the things you did. I had to go above any beyond all of these tips to truly be a great teacher. Always strive to be better than the minimum.

  20. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (27)

    Dr Ramanand Yadav 3 Feb 2013

    A great teacher is an accepted personality to the learner. Personally, I believe that every accepted teacher is a self made person, understand the learners more, devote significant quality time on self learning and imparts the relevant learning to make it the part of the learners culture.

  21. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (28)

    Dr, Bruce Francis 22 Feb 2013

    Superb article! I work with Maria in the doctoral program at Capella and can tell you that she embodies all of the characteristics she writes about in her work with our learners. A gifted colleague who 'walks the talk'. It is an honor to work with her.

  22. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (29)

    Ralph Shibley 22 Feb 2013

    This is one of those articles that needs to find its way to the teacher training programs both via the instructor and by providing a copy of this document to the learners. I don't think one can move forward and make a difference in the lives of the learners without what Maria has described and presented to us. This is exceptional and so on target. Terrific job Maria. I can't wait to read your next work.

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    1. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (30)

      Maria 24 Feb 2013

      Thank you Ralph!

  23. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (31)

    Chilet DIMAYA 9 May 2013

    This is a great article. I would like to share it with my colleagues in a teacher's in – service training. May I have your permission, Maria? And of course the rest of you who contributed through your wonderful comments, may I quote you guys? I'm sure this will help them improve their teaching and inspire them to do so during the coming school year. IThank you very much everybody.You make me feel that teachers really, really care. THANK YOU!!

  24. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (32)

    hadilekoubida 6 Jun 2013

    A great teacher should always remember that he/she is a human being and he/she is dealing with human beings too, and that he/she is the adult while the learners ,especially in first stages ,are younger than him/her and then need our care, exactly as parents with their kids .THANK YOU!!

  25. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (33)

    Home learning 18 Jun 2013

    Firstly a Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. A person with experience can present anything in a better way. The characteristics of a good teacher you have discussed are the key characteristics of any teacher. A teacher having urge to teach and help students in learning and collaborate with them can be successful teacher. A good teacher always keep himself/herself on the road of learning. Having these qualities a teacher can produce good students for their nation.

  26. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (34)

    bakhtiar 15 Jul 2013

    learning is a power how u treat it in the class

  27. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (35)

    S'idu Uba 2 Sep 2013

    a great teacher also is one who knows and can identify all problem of his students.

  28. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (36)

    Gafoor 4 Sep 2013

    Great teacher is usually born out of experience.Teaching is nothing but reaching in to the child , if you could do it you will be ever remembered and respected

  29. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (37)

    nihad bsharat 9 Sep 2013

    Teachers are great messengers;their mission is to grow well seeds in order to harvest better crops; so they have to help their students grow despite their pitfalls

  30. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (38)

    Sunday-Martins Odetokun 19 Apr 2017

    Dr.Maria Orlando points are true and excellent it encourages me to do more and bring a new generation to the knowledge and wisdom that they are looking for, I am excited and trill.

  31. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher (39)

    Gina Gullett 9 May 2017

    How do you know if you have what it takes? You could pu it allof this hard work snd still remain a crappy teacher. How will you tell?

Comments are closed.


What are the characteristics of a good teacher? ›

Some qualities of a good teacher include skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

What are the 8 qualities of a good teacher? ›

8 characteristics of a great teacher
  • They Demonstrate Confidence. ...
  • They Have Life Experience. ...
  • They Understand Each Student's Motivation. ...
  • They're People, Not Heroes. ...
  • They're Technologically Capable. ...
  • They Model Risk Taking. ...
  • They Focus On Important Stuff. ...
  • They Don't Worry Too Much About What Administrators Think.

What are the 5 characteristics of highly effective teaching? ›

The teams looked at the research that establishes these characteristics and have organized them around five components: learning climate; classroom assessment and reflection; instructional rigor and student engagement; instructional relevance; and knowledge of content.

Who is a great teacher? ›

A great teacher is warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. This person is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone on campus. This is the teacher to whom students know they can go with any problems or concerns or even to share a funny story.

What are the characteristics of a good teacher PDF? ›

It has been identified that students expect their teachers to be innovative, patient, professional, and confident along with other qualities. Subject knowledge, sense of humour and method of teaching are considered some of the inspiring traits of a teacher.

What is the role of a good teacher? ›

The findings indicated that good teachers are enthusiastic, friendly, easy-going, able to develop rapport with learners, committed to the growth of their students, approachable, interested in learners as people, and always conscious of their status as role models.

What are the roles of a professional teacher? ›

Broadly speaking, the function of teachers is to help students learn by imparting knowledge to them and by setting up a situation in which students can and will learn effectively.

What are expected of a teacher as a professional? ›

As a teacher, you're responsible for planning, preparing and delivering effective learning and teaching programs for every student in your classes. You also have an important role in contributing to school planning and assisting with the management of school resourcing.

What are the characteristics required of a quality teacher in the Philippines? ›

value personal growth and professional development and exhibit high personal regard for the profession by maintaining qualities that uphold the dignity of teaching such as caring attitude, respect and integrity. They value personal and professional reflection and learning to improve their practice.

What are the characteristics of effective and ineffective teachers? ›

According to Walls, et al., signs of a good teacher include being organized, prepared, and clear. Another characteristic of a good teacher is that they use creative ways of learning that involve students. On the other hand, ineffective teachers are unproductive, boring, and/or disorganized.


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