What Makes A Great Teacher?

By Steven Galvin - Last update

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What Makes A Great Teacher?: History is filled with classic stories of hero teachers. From Mr. Holland’s Opus, to Robin Williams’ portrayal of English teacher John Keating in Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society through the wartime musical Goodbye Mr Chips, all the way to Mr. Miyagi. We’re all in awe of those remarkable teachers who have had a life-changing impact on their students. Whose teaching reached far beyond the lessons at hand into the very soul of the students and became a positive force in shaping their lives. 

Hopefully at some stage in every student’s life they are lucky enough to come across a teacher who means something special to them. Someone who is more than just a teacher and becomes an influencer. Influencing that student to be the best they can. To get the most from the subject at hand and to make it more than simply a lesson. 

When this happens, a teacher can truly be said to be a hero as they play a significant part in changing a student’s life for the better and their influence on them lasts long after the time spent learning with them.

What is it about great teachers that makes them a hero? Below we take a look at what makes a great teacher.


Great teachers are able to communicate and connect with their students. They aren’t merely facilitators of knowledge. They are bearers of great gifts. When you are fortunate to study under a great teacher, there is a feeling of connection, he/she is someone you admire, respect, someone who you want to learn from, someone who will have a great effect on the way you think, know and understand. There’s very much a sense of a shared experience.


Beneath all the cult of character is a tremendous work ethic. Great teachers know their stuff, they know how to teach and they know the work it entails. They plan exhaustively, whether that be for the next class or for the year ahead and they work relentlessly. A great teacher will set out their goals and strive to achieve them. 


Great teachers have a burning passion for the subject at hand. It is something that is important to them and plays a central role in their lives. It  is not a 9-5 interest in school. It is something that defines who they are. On top of this, and maybe more importantly, great teachers have a passion for learning coupled with the determination, perseverance and passion to see students succeed. Their success is his/her success. This passion will engage their pupils, and their enthusiasm will spread amongst them willing them to be better students.


Great teachers have the ability to both create and inspire creativity. Great teachers are innovative. They are able to sew the seeds of creativity in their students and instill a creative learning environment that is effective in boosting the learning potential of students. To instill within a student the freedom to understand that education can be a creative force and can be taken far beyond the limits of the words on a page or the numbers in a book. Great teachers encourage students’ free and creative thinking. 


Great teachers are immersed in their subject. Students are quick to grasp when a teacher is simply going through the notions. Great teachers exist beyond the job. They are able to inspire their students to be h best they can, to want to learn, to want to succeed.  Great teachers cultivate curiosity in their students and spark an interest in learning.


Great teachers challenge their students. They set big goals for their students. They push them to become better. You need to exceed your limits to excel at something and a great teacher knows that and is able to coax that out of you, willing you on to be the best you can. Students may not be the best judges of what they can achieve> Great teachers are aware of this, see potential and challenge their students to reach beyond what they themselves think their limits are.


Great teachers are dedicated and committed to the development of students’ achievements and constantly strive to improve their learning. Committed teachers constantly strive to fulfill their responsibilities. This devotion is the call of a great teacher who believes in what they do and is determined to make it happen.  


Steven Galvin

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