What Makes a Great Teacher?

Nearly 10,000 students responded to a recent KidsHealth online survey about the qualities of great teachers.

What Kids Said

We asked kids, “What’s the No. 1 thing that makes a teacher great?” Here’s how 6,460 students answered:

  1. The teacher explains things well and makes the subject interesting: 32.3%
  2. The teacher is funny and has a lot of personality: 25%
  3. The teacher is patient, understanding, and willing to answer questions: 24.6%
  4. The teacher is interested in what students have to say: 8%
  5. The teacher is tech savvy (uses Internet, SMART Boards, etc.): 5.3%
  6. The teacher is smart and knows a lot about his/her subject: 4.8%

Charlotte said her favorite teacher is known as “Mrs. Frog” because she does a good frog impression. And Mrs. Frog is very encouraging. “She always gives you ‘Good Job’ notes when you do something that impresses her,” Charlotte said.

Chayna loved the way her fifth-grade teacher joked all the time. And he knew when to look the other way. “When my friend and I were passing notes, he looked at me, but the thing is he IGNORED us passing notes!!”

One student said a favorite teacher “never makes me feel dumb or left out of the group. We have 33 kids, but my teacher makes time for each of them.”

Another favorite teacher “cares for us and makes sure we leave school safely. She is very serious about bullying and doesn’t accept it in our class,” a student said.

What Teens Said

We asked high school students, “What’s the No. 1 thing that makes a teacher your favorite?” This is how 3,320 teens answered:

  1. The teacher explains things well and makes the subject interesting: 33%
  2. The teacher is funny and has a lot of personality: 26.2%
  3. The teacher is helpful with things other than class work (with career and other guidance): 13%
  4. The teacher is interested in what students have to say and is happy to answer questions: 12.2%
  5. The teacher is willing to spend time outside of class with students who need extra help: 8.3%
  6. The teacher is smart and knows a lot about his/her subject: 4%
  7. The teacher is tech savvy (uses Internet, SMART Boards etc.): 3.3%

Ela said, “A great teacher inspires you to learn more about the subject.”

Allison said her teacher demonstrates his concern: “My favorite teacher actually cares about me. I have chronic back pain, and every time I leave early or skip a day, he calls in the afternoon and checks up on how I’m doing. It’s nice to know he cares. Not only that, but he makes Latin class fun, from the rhymes about conjugation, to the times when he jumps on tables and when he threw chairs across the room when he was Polyphemus.”

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD