10 Qualities of Highly Effective Teachers


What makes a teacher highly effective in the classroom? I get asked this question quite often! As the 2016-2017 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, I have been blessed to meet and work alongside some of the best teachers in our country. I have learned that there isn’t just one quality that makes a teacher effective. In fact, the teachers that make the greatest impact in the lives of their students are like a diamond—there are several facets that come together to allow them to use their hearts and gifts to transform lives. While this list is not exhaustive, the highly effective teachers that I know and have seen in action all have the following 10 qualities in common:


  • They are lifelong learners that never stop growing. Instead of waiting for learning opportunities to come to them, they seek them out. They take feedback not as negativity, but as a way to refine their craft. They also understand that comparison breeds discontentment, so instead of competing with peers, they strive to be better teachers today than they were the day before.

  • Reflective

  • Teachable and reflective are kind of like peanut butter and jelly—they go well together! Teachable teachers are also highly reflective. They are constantly asking themselves questions—How did that lesson go? Why did that lesson that looked great on paper not go well with the students? What can I do to help Susie grow? When is a good time to introduce the next skill? It doesn’t matter if you’re a new teacher or a veteran teacher, reflection is key to teacher effectiveness.

  • Risk Takers

  • They aren’t afraid to be innovative and to try something new. They also aren’t afraid to fail, because they know that mistakes are opportunities to grow. They know that growth often comes when you step out of your comfort zone. Instead of asking “What if I fall?”, they ask “But, what if I fly?”

  • Engaging

  • They know that their job is not to be the sole source of knowledge in the classroom, but rather to be the facilitator of learning. They are passionate about engaging all learners, so they keep students at the center of instruction and let their kids learn with and from each other. They know that the energy they give to their kids is the energy that their kids will give back to them!

  • Collaborative

  • They know that teaching is not a solo act! Collaborative teachers intentionally build a teacher tribe into their lives composed of people from their schools, surrounding areas, and through social media to learn with and bounce ideas off of. In education, we are always better when we work together!

  • Positive

  • This one is key because negativity in a school is like a weed that wants to zap the life out of everyone around it. While effective teachers are realistic, they are also positive. They try to see the good in every opportunity. They are the glass is half full, kind of people. For example, when given a challenging class their response will be “Well, we have lots of opportunities for growth this year!” They know that things will change, but that the one thing that will never change is the importance of relationships and investing in the lives of students.

  • Passionate

  • Their eyes will light up when you ask them about their kids or about education. Their love for students is contagious and even when difficult days come (and trust me, they do!), they hold tight to their WHY, which is that they are there for the kids!

  • Loving

  • They create a safe learning environment where all students can both be and feel successful! They love their students and their students love them. They do all things out of love while keeping high, yet attainable expectations for all students.

  • Fun

  • They make learning fun! They know that worksheets and textbooks don’t teach students, but that students learn best through meaningful learning experiences. They are authentic and aren’t afraid to laugh with their kids.

  • Kids-First

  • If you ask a highly effective teacher why they teach, they won’t have just one answer. Instead, they will have hundreds of names pop into their head, and if you have the time they will also have stories to share. Stories that will bring tears to their eyes as they tell you about their kids. Does teaching have its challenges? Yes, it does, but highly effective teachers know that education is not about information transmission, but instead is about life transformation! They keep kids at the heart of all that we do in education.

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Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.


About the Author

Becca Foxwell

Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year 2016-2017