The Common Denominator: Shared Traits of Great Teachers

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Teaching isn’t easy. Teachers put a lot on themselves and dedicate a great deal of their energy into what they do. While some people may naturally have a disposition that suits the occupation well, other teachers need to work on developing and honing certain traits. True, teaching styles differ from teacher to teacher, but there are a few personality traits and characteristics that all teachers must develop. The 10 traits enumerated below are typical of great teachers at all levels, whether they teach in elementary schools or are instructors for online education programs.

High Expectations

A great teacher believes that all students can succeed. Learning is not just for a select few. The key is to help students see that they are capable; not to dumb down content, but to present it in a way that is easy to digest. Having faith in a student helps them to have faith in his or herself. Great teachers expect a lot from their students.

Creative Thinkers

The best teachers think outside the box, and they take their students with them. A good teacher will create memorable experiences for students that will encourage them through their academic careers. Creative teachers supply students with real-world applications of knowledge, which is not only more fun, but helps the student retain knowledge.

Lifelong Learners

Part of being a great teacher means admitting you don’t know everything. A willingness to learn and eagerness to accept challenging questions from students sets great teachers apart from the crowd. The best teachers don’t take it personally when a student asks “why,” but instead they work with the student so that they both learn something new. This attitude sets an example for students so that they view learning as a lifelong journey and not from one semester or class at a time.


Teachers live outside the realm of their own needs and are in tune with others, including students, parents and the community. It can be a challenge, but it’s one worth accepting. In a single day, teachers may wear many hats and interact with many different people in various capacities. They should be able to conduct themselves with grace and understanding each time a new challenge presents itself.


The most admirable teachers incorporate new ideas, techniques and tactics in their classrooms. They are not stagnant; as new information comes to light, they readily explore it. Great teachers can teach the same material in numerous ways that cater to each and every student’s learning style. They embrace change and diversity.


Students will make mistakes. Good teachers will be patient when students inevitably falter. Great teachers will find a way to turn mistakes into teachable moments. The best teachers try not to lose their tempers or show irritation. Patience is indicative of self-control and disciple, traits that any teacher would be happy to pass on to their students through example. Oftentimes, patience is the only thing that can reach unruly and difficult students.


A great teacher shows respect for their students and understands that everyone brings value. They are empathetic and try to really understand others. Bad teachers demand respect, but great teachers earn respect by giving it in the first place. Teachers, too, were once students. A great teacher remembers that and treats their students how they would have wanted a teacher to treat them.


The most engaging teachers aren’t afraid to be silly. They find the fun in learning and in life. If a teacher truly has control over a classroom, they can loosen up and be human. This behavior encourages students to do the same. To quote the Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus”—“take chances, make mistakes and get messy.”


Hand in hand with fun is enthusiasm. To get students excited about a subject matter, great teachers get excited about their content. Passion for a topic is contagious. Whether they are just starting out or are tenured professors, great educators enjoy talking about the subject they teach. This enthusiasm helps teachers explore fresh topics in their area and bring new and exciting information to students.


A teacher is not trying to impress their students with their knowledge. Rather, a great teacher will speak in terms that students can understand. After all, the goal is to pass knowledge on to the student, not show off what you as a teacher know. It’s a granted that teachers are knowledgeable; that’s what qualifies them to teach in the first place.

If you’re ready to become a great teacher, consider enrolling in one of NDC’s online education programs!