The best teachers you've ever had

Great teachers really stick in the memory – and they can change lives too. Don’t just take our word for it though. There’s scientific proof.

A recent academic study of 2.5m children in the US found that having a great teacher boosted their life chances – even if the teacher only taught them for one year. Students of the 25% best teachers were more likely to go on to higher education, took up places at better universities and eventually found jobs earning them more money.

It proves what everyone already knows: that an enthusiastic, professional, creative teacher can bring a subject to life and infect their class with their own love of the subject. Everyone is different, but members of The Student Room community have been highlighting some of the traits shared by the best teachers they’ve ever had. Here’s what you’ve been saying:

They're full of enthusiasm

The best teachers really enjoy their subject and they enjoy teaching too. Enthusiasm is catching and students often find themselves swept along, developing their enjoyment on the way, something Manitude experienced:

“My year 8 English teacher managed to make even me actively enjoy my English lessons. His enthusiasm for his subject shone through. Really great teacher and very approachable, too.”

RandomMedic was a huge fan of their GCSE biology teacher. “Everyone adored her and wanted to do work. My overall grade was definitely due to her, as well as my overall chemistry grade (thanks to a two hour cramming session the day before the exam even though she wasn't our teacher).”

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They're meticulous and organised

Professionalism really counts and the best teachers know their subject inside out. Planning lessons, taking a structured and organised approach to teaching makes the world of difference.

For anon.006, psychology lessons are always a treat. “She's always so meticulous in everything she does, which means we're well prepped for the exams! But seriously I wish all my teachers were like her.”

Likewise IndiaCaitlinn had great teachers in English and drama, but particularly her A-level drama teacher: “She knew the course inside out and back to front and knew exactly what to do to get the top marks in the written exam which was so helpful!”

They have an engaging personality

Commanding the attention of a group of 30 or so children or teenagers is no easy feat. 

Great teachers are the focal point of the class and use that to create a sense of community, where students feel confident that they can get involved even if they’re not sure of the subject matter. There are lots of ways to do this.

“My Chinese teacher appeared with an inflatable microphone and started playing some Chinese pop to teach us prepositions,” Toastiekid wrote. “He danced around the class getting people to sing into his bright yellow inflatable microphone.”

Frank the Tankk had an English teacher he described as a “stereotypical Scotsman and devoted fan of Robbie Burns”, the Scots poet.

“When Burns' Night approached he arrived in costume before reciting "Ode to Haggis" and plunging a fork and knife into his giant "haggis" which was a balloon, wrapped in tin foil and filled with confetti.”

Being engaging doesn’t necessarily mean being wacky though. RF_PineMarten had a geography teacher in year 8 who held a quiz show called “a question of geography” at the end of each term. And sometimes it’s just about making sure students feel included, like Kandybars’ form tutor.

“He really made me feel comfortable at times where I felt separated from everyone else and like I didn't fit in. He knew I was introverted and understood me. I think understanding that I was introverted and not just quiet made me realise there was nothing wrong with me and that I'm fine just the way I am.”

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They're creative

Keeping the class’s attention means surprising them sometimes, and that requires inventiveness and fresh ideas, as Chronoscope’s English teacher demonstrated.

“My English teacher made the classroom seem like a trench, because we were doing creative writing about the war, so we spent a lesson in a dark classroom with a smoke machine, so we could imagine what it was like in the trenches... The best ones usually seem to be the ones we remember.”

Lilyghz’s A-level psychology teacher had a big effect on her – “the best teacher I’ve ever had”.

“Her teaching style is very out of the box and she always goes the extra mile with her teaching. She's also the person who cemented my ambition of studying psychology at uni and her character is just that of someone you want to be around all the time.”

They pay attention to every student

In a large class, it can be hard to make everyone feel as though they are important, but great teachers manage it.

Kandybars had a particularly memorable maths teacher in year 11. “He focused on everyone equally and had really cool ways of explaining things people found difficult. … I don't think I would have got an A so easily in maths without him. He made me really enjoy maths!”

Sometimes they go above and beyond what’s expected, like TattyBoJangles’ deputy head of sixth form, who helped them even after they had left school.

“When I was in Year 13, I applied to do medicine and he helped me every step of the way. In the end, I didn't get in - so he helped me plan my gap year. Part of that involved getting me sponsored by Rotary International to go to Kenya for three weeks and then come back and do a presentation to them. Never did I think I'd have the confidence to do either of those things - I like travelling but have never been alone, and public speaking isn't my forte - but I have and I mainly have him to thank.”

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They have high expectations

Gentle encouragement and enthusiasm don’t always work – sometimes being a great teacher means knowing when to be stern, like NOONA’s philosophy teacher.

“She was such an amazing teacher, she's never had a single student fail her class before. There was this time when she shouted at my class for doing badly in our mock exams and called herself our 'sergeant'. It was super scary at the time but now that she's left the school to volunteer in a third world country I really do appreciate the effort she put in.”

Who was your favourite teacher and what made them great for you? Join in with the discussion.

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