What makes a Teacher Exceptional?

When you observe an exceptional teacher’s classroom, one of the first things you notice is how engaged the students are, how well everyone seems to be getting along, and that the students would probably do anything for that teacher!  Think about your favorite teachers. Chances are they were passionate, fun, knowledgeable, as well as fair.  And you knew you were important to them!  If they made a mistake, they admitted it, and if you made a mistake, it was easily forgiven.  In fact, mistakes were simply viewed as learning opportunities, and nobody was made “wrong.”

Exceptional teachers are often inspired by the teachers they admired from their past.  For exceptional teachers, teaching isn’t just their job, it’s their calling.  And because they are creative and inventive with curriculum, they are able to engage and motivate their students.  Their classrooms are welcoming, safe places to learn.

In speaking with teacher of the year award winners and nominees, one key element of success that they all mention is how important it is to have great relationships with their students.  Likewise, when students are asked what qualities they love about their favorite teachers, they say, in addition to being fun, knowledgeable and fair, that they have “real” relationships with these teachers, and that they are treated with respect, and as a person with unique qualities.

At the end of the year teachers are evaluated for their performance. Exceptional teachers are self-evaluating and reflective of their own performance.  They are able to acknowledge themselves for the things they did well, and to set goals for improving the things they want to do better.  They seek feedback from their students, parents, colleagues and administrators to continue improving and growing.

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