Best TeachersThink fast.

  1. Who were your best teachers?
  2. Why were they the best?

Usually, we remember our good teachers very quickly. They made an impact, and we know it. Within two seconds, their names are on the tip of our tongues, and we proudly state their names.

My best teachers were:

Mr. Argo, my high school math teacher. I learned more math from him than any other teacher. Mr. Argo taught so we could grasp the concepts, and he also let us have some fun in the process. You may have heard football coaches referred to as being a “player’s coach.” Well, Mr. Argo was a student’s teacher – unrelentingly focused on ensuring he was teaching in a way we learned.

Professor Looney, my freshman composition teacher. Although I had a great math teacher in high school, I had lousy English teachers. My writing was bad. I still remember getting my first essay back, and it was like my professor had bled all over it. The good thing is that she worked with me. She worked with me after class, guiding me in how to write better and grounding me in solid writing principles. One of my proudest moments was in a subsequent class with Professor Looney. When I received one of my essays back, my grade was an A. I had made it!

A tale of two teachers. Here is an interesting example of the difference a teacher can make.

This is a scenario of two statistics professors. The first, Professor Hein, was a teacher I had as an undergraduate. I’ll be honest. Statistics scared the living daylights out of me. Well, in my undergraduate experience, I learned and applied statistical concepts very well. It was actually a fun class. Not only did I perform well, I learned a great deal, and it was due to the teaching style and approach of Professor Hein.

About seven years later, I had to take another statistics class, this time in graduate school. What a mess! The professor could not teach and made statistics seem like a continuous maze which was never to be solved.

Two professors, same subject, completely different outcomes. Professor Hein had the passion for teaching while the second professor seemed to view teaching as a complicated chore. Big difference in approach, big difference in results.

From my experiences, here are the key characteristics of great teachers.

  • They are focused on the students and deliver content in ways which excite and engage us.
  • They take the time to work with us, to ensure the knowledge is being absorbed and can be applied.
  • They make the material learnable. They apply their teaching skills to bring the material to life and make it reasonable for the class to grasp and apply.
  • They are practical and approachable. In many ways, they are more than teachers; they are coaches as well, setting high standards and challenging and guiding us in our learning.

Who were some of your great teachers? What made them great?