What Makes A Great Teacher?

I attended a beautiful home going service today. It was for my 6th and 8th grade Math teacher, who in later years became my sorority sister and coworker.  I hate Math….can barely count to ten is what I tell my kiddos, but I loved her as a teacher.  At the service I saw my favorite teacher of all time, Mrs. Dupree.  I love her and she loves me.  I still stop by her house to talk when I go home and I bring my precocious baby girl with me when I go – because Mrs. Dupree insists.

On the ride home, I began thinking about these two amazing women (as well as a few others!) and why they stand out significantly when I think about my childhood years.  I began to ask myself, “What did they do that made them such excellent teachers?”   Here are my thoughts:

1.  They loved what they did.

Now, anyone who knows me – knows about my love/hate relationship with Math.  I loved Algebra, hated Geometry, and only took Pre-Cal because I was forced to.  Senior year I took NO math, because I’d met my requirement and Physics was close enough.  I didn’t particular like 6th or 8th grade math either, but I loved Mrs. Footman.  She loved math and I reckon she had enough enthusiasm for the both of us.  Her face lit up as she demonstrated the math problems on the chalk board…..and when we got it!  She kept us after class, during lunch, or after school to help us if we didn’t.  I even remember my mom calling her at home for help- and she never hesitated.

As for Mrs. Dupree, she was my English IV and AP English teacher.  She loved the classics and made us love them too!  I mean who wouldn’t get excited when your teacher recited Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy?  Hmmmm?  She made me fall in love with old troublesome Healthcliffe and scrappy Pip.  She made our discussions lively and fun and you could see the joy on her face.

2.  They were firm but fair.

Sometimes I sit in amazement at how much education has changed in the last 20+ years….how much children have changed in the last 20+ years.  Growing up, there was always one student who got regularly paddled – for me that Mener (and yes, his name was Mener).  Now, there are anywhere from 3-5.  But the potential for children to be….well, children…. is always there.  They were not afraid to reprimand a student who was misbehaving, and you knew that it would happen whether they cared for you or not.  In fact, it was in their caring that forced them to acknowledge and redirect inappropriate behavior.  I was a good student….a great student….for the most part, but I was still occasionally subjected to a stern glance or a voice of reprimand.  I can’t think of anyone who felt inappropriately slighted.

3.  They just were.

There’s no way I can explain it or adequately describe it..  They just were.

  • They were kind.
  • They were knowledgeable.
  • They were intelligent.
  • They were passionate.
  • They were thoughtful.
  • They were available.

And it is my hope that once my time on this earth is done, that my students will reflect fondly on me and say that I was too.


Until the next time,


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