What makes a good teacher, great? Graphing Your Greatness

Amorkard T. Brown

Greatness is defined by doing, impacting and serving exceedingly above the ordinary. This construct must therefore be seen through the lens of a spectrum; identifying the least to the most or rather the ordinary to the extraordinary. In the realm of education, the impact of a teacher is incalculable, transcending textbooks, internet and classrooms to shape the future of their students. However, while all teachers contribute to the development of young minds, there exists a distinct group of teachers who go beyond the ordinary; giving of themselves into the realm of greatness. In 2019, I shared with a group of final year student teachers of Church Teachers College, Mandeville, Jamaica on the topic, what makes a good teacher, great?  This was fitting as it is important that new teachers recognize the different levels of impact so they can assert themselves before entering the doors of our classrooms.  Over the past decade, I have observed the traits of educators and have theorized that there are five categories of teachers that exist. I have further developed this construct by placing them on a continuum of greatness, namely: the Broken Teachers (BTs), Low Performing Teachers (LPTs), Ordinary Teachers (OTs), High Performing Teachers (HPTs) and Great Teachers (GTs).

In the realm of education, the impact of a teacher is incalculable, transcending textbooks, internet and classrooms to shape the future of their students. However, while all teachers contribute to the development of young minds, there exists a distinct group of teachers who go beyond the ordinary; giving of themselves into the realm of greatness.

In the presentation, I sought to explain the five categories as follows:

  1. Broken Teachers: The BTs are educators who are struggling significantly in their roles. BTs may lack motivation, suffer from burnout, or face personal challenges that interfere with their ability to teach effectively. They might exhibit similar traits to that of the LPTs such as poor classroom management, lack of engagement with students, and little enthusiasm for their subject matter. In addition, BTs are sometimes teachers who would have been OTs but due loss of trust or moral degradation have become broken teachers.
  2. Low Performing Teachers: The LPTs are those educators who do not meet the expected standards of effectiveness in teaching. They may have weaknesses in instructional strategies, classroom management, or student engagement. Their students may not show significant academic growth or achievement under their instruction.
  3. Ordinary Teachers: OTs are competent educators who fulfill their duties adequately but do not stand out in terms of exceptional performance. They typically meet the basic requirements to keep their job, maintain classroom order, deliver curriculum content, and support student learning to an acceptable level.
  4. High Performing Teachers: HPTs are educators who demonstrate exceptional skill and effectiveness in their teaching practice. These teachers excel in engaging students, adapting instructional methods to meet diverse needs, and fostering significant academic growth and achievement among their students. They use innovative teaching strategies and maintain a high level of dedication and professionalism. And finally,
  5. Great Teachers: GTs are educators who are the epitome of excellence in the teaching profession. They not only excel in classroom instruction but also have a profound impact on their students’ lives beyond academics. They inspire and motivate students, instil a love of learning, and serve as mentors and role models. Great teachers often possess exceptional interpersonal skills, empathy, and a deep understanding and ownership of their subject matter, as well as a commitment to continuous improvement and lifelong learning.

Each category represents a different level of proficiency and impact in the teaching profession, with broken teachers being the least effective and great teachers being the most esteemed and influential.

 I went further to engage these budding practitioners on the characteristic traits of great teachers.  Great teachers (GTs) possess a unique blend of passion, empathy, and adaptability. Their commitment to the learning process extends beyond the curriculum, creating an environment where students not only absorb information but also develop critical thinking skills. Exceptional communication skills allow them to connect with students on a personal level, fostering a sense of trust and encouragement. Moreover, great teachers are lifelong learners themselves, continuously seeking ways to improve and innovate in their teaching methods. The following shows further elaborations on the characteristic traits of a great teacher (GT):

Great teachers (GTs) possess a unique blend of passion, empathy, and adaptability. Their commitment to the learning process extends beyond the curriculum, creating an environment where students not only absorb information but also develop critical thinking skills. Exceptional communication skills allow them to connect with students on a personal level, fostering a sense of trust and encouragement. Moreover, great teachers are lifelong learners themselves, continuously seeking ways to improve and innovate in their teaching methods.

Passion and Purpose: One fundamental area that separates great teachers is their profound passion for teaching and a clear sense of purpose. GTs channel this passion into their lessons, creating an infectious enthusiasm for learning. They understand that their responsibilities extend beyond imparting knowledge; their duties involve instilling a love for learning that resonates with students long after they leave the classroom.

Adaptability and Innovation: GTs exhibit a remarkable capacity for adaptability and innovation. In an ever-evolving educational landscape, adaptability ensures that they can tailor their teaching methods to meet the diverse needs of their students. The incorporation of innovative approaches keeps their classrooms dynamic and engaging. Whether by integrating technology, project-based learning, or other innovative means, these educators stay ahead of the curve.

Empathy and Connection: The ability to empathize and connect with students on a personal level is another critical area that elevates a good teacher to greatness. GTs create a supportive and inclusive classroom environment, recognizing and valuing the individuality of each student. This connection fosters trust, encouraging students to take risks and engage more deeply with the learning process.

Communication Skills: GTs are exceptional communicators. Beyond the transmission of information, they possess the ability to articulate concepts clearly, making complex ideas simple and accessible to students. Moreover, they listen actively, fostering open dialogue in the classroom.

High Performance as a Marker of Greatness: GTs demonstrate effectiveness consistently in various aspects of their profession. They exhibit a strong commitment to student achievement, evidenced by positive learning outcomes and academic progress. GTs set and maintain high expectations for themselves and their students, cultivating an environment that encourages excellence.

Continuous Improvement: The connection between greatness and high performance is the commitment to continuous improvement. GTs are reflective practitioners who seek feedback actively, engage in professional development, and refine their teaching strategies. This dedication to self-improvement propels them to stay at the forefront of educational best practices, ensuring a sustained impact on student learning.

One fundamental component to this concept of what makes a good teacher, great, is the organization of one’s professional teacher portfolio.  This documentation graphs or rather acts as a compass to direct the teacher in making the necessary steps to align him or herself to the continuum of greatness. Graphing one’s greatness as a teacher involves a self-reflective process that considers personal and professional growth. GTs assess their impact on students, seeking feedback and adjusting their strategies accordingly. They engage in professional development deliberately, staying abreast of educational advancements and incorporating them into their teaching practices. The ability to adapt to diverse student needs and learning styles is crucial for a teacher’s continuous improvement.

In the dynamic landscape of education, the distinction between a good teacher and a great one lies in the depth of impact they make on their students. GTs possess an innate ability to inspire, innovate, and connect, elevating the educational experience beyond the norm. By understanding the traits that define greatness, educators can chart their own paths towards becoming extraordinary, making a lasting imprint on the hearts and minds of the students they guide. In the end, it is this commitment to excellence that transforms good teachers into truly great ones, leaving an enduring legacy in the chronicles of education.


Amorkard T. Brown, M.Ed. is a Master Teacher, the Head of the Natural Sciences Department and the Coordinator  of the Sixth Form Programme at Munro College.

23 thoughts on “What makes a good teacher, great? Graphing Your Greatness”

  1. Tavian Montague

    A very thorough, well thought out and in depth article that really tackles the different tiers of teachers. Extremely relevant in today’s dispensation.

  2. Collette Myers-Berry

    Very interesting and informative as educators we must strive to be the great teachers. I know I am a great teacher and this makes my job very fulfilling and meaningful to me.

    Very well put together and thoughtful article

  3. This is awesome….. continue to inspire our future leaders… We the parents of the future generations applaud you for your dedication.

  4. This is awesome….. continue to inspire our future leaders… We the parents of the future generations applaud you for your commitment

  5. This is an excellent take on the real life situation of today’s education system, these are the real matters that should be discussed. Very impressive to know that these are the topics you have in mind .

  6. Amoatey Benjamin

    As an educator, I say well done.
    It’s a great piece shared, and I am so much glad to be a great teacher (the attestations are clear on the wall, not to blow my own horns). I REALLY LIKE THIS PIECE. God bless you 🙏

  7. Very good article.
    I think in this era most teachers will not be inspired to aspire to be great because teachers do not get the level of respect nowadays that they use to get in the past. Additionally, the inappropriate behavior of the students nowadays are causing teachers to lose the passion and enthusiasm.
    God bless the great teachers who are still in the classroom.

  8. Nicola Drummond

    This is an inspiring article my friend. May you continue to fashion and shape lives to find their way in a changing world. May this article also help to improve our practice as we all strive to be called great teachers.
    Well done Amorkard.

  9. Kerrian Reid-Bucknor, JP

    This is an excellent piece, my colleague! You can’t read it and not reflect on yourself and try to ascertain in which category you are as an educator. It also serves as a motivator, because having found your position on the continuum, you now want to be among the GTs and begin to question, ‘What do I need to change to get there?’
    Looking forward to the book Mr. Brown! I can see it coming!

  10. Tricishanna Henry

    Another excellent article. Very factual. I agree with Reid – Bucknor as I tried to ascertain which category I fall in. Next we need to hear you are involved in the policy making at the ministry so as to have a greater reach on our young ones but you have to continue to lead the gentlemen on the hill.

  11. Donna Jowerhill -Williams

    Thought-provoking, insightful,copious, and comprehensive expression
    of attributes of a great 21st teacher.

  12. This is a truly profound and well written piece.
    It emphasizes the need for blend of passion, adaptability and empathy to be a great teacher. Keep them coming Sir Brown.

  13. Thanks for sharing Mr. Mark Smith it is always important to highlight for colleague. Mr. Brown I enjoy reading your article very insightful. To be frank there are several great teachers but some are often given basket to carry water. It is said whereever you are planted you should bloom. I am am excellent teacher one who knows how to get the best out of my students. I am really concerned about the level of truancy and maladopted behaviour that are affecting our education system and some schools.

  14. Sir. Brown. An Excellent article. A detailed, well researched explanation on who is a great teacher. It allows teachers to activate self reflection and an opportunity to shift from one category to another or strive to be a great teacher. Well done sir. Keep up the good work. I am so proud of you. 👏🏾👏🏾

  15. Portia Holness

    Excellent and on point piece of work. I think this document should be captured by MOEY and disbursed to school administrators for teachers to use as a self evaluation tool. Looking at the insightful criterion for a HPT and a GT and decide. Is this the profession for me?
    Great work @A Brown

  16. Truly remarkable to say the least. I liked how cohesive each section was (everything flowing seamlessly). The diction made it so effortless to read the piece in its entirety.

    A masterful piece by one of the GTs 🫡

  17. Great article. I pray not only teachers but everyone who reads this article will be inspired, encouraged and challenged to execute their jobs maximizing their full potential

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