What makes a good teacher?
At a recent staff meeting, we talked about what makes a good teacher.
It came up because the Los Angeles Times had just published stories about
how to evaluate teachers, which made us wonder what makes a teacher effective at helping students learn. Below some of our teen staff
share what they liked about their best teachers.
In eighth grade my world history teacher was rude to his students, failed more kids than any other teacher and was a fan of detention. He had strict rules that he would follow. He locked the door when class began and if you weren’t in class you’d have to go to the office.
At first I dreaded being in his class, but after a semester I got used to his style of teaching. I stopped talking and socializing in class and I challenged myself to succeed.
Teachers had always coddled me, until his class. I realized learning required effort. I studied more for his class than any other. He wasn’t a nice guy but he was passionate about history. His class wasn’t fun, but it taught me more about history than I had ever learned before.
Jasper Nahid, 16, Hamilton HS
My math teacher, Ms. Sharma, had the class apply what we learned to real-life situations. She would give us a scenario and have us use an algebraic equation to find a solution. For example, she told me to a pick a job (that didn’t need a college education) and a career (that required four years of college). I had to create a budget for both and compare how much I could earn and save over 20 years. She helped me see that I would use math in my future, and that made me want to learn what she was teaching.
Kristy Plaza, 16, Duarte HS
One day, my religion teacher made me stay after class. Once everyone was gone, she started yelling at me. “You’re too smart to be where you are! Your work is too ordinary and always late, but when you talk, it sounds amazing. Get your act together!”
I couldn’t believe my 4-foot-11, soft-spoken teacher was yelling at me! I wanted to yell back, but I knew she was right. I was an honor roll student, but I was lazy. Sometimes I did my homework right before class started or turned it in late, I became an expert on extra credit at the end of semesters and I studied on the day of tests. My teacher made me realize I had to be a better student.
After that, in all my classes I would start my homework when I got it, instead of waiting until the last day. I studied for all my finals. I organized study groups so I could ask other students questions. By doing extra work outside of class, I actually understood what I was studying instead of cramming and then forgetting the information after the test. I felt like I learned more.
Jasmine Holloway, 17, Serra HS (Gardena)
When my eighth grade history teacher, Mr. Sale, taught us about Abraham Lincoln, he talked about the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves. But he also told us random facts, like that Lincoln had a lazy eye. He told us Lincoln created the Secret Service to protect the money printing system and go after counterfeiters. He knew all these things and barely used the textbook. It showed his passion and inspired me to want to learn because he was so into history. He’d say, “History is the easiest thing. How can you not know these things?”
Tyler Bradshaw, 14, Redondo Union HS
My eighth grade history teacher gave us a test to find out how we express ourselves. I was classified as a musical person. Then she told us to study the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and use our classification to make a project about it. I played “Taps,” the song played at military funerals, on my violin for the class. The assignment allowed people to do some really cool projects, like building the World Trade Center towers out of LEGOS, making graphs of the casualties and damage, writing poems and performing skits. Everyone learned a lot more about how terrible Sept. 11 was than they would have from doing a report. I saw it from perspectives I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Aaron Schwartz, 15, Gabrielino HS (San Gabriel)
In 11th grade, I had a U.S. history teacher who is by far the greatest teacher I have ever had. She had high expectations. Essays were graded on a scale of 1-9. When we got back our first essays, just about everyone got 1s and 2s. We knew we had to try much harder.
She motivated us to ask questions. After one of our first lessons, she asked the class if we had any questions. Everyone was too shy to ask anything. Then she said, “Since no one asked any questions, I assume you all know the topic from top to bottom.” She asked us a question no one could answer. She told us, “You will never know everything, so you have to ask questions no matter how simple it may sound. Most likely, someone else has the same question.” After that, we all started to ask more questions, not just in her class, but in other classes as well. I was never much of a history person, but I loved the class because she challenged me and made me want to ask questions so that I could understand better. I learned more in her class than I did in my other history classes.
Jose Zacarias, 17, Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet HS
When my English teacher, Mrs. Mucic, taught us about discrimination from the book To Kill a Mockingbird, she divided the class into short and tall people. I’m 5-foot-3, so she tied a green ribbon around my neck and the necks of the other short students to separate us from the tall students. Then she started making fun of us for being short, which aggravated me. At that moment though, I finally realized what discrimination was. It made me think about how blacks were treated in America. I started to empathize with people who have been discriminated against. I am definitely going to request Mrs. Mucic for AP English senior year.
Hanna Yoon, 17, Crescenta Valley HS
Even though I have attended low-achieving public schools, I have had so many great teachers. I had an eighth grade science teacher who was strict and challenging. She had many rules. We needed to put everything in order in our binders or else we lost a full point out of four points. She taught us Cornell style notes, where you divide your paper into two columns. On the left column you write main points or questions and on the right side you write your notes. It helps students study by folding the paper and answering the questions they wrote. I learn better with these types of notes. I now use Cornell as my style for taking notes in all my classes.
This teacher didn’t tolerate anybody not paying attention in class. One time my cell phone rang during a lecture and she took my cell phone away. I think that when everyone is concentrating, it helps. In my math class, my teacher had absolutely no control and let kids do anything. Boys were throwing paper airplanes across the room and running all around. My friends and I didn’t learn much because it was too distracting. I learned a lot from this teacher. I don’t like science, but I did well in my CST exams.
Alma Sanchez, 17, Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet HS