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What Makes a Great Educator?

What Makes a Great Educator?
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The Answer to This Question Guides St. John’s Faculty Recruitment

In education, one thing stands above all others as the fundamental, core measure of a school’s value and success: each child’s daily experience. The single most powerful factor shaping that experience—positive or negative—is not facilities, school size or image.

It is the quality of the classroom teachers that interact with your child.

I am pleased to work at the same school as so many great educators. I know St. John’s is already well on its way to having the preeminent teaching faculty in Tampa Bay.

Knowing the ‘Common Characteristics of Greatness’
At one of the Parent Coffees I host regularly, I shared with parents some observations about my experience identifying and cultivating great educators. In my 30 years in the PK-12 teaching profession, both as classroom teacher and school leader at several schools in this country and England, I’ve had the good fortune to work with, and learn from, hundreds of teachers.

A few have been poor. Many have been mediocre. But most, thankfully, have been good, or truly great, at what they do. What I have found to be unfailingly true of outstanding teachers—regardless of where or who they teach—is that all exhibit what I refer to as “common characteristics of greatness.” They are below, in no order of importance after the first. Great educators:

  • Demonstrate love of working with children
  • Have subject matter expertise
  • Understand their role in the school and the desire to take responsibility for it
  • Are committed to continuous improvement and growth, as evidenced by modeling lifelong learning
  • Model each day, without exception, the same behavioral standards and expectations they have of their students
  • Have high standards for students’ performance—and even higher standards for themselves
  • Desire to always be fair, even if not always consistent
  • Have an unfailingly positive attitude and healthy dose of perspective. They know how fortunate they are to work with children and those who care for children, and never lose sight of that in their interactions with others
  • Are great “brand ambassadors.” They always speak positively about where they work, regardless of the audience or venue
  • Know that, as important as the rules are, the children are even more important
  • Understand and never lose sight of the power dynamic that operates in the classroom and always make sure their power is used solely for the benefit of the children
  • Genuinely see parents as valued partners and demonstrate this through their work, communication, etc.
  • Embrace accountability as much as they cherish autonomy
  • Leave each child knowing they are “on his or her side’”
  • Want to work with other great educators, and are contemptuous of mediocrity

Our culture of continuous improvement and thoughtful change at St. John’s underpins the ongoing work of identifying, recruiting, and retaining the very best available teachers. We know the “secret recipe” and we actively take steps to cultivate the right experts to engage and nurture your children.

SJE parents--thank you for all you do to support our teachers, staff, and administrators. You are appreciated and valued partners in everything we do. Most importantly, thank you for sharing your wonderful children with us.


Hugh Jebson
Head of School

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