What Makes a Great Teacher?

“Good teachers are like expert acrobats,” says Wendy Sims, professor and director of music education at the University of Missouri–Columbia. “They are creative, quick-thinking and flexible, well-balanced, able to keep many plates spinning or balls in the air at the same time, good teammates, and dedicated to their art form.”

Sims adds that expert music educators “demonstrate a solid grasp of the fundamentals, and execute complex routines and artful performances with grace and style.”

Martin Bergee, a faculty member in music education at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, says that great teachers have three critical qualities:

  • a passionate and abiding commitment to help people of all ages learn, especially children and young people,
  • the ability to inspire and motivate people to learn, and
  • a deep, deep knowledge of one’s subject matter.

Both NAfME members, professors Sims and Bergee work with preservice and in-service teachers. Experience has taught them that the ability to listen with patience and compassion can also help make a person a better music teacher, parent, and human being.

— Ella Wilcox, originally posted April 9, 2008 © National Association for Music Education (www.nafme.org).