3 Qualities of a Great Educator

Published February 12, 2020

By Tuan Dean, Professor of Math at Triton College in River Grove, IL


Tuan Dean was recently named a 2019 ALEKS All-Star Educator Award winner

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.

My passion for teaching started at a young age. My older siblings did not enjoy school, and I used to help them with their homework. I even used to “play school” at home by dividing them into classes and teaching them different subjects. They always preferred listening to me over their own teachers, probably because I tried to make the lessons as enjoyable and easy to learn as possible.

As a first-generation college graduate and someone who consistently helped those around me in math, I knew that I always wanted to influence others who struggled in school so that they could do their very best. Even though I had many great teachers throughout my time in school, my inspiration was always my math teacher from middle school. She was phenomenal. She encouraged me and constantly told me that I could achieve anything that I put my mind to, so a great math professor is what I aspired to be.

But what makes a great educator? Here’s what I’ve discovered over the years.

  1. A great educator should always evolve and change with their students.

    I’m always learning, changing, and evolving as an individual, but it is important to do so with your students. As an educator, you can’t always do the same routine over and over again. Changing things in the classroom makes things more interesting for both the educator and students.

  2. A great educator understands his or her students’ differences, similarities, and struggles.

    I try my best to relate to my students and have a sympathetic ear to their worries and struggles. Students are more likely to grasp the information being taught when they know that they are understood.

  3. A great educator should use current technology and the right materials to help students succeed.

    When I was first introduced to ALEKS, I immediately knew that I needed to use it to teach my students. I wish that I had this tool when I was in school, and I know that if my brothers used it, they probably wouldn’t have ever hated math. As digital natives, my students work well with technology and digital learning materials like ALEKS. I rely on this tool as an educator because I work hand-in-hand with it and it helps fill in the blanks that my students need to be filled.

Teaching professionally has been even more fulfilling and wonderful than I ever expected it to be. I am especially inspired by those everyday “a-ha” moments, when students who have experienced failure in the past discover that they can, in fact, succeed in math. It’s been a wonderful journey.


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