The Top 10 Qualities of a Great TEFL Teacher

We always hear about that “amazing teacher”. The one that inspired you to become a brain surgeon or to save the planet or to write a novel or, just maybe, to try your hand at teaching yourself. Think Mr. Keating from Dead Poet’s Society; Dumbledore from Harry Potter; Miss Honey from Matilda.

But what are those fundamental qualities that make these teachers so great? Drawing on our three decades of experience of working with TEFL teachers across the globe, we’ve distilled it down to ten key qualities.

1. They’re raring to go!

Great teachers love teaching. Their passion and enthusiasm shines through and that, in turn, inspires their students.

2. Fail to plan = plan to fail

If you want to be an amazing teacher, you need to be a planner. Great teachers spend time creating fun and engaging lesson plans with clear objectives to really hammer their points home.

3. Patience of a saint

Students learn at different paces. Great teachers are patient teachers – willing to tailor their time accordingly to accommodate for each individual student’s understanding of the topic.

TEFL Teacher planning a lesson

4. Great expectations

Whether it’s a class of 3-year-olds or 33-year-olds, students will live up (or down) to the expectations set for them. Great teachers challenge every single one of their students to learn, regardless of the level at which they start.

5. Creativity

Good teachers deliver good, textbook lessons. A great teacher takes the lesson out of the textbook and finds creative ways to make it alive and relevant to each class that they teach.

6. Gift of the gab

Great teachers are born communicators – and not just at the front of a classroom. They’ll talk to their students individually, provide useful feedback to parents and support with their colleagues to help make the whole school happy.

Great TEFL teacher talking to student

7. They know their stuff!

Never underestimate the importance of knowing what you’re talking about. Great teachers invest time in their own learning so they can pass on real, up-to-date knowledge to their students.

8. Flexible and adaptable

Unfortunately, even the most well-prepared lessons don’t always go to plan. Being able to change tack and improvise if an activity isn’t working is a key quality of a great teacher.

9. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Great teachers remember that their students are real people, not just another kid. They’re friendly, approachable and know when to have fun – and when to set boundaries. This, in turn, means that they also command respect from their students and therefore, have a well-controlled classroom.

10. Professionalism

A great teacher is prepared for every lesson of every day – from dressing for the part, to arriving on time, to having a fantastic lesson plan to organising their teaching materials.

Top qualities of a TEFL teacher


Feel like you could make the grade as a TEFL teacher? Well the first step is getting qualified! You can either take our 2-minute course quiz to find your perfect course match, or arrange to speak to one of our friendly TEFL experts, who will be able to help you select the best option for your TEFL career goals.

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I have been traveling and teaching ESL abroad ever since I graduated university. This life choice has taken me around the world and allowed me to experience cultures and meet people that I did not know existed.

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