What Makes a Great Teacher

While my freshman year of high school is mostly a blur, memories of the hours spent in Mr. D's math class 30 years ago stay with me in vivid color. Mr. D didn't just teach math; He immersed himself in it, reveled in it, and found a way to infuse the subject with joy he then served to us.

Over the years I've tried to deconstruct the effect Mr. D had on his students. I've had teachers who were good speakers, good thinkers, good instructors - but none with passion equal to his. When excited about an equation he would grab his colored chalk and let his frenzied scribbling lead him off the black board, on to the wall, and around the room. We delighted in his energy, his rule breaking, his pure enthusiasm at being in that moment showing us how vibrant a subject with math's dry reputation could be. He dove into math and stretched out, explored it, revered it - and then re-emerged to invite us back in with him.

To this day I don't know if Mr. D's genius was for math itself or for teaching. But as I watched him delight in proofs and theorems, I fell in love with numbers, too. Now, three decades later, I might not be able to recall the formula for the circumference of a circle but I'll admit to feeling a happy thrill at the prospect of working it out. Because Mr. D taught me learning is fun. And that is the most valuable lesson of all.

Tell us about the teachers who brought magic into your life!

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