Hiring Educated & Engaging Teachers

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What Makes a Grade-A Teacher?

The influence of teachers goes beyond the classroom into the real-world, shaping our reality and that of future generations.


If you’re recruiting for teaching roles, you’re likely looking for someone with certain qualifications and skill sets. With the exception of early education (which requires a broader knowledge base), you’ll want someone with subject matter expertise. But what else should you look for when recruiting teachers?


What to Look for When Hiring Educators

What does it take to be a good teacher? What does it take to be a great teacher? There are a few schools of thought on this, but most good educators share some similar traits.


  • Teacher qualifications & teaching credit hours
  • Clean background check
  • Love of learning
  • Communication & presentation skills
  • Patience & tolerance
  • Resourceful & tech-savvy
  • Organizational skills


Holds a Recognized Teaching License & Has Completed Teaching Credit Hours

Depending on the grade you’re hiring for and what state/province that position is located, teachers may require a teaching license. In order to apply for teaching certification, the candidate likely completed a bachelor’s degree in education (perhaps a master’s degree, depending on their specialization), then a number of qualifying teaching credit hours as part of their coursework. HR can verify this by requesting a copy of the certificate and a transcript. Digital uploads makes this easy.

Change over time in teacher credentials

Share of teachers without various credentials, by type of credential.

Change over time in teacher credentials


Source: 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and 2015–2016 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) microdata from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

Clean Background Check

The last thing any school administrator should overlook is their students’ safety. Since many teachers work with young people who are vulnerable and impressionable, they must have a clean background record. For this reason, school districts often conduct a state or federal criminal background check on prospective teachers. These background checks are crucial to the hiring process because they reveal convictions for offenses—especially those involving children—helping protect students and your school’s reputation.


Lifelong Love of Learning

Those who teach should never stop learning. Teaching is a continuum, which echoes into adult education. There’s always new information and new ways of doing things, so educators should value continued education and strive for professional development. What they learn can be passed along to their students. A lifelong love of learning is also a sign of dedication to the profession and enthusiasm for their job.


Communication & Presentation Skills

One of the most fundamental skills of any teacher is how they explain and present information to those who are trying to learn. Are they confident and engaging in front of a classroom? Can they see when students are struggling and offer alternate approaches to learning? Are they able to break down complex topics into digestible pieces to increase the likelihood that people will understand? These are all qualities of a great teacher.


Patience & Tolerance

Teachers are in a unique position to shape minds—especially young minds, which are more malleable. Many societal issues like racism begin at an early age, and responsible teachers can help remedy this by introducing new points of view to children. School districts can come together to reinforce this inclusive message as students progress through the school system, helping dissolve serious systemic problems.

Patience and tolerance also involves acknowledging everyone learns differently and taking the time to explain what students don’t understand. Beyond that, teachers must be patient with parents, too. For example, how do they communicate with parents who are complaining about their child’s bad grades?


Resourceful & Tech-Savvy

Regardless of age, educators must keep pace with technology. Why? Because their students are part of a digital generation, so they often learn best on what they already know best. To do this, teachers need to be flexible and willing to try new things such as adopt new educational apps. It’s up to the teachers to explore different digital teaching tools to determine which ones could enhance student learning and which ones are a distraction.


Organizational Skills

Teachers juggle many tasks every day, including lesson planning, class activities, and marking tests and assignments. They must be highly organized because their jobs necessitate multi-taking. This skill is especially important for teachers with multiple classes and subjects.


Necessary Skills for Teaching Different Age Groups

Some people are wonderful educators—but they’re better suited to teach a specific age group. For example, a job applicant who wasn’t a good fit as an elementary teacher might make an excellent grade high school teacher. So much depends on the individual and the specific setting.


Elementary/Primary School

If you’re recruiting for elementary school teachers, you’ll likely want someone who can teach a variety of subjects such as reading and writing, science and math. Can they develop engaging, age-appropriate lesson plans and adapt these for children who might struggle with them? Their role is to teach fundamental knowledge that students build on as they age. Can they explain broad, complex topics simply? Do they have hands-on teaching exercises to help young minds understand and learn by doing?


Junior High/Middle School

If you’re trying to hire teachers for middle school, take a good look at the candidate in front of you. Do you think students would look up to them? Middle school is when some people start disengaging in school, but hiring teachers who are personable and inspirational can help counter that if the teacher acts as a role model and enforces discipline when needed.


High School and Adult Education

High school teachers are ultimately preparing students for life after graduation— whether that’s attending college or university or entering the workforce. At this stage, it’s important to look for teachers who also act as counsellors, helping students determine what they’re like to do next. This skillset is similar to those working in continuing education; people are often looking to upgrade their education in hopes of getting promoted or changing careers.

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