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How teacher quality and personality can improve student learning

Talk to most people about their school years, and more often than not they will mention the influence or impact a specific teacher had on them.

“Most of us remember a teacher who made a massive impact on our lives, whether it be positive or negative,” says Shaun Fuchs, CEO and founder of Centennial Schools.

Fuchs says teachers play a key role in shaping the thinking and behaviour of their students, and this is confirmed by several academic studies. “While there is one school of thought which says teachers are there to teach academic subjects, there is extensive research done which shows that the personality and quality of a teacher is crucial to students not only succeeding academically, but also to adapting to new or alternative teaching methods. Further to that it is important that teachers are aware of their strengths and weaknesses which really makes a big difference to their teaching style,” Fuchs says.

Traditional teaching environments have a teacher as the axle on which everything turns. Not so at Centennial Schools, says Fuchs, where students are given the freedom to choose how they want to receive and process information in a learning space that is authentic and relevant.

Take Divine Muland, mathematics teacher at Centennial Schools. She completed a BSc in Mathematics, wanting to get into the investments and quantitative analytics space, but was always drawn to teaching. Taking her own learning experience into account – where maths was taught as a dry, academic subject –she has completely changed the way in which she imparts maths to her students.

“My experience had been interesting because I’ve had to adjust to the new generation of students. I’ve always considered myself young and fairly in tune with the youth but being in education was a huge wake up call. In order to relate to the students a different strategy has to be used and I have to understand that it’s no longer the early 2000s.

“I wanted to open students’ eyes to mathematics after school. I went into university not knowing how broad and extensive the field of mathematics is, I wasn’t aware of how many different doors it opened. I want our students to be more aware than I was, to see mathematics with a different lens. I want my students to understand why they are doing something, I want them to make mistakes, I want them to interact and work together to figure problems out on their own.”

Key to Muland’s teaching style is the knowledge of how the real world works, and understanding that a learning environment which exposes students to real world situations is key to their success, says Fuchs.

Teachers understanding and adapting to a new world in which students are technologically more savvy, but face unprecedented pressure from society and its obsession with social media, are the ones who will future proof our children, says Fuchs.

“Teachers have a tremendous influence on our lives, students spend close on eight hours a day in their company, and how they go about teaching, not only the curriculum, but also about life, shapes us as human beings” he adds.

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