Its funny how you can spot a bad teacher from a mile away but hard to name the qualities of a good one. I think that's because the good ones come in many different size, color and shaped packages -- each so unique. That said, here are some things I have noticed about excellent teachers -- a) Makes each child feel so special, she thinks she is the only one the teacher is attending to, b) Brings children together -- the focus is on the children and in their tie to each other, not on the teacher, c) Loves a subject to death - is so passionate about something and shares her passion with the students, d) Sees parents as partners -- reaches out to build a relationship and understands how important children are to their parents -- is on the parent's and child's side, not on her own side.
I asked my son (age 7 3/4) and he said without hesitation: "Kindness." My daughter (11 3/4) thinks having a good sense of humor makes the difference in a truly good teacher. My husband: patience, understanding, curiosity. I also think a curious intelligence is a key attribute of an exceptional teacher -- someone who can impart his/her own endless enthusiasm for the subject matter and bring it to life for kids and in the process actually enjoys learning from the kids' interests, discoveries, and points of view.
The difference between an average teacher and an extraordinary one, to me, has always been an excitement about learning. When a teacher is excited to see kids learn, you can always tell. And students can feel that. I'm not sure how we measure that enthusiasm or evaluate teachers for it, but it makes a huge difference for kids.