Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational Policy and Leadership

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 252 pages) : illustrations

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Kathryn Schiller

Committee Members

James Butterworth


perceptions of teachers, significant teacher, student-teacher learning relationship, Teacher-student relationships, Teachers, High school students, Ninth grade (Education)

Subject Categories

Educational Administration and Supervision


A cross-sectional sample of 257 public school ninth grade students (53% female) reported on the traits, interactions, and outcomes of their most significant teacher. The sample was diverse ethnically, geographically, academically, and when using criteria to report on a significant teacher. Of 129 variables, 16 factors associated with the teacher-student learning relationship. Associations of factors to grade point average, gender, studenting skills, "favorite" versus "most significant" teacher, and student type were analyzed. On average, 87% of the sample identified a significant teacher, most often female, at their current school. Students tended to agree that their significant teacher was different in a good way, inspired them, and was a teacher they did not want to disappoint. The Master Teacher and Competency factors (i.e., knows the subject, fair, consistent, specific about expectations, intelligent, hard-working, bold) were rated the highest. The lowest rated factors were associated with a significant teacher's family-like persona (i.e., like a parent or sibling) and more complicated notions of a "future self" and the teacher's opinions of the student. Implications regarding GPA, for example, suggest that students who reported higher GPAs tended to have significant teachers who (1) did not embarrass or discourage them, (2) changed their facial expression and voice tone while teaching, and (3) shared opinions that the students valued, were important in the students' lives, helped students figure out who they are, and were admired. The study was limited, in part, by each student's developmental (in)capacity to understand and report on items. Future research can deploy a mixed methods design that includes action research. Teachers who were designated as significant by students and those who were not can be surveyed and/or interviewed to generate and then analyze factors that may associate with student perceptions of teacher significance.