Brightmont Academy Blog

Top Questions to Ask to Hire Great Teachers

As a private school that implements a one-to-one instruction approach, Brightmont Academy depends on high-quality teachers who are knowledgeable, personable, and committed to helping students achieve success. Teachers are responsible for delivering instruction, and are also an essential part of each campus’ culture. When students enjoy the relationship they have with teachers, they are more likely to attend as well as to remain engaged throughout every class session. Parents sometimes wonder how teachers are selected, so here are some key elements of the interview process.


Shared Philosophy


The top priority is finding someone with the same philosophy about educating students. When instruction is customized to address a wide range of learning needs, the teacher must be someone who understands that students learn differently and is willing to adjust his or her methods as needed to provide what the student needs. Many schools have a published mission statement along the lines of “all students can learn,” but this needs to be more than a catchphrase that’s recited at the same time some students don’t meet standards.  Asking questions that require the teacher to share specific examples of how they have instructed different learners and to describe methods for differentiating instruction will reveal whether the teacher truly holds themselves accountable to reach every student.


How Do You Engage Students?


This question sheds light on the number and depth of the strategies that the teacher has at their disposal, and their level of sophistication. When teachers struggle with this question or even claim that it is the student’s job to arrive at school ready to learn without intervention from the teacher, it’s a tell-tale sign that they need additional professional development to serve students who may hesitate based on previous failures or simply struggle to stay focused at school.  Absences are one problem schools plan for, but the problem of students who are present without actually being present is another reason that opportunities for instruction and learning can be lost. As educators, we must be prepared to address this issue and find ways to reach those students who don’t volunteer to participate in class.


Describe the Type of Student Who Has Been a Good Match for Your Teaching Style./Who Succeeds in Your Classroom?


The question is broad, and may be answered with a specific grade level, a particular prerequisite that’s desirable for the teacher’s subject-matter expertise, or a shared personality trait, such as “students who like humor” or “sports fans!” Most candidates will focus on answering the question, but for this one, the most important information comes from noticing who is omitted. For example, a teacher who truly values high levels of class participation may not recognize that introverts will feel less welcomed and may purposely forfeit points to avoid pushing outside of their comfort zone.

If there were a correct answer to this question, it’s the resounding “all students” response, especially when the candidate proceeds to explain how students are included and elaborates about the ways students are given multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery.


Describe Your Experience with Special Needs Students.


Every child has a unique learning profile. Whether or not the position requires a special education teacher, understanding the teacher’s level of preparation and ability to differentiate instruction and to provide accommodations helps reveal the range of students they can serve.


Can You Describe How You Managed a Lesson That Didn’t Go How You Expected?


Everyone has a polished success story they are proud of, but understanding how the teacher recovers from an unexpected flop can provide a realistic picture of how the individual handles stress and his or her problem-solving skills. In addition, anecdotes to this prompt help to disclose why the lesson wasn’t as effective as expected in the first place – Was there a lack of preparation? Misunderstanding of student baseline skills? Poorly communicated directions? And perhaps the most important element, Is the teacher aware of what might be done differently in the future?


What is Your Ideal Schedule?


Although a very perfunctory question, students need consistency. Understanding what other obligations may impact a teacher’s time, focus, and ability to attend regularly helps ensure that the teacher is aware of what’s expected from a time and workload commitment. Teachers with consistent attendance records who can commit to the full school year help minimize changes in routine that come with frequent substitute teachers or a mid-year reassignment.


What Books or Mentors Have Influenced You?


Teachers are also learners. Brightmont Academy Vice President of Talent Management Cathi Stojkov uses this question to understand more about the teacher as a person and to check that they are continuing to participate in the same type of personal-growth activities we would expect of our students. In addition to building the foundation of a positive working relationship, Stojkov, herself a lifelong learner, acknowledges, “Sometimes, I even learn about a good book I haven’t read.”


Concluding Thoughts


Questions that require the teacher candidate to share concrete examples of their best teaching moments and the scenarios most and least successful for that individual can help reveal what future instruction might look like. Through the conversations, the person’s communication style is readily observed and the interviewer gets a sense of how the teacher organizes and expresses information.


Schools need to have a variety of personalities, communication styles, and pedagogical strengths represented across the entire staff, increasing the possibility for every student to have a teacher who is a great match for their learning style as well as a growth opportunity to stretch outside of a comfort zone. But with support. Going back to the shared philosophy question - every learner is more willing to stretch and grow when they believe the teacher truly wants to see them succeed. As Rita Pierson stated in her now-famous TED Talk, “Every kid needs a champion.”

Picture of Ruth Wilson
Ruth Wilson

Ruth Wilson is the Founder of Brightmont Academy and Huma Education Services. Throughout her career, Ruth has been dedicated to improving the education, health, and aspirations of students. She is a certified principal and a board certified educational therapist. She has led multiple teams and served on several non-profit boards, including the Washington Branch of International Dyslexia Association. Ruth continually seeks to expand and share her educational expertise through postgraduate coursework, collaborations with other educators, and consulting and public speaking events.


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