Why Passion for Teaching Ignites Great Joy

Teacher helping young student with tablet
The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. — William Arthur Ward1

Beyond the transfer of knowledge, a teacher's passion can serve as a catalyst, not only igniting an educator’s own dedication and creativity in the classroom, but also sparking curiosity and love for learning within their students. This can ultimately foster an environment of growth and fulfillment for both educator and student. 

If we really let that sink in, it is such a powerful concept. For teachers and educators, more often than not, the most meaningful aspects of a teacher’s work, the elements that drive an educator’s passion, go beyond academics. That drive often involves student engagement, the sense of contribution to something larger — bigger than us, bigger than even our own classroom. And, finally, those connections and sometimes long-lasting relationships can be the fuel that fills our cups. 

However, my fellow educators, we know there can be many challenges and just as many rewards in our profession. The success of thousands of students throughout your career will depend on your preparation, your willingness to invest time and energy into your students, and yes, your passion. So, what do we do when we seemingly feel as though we have lost that passion or joy for what we do? I urge you to read on. 

In This Article:

Why Passion Is Important to Teaching 

Research shows that individuals’ levels of passion do not always remain stable or high. However, there is evidence that our mindset plays a critical role on the regulation of our passion.2 As an educator, when my days are long, or I have decision fatigue, or I have a particularly grueling sort of day, I try to stop myself and think about the “why.” Why is it that I do what I do and why is my passion so critical to what I do and why I do it?  

Taking Time to Understand the Why

When I take the time to stop and think about why my passion is so important to my teaching, a few things consistently come to mind that I will share with you below.

Motivation and Engagement

A teacher’s passion and intrinsic motivation can directly affect the motivation, engagement and energy inside the classroom in a number of ways, such as:3 

  • Personal connection: When a teacher is passionate about a topic, they feel a genuine connection to the material. This connection translates directly into their teaching. They naturally incorporate stories, examples and analogies in ways that resonate with them personally, making the content more relatable and engaging for students.
  • Love of the process: Passionate teachers don't just enjoy the outcome of successful learning; they find joy in the process. This leads to a willingness to experiment with different teaching methods, to research new ideas, and to put in extra effort to make sure the material is both accessible and stimulating for their students. Intrinsic motivation, fueled by passion, opens the door for creativity.
  • Irresistible enthusiasm: Passion is contagious. When a teacher demonstrates excitement and enthusiasm for a subject, students can't help but be drawn into the energy of the classroom. A passionate teacher's interest in the material shines through, inspiring students to engage more deeply in the learning process.

Inspiring Curiosity

A teacher's genuine enthusiasm and passion for a subject can act as a powerful force in unlocking students' natural curiosity and fostering a lifelong love of learning in a number of ways. This can look like: 

  • Unveiling the unexpected: Passionate teachers can transform a textbook topic into a fascinating adventure. They paint vivid pictures, share personal anecdotes, and create a sense of awe and wonder around the subject. This unexpected engagement sparks students' curiosity and motivates them to discover more on their own.
  • Making connections: A teacher who truly loves their subject can seamlessly connect seemingly disparate ideas, making the learning process more engaging and relevant to students' lives. They encourage students to see the bigger picture, explore connections between different subjects, and ultimately, appreciate the intrinsic value of knowledge.
  • Role modeling curiosity: Passionate teachers don't claim to have all the answers. They openly acknowledge they are still learning and encourage students to be curious, to ask questions, and to explore different perspectives. This role-modeling behavior empowers students to take ownership of their learning and embrace their own natural inquisitive nature.

Positive Learning Environment

A teacher's passion can be a powerful tool for cultivating a supportive and positive learning environment, fostering student growth and well-being in several ways.3 By injecting their passion into the classroom environment, teachers can create a space where students feel supported, celebrated and motivated to grow both academically and personally. This positive environment can empower them to reach their full potential and thrive as individuals. Here are some ways that might be seen in action: 

  • Building trust and connection: A teacher who truly cares about their subject and their students naturally fosters trust and connection. Their genuine enthusiasm creates a sense of open communication, allowing students to feel comfortable asking questions, seeking help and taking academic risks.
  • Cultivating a safe space: Passionate teachers understand that learning requires a safe and supportive environment where students feel comfortable assisting peers, offering constructive feedback and celebrating each other's successes. They create a classroom where students feel respected and free from judgment, fostering a sense of belonging and psychological safety essential for optimal learning and personal growth.
  • Celebrating mistakes and growth mindset: Passionate teachers value the learning process rather than solely achieving the end result. They celebrate mistakes as opportunities for growth, encouraging their students to embrace challenges, learn from setbacks and persevere through difficulties. This fosters a growth mindset and promotes resilience, key skills for success in academics and beyond.3 In turn, this mindset can help inspire students to view challenges with a positive outlook, embrace new opportunities with confidence and work toward developing a sense of their own intrinsic motivation to learn and grow.

Resilience and Persistence

I know this one will resonate with my fellow teachers. Passion can equip teachers with the resilience and persistence needed to overcome challenges and navigate the many educational complexities that might be experienced in and out of the classroom. Some examples may be:

  • Fueling determination: Passion can fuel internal motivation and determination. Teachers energized by their subject area or commitment to their students are driven from within. Challenges and setbacks are more likely to be viewed as opportunities for growth instead of demoralizing roadblocks. In addition, passionate teachers often recognize the impact they have on students' lives and they maintain focus on those reasons during tough times. This sense of purpose provides an anchor to prevent burnout and encourages persistence even when obstacles arise.
  • The power of perspective: Passion allows teachers to maintain a broader perspective. When difficulties surface, passionate educators can step back and recognize them as part of the larger journey of education. They're less likely to become overwhelmed or discouraged by short-term setbacks, focusing instead on the long-term goals of supporting student growth. In fact, that passion can drive those problem-solving skills. When challenges arise, passionate teachers can often look beyond standard solutions, seeking innovative approaches that will both overcome obstacles and better serve their students.3
  • Nurturing a growth mindset: Passionate teachers embody a growth mindset.3 They understand that even challenges serve as opportunities for their professional growth. These teachers remain adaptable and eager to learn new strategies, embracing the complexities of the education system as a catalyst for personal and professional development.

The Joys of Teaching

Witnessing students' growth and understanding can bring teachers an immense sense of intrinsic joy, exceeding external rewards. Here are a few joys I have experienced as an educator in the classroom:

Making a Difference

The intrinsic joy experienced by teachers goes beyond simply witnessing academic achievement. It's about witnessing the potential of their students unfold, knowing they contributed to shaping bright and capable individuals, and fulfilling a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in their teaching journey. This joy stems from several interconnected elements, such as: 

  • Human flourishing: Teachers often enter the profession driven by a desire to make a positive impact on the lives of their students. Seeing their students grasp complex concepts, overcome learning challenges and achieve their personal best can fulfill this purpose and bring satisfaction beyond personal gain. Seeing their students develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities and a thirst for knowledge can provide teachers with a sense of contributing to the betterment of society. They recognize the long-term impact they are making and take pride in shaping well-rounded individuals who will potentially contribute to the world in a positive way.
  • Witnessing transformation: The journey from struggle to understanding is immensely rewarding to be a part of this transformation. Watching a student work through a challenging topic and experience the "aha moment" of clarity, ignites a sense of joy in passionate teachers. They take pride in facilitating this transformation and witnessing the potential of their students develop. Witnessing students' growth can validate the time and effort a teacher dedicates to crafting engaging lessons, providing individualized support and fostering a positive learning environment. It can serve as a tangible confirmation that their teaching methods are effective and making a difference.

Fulfillment and Purpose

Teaching offers educators a profound opportunity to make a lasting positive contribution to society while experiencing a deep sense of purpose in their careers. In short, teaching can be a powerful act of service to both individuals and society as a whole. By dedicating themselves to the growth and development of young people, teachers contribute directly to the betterment of the world and work toward build a more promising future for generations to come in a number of ways, such as: 

  • Shaping future generations: Teachers play a vital role in molding the minds and character of future generations. They impart not only knowledge but also fundamental life skills, values and a sense of social responsibility. By nurturing students' intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and empathetic outlook, teachers help shape the adaptable, resilient and engaged leaders, innovators and responsible citizens who will build the world of tomorrow.
  • Empowering individuals: Teachers empower students with the gift of knowledge and the tools for success. By providing a supportive learning environment and guiding students to tap into their potential, teachers open doors to greater opportunities, personal growth and a fulfilling life. This empowerment can have a ripple effect throughout society, creating a more skilled and informed society.
  • Personal fulfillment: The impact they make on the lives of their students can provide teachers with a profound sense of purpose. Witnessing their students' growth, achievements and positive contributions to society can bring deep meaning and satisfaction that goes beyond material rewards. Teaching allows individuals to leave a lasting legacy while deriving a sense of fulfillment throughout their careers.

Lifelong Learning

Engaging with students and exploring new teaching methods can be fundamental in cultivating a culture of continuous learning and growth for educators. In essence, engaging authentically with students and embracing new teaching methods transforms the classroom into a dynamic learning environment for teachers and students alike. It positions teachers as active learners, constantly seeking ways to expand their knowledge and practices, ultimately leading to more effective teaching and a potentially more fulfilling career. Here's why:

  • Student feedback as catalyst: Engaging deeply with students can provide them with a voice in their learning experience. Teachers can solicit feedback, observe learning styles and understand the impact of their methods. This feedback becomes a powerful tool for reflection, allowing teachers to identify their strengths, areas for improvement and new strategies to better reach and engage their students.
  • Embracing experimentation: Exploring new teaching methods can encourage a mindset of experimentation and a willingness to take calculated risks. It pushes teachers out of their comfort zones, challenging them to adapt and innovate, leading to enhanced professional growth.
  • Addressing challenges creatively: When teachers encounter challenges or observe students struggling with a particular concept, seeking out new approaches can spark creativity and innovation. Instead of relying on familiar methods, it drives teachers to explore fresh perspectives and find novel solutions to effectively address the needs of their students.
  • Breaking routine: Exploring new teaching methods can help prevent educators from falling into stagnant routines. It maintains enthusiasm, fosters a sense of excitement toward teaching and combats the risk of burnout.
  • Peer collaboration and inspiration: When teachers experiment with new approaches, they create opportunities to share their successes and challenges with colleagues. This can lead to collaborative problem-solving, mentoring relationships and a supportive culture where educators learn from and inspire each other.

Explore Degree Options for Teachers

So, dear educators, whether you are just beginning your journey or a long-tenured and veteran teacher, we must not forget our passion for our profession. A teacher's passion can fuel their dedication, creativity and infectious enthusiasm, sparking curiosity and a love of learning within their students. This can help foster a supportive and positive learning environment, nurturing student growth and well-being — and we know it doesn't end there. Ultimately, a passionate teacher's dedication creates a ripple effect, shaping future generations, empowering individuals and fostering a more informed and engaged society. 

The journey of teaching is a lifelong pursuit, one that can bring immense fulfillment and leave a lasting legacy on the world. So, I urge you to continue pursuing the passion for teaching and recognizing the joy that it can bring, especially in our times of difficulty or doubt; when it seems as if we have lost our passion for teaching. Recognize that it is your passion that can ignite young minds and nurture the potential within yourself and those around you to reach overall human flourishing.

If you are ready to ignite your passion for teaching, Grand Canyon University offers numerous accredited degree programs for aspiring and veteran educators. Whether you are just getting started in your teaching career or are looking for advancement opportunities, GCU’s College of Education is ready to help you fulfill your goals.


1 Good Reads. William Arthur Ward quotes. Retrieved on March 1, 2024. 

2 Chen, P., Lin, Y., Pereira, D. J. H., O'Keefe, P. A., & Yates, J. F. (2021). Fanning the flames of passion: A develop mindset predicts strategy-use intentions to cultivate passion. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 634903. Retrieved on March 1, 2024 

3 Serin, H. (2023, Apr. 7). Effective teaching: Passion and commitment. International Journal of Social Sciences & Educational Studies, 10(3). Retrieved on March 1, 2024. 

Approved by the associate dean for the College of Education on March 13, 2024.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.