Kate Sundquist 4 min read Recommendation Letters

How to Build Strong Relationships With Your High School Teachers

Teachers are not just there to share classroom knowledge; they can also be great mentors for your personal development throughout high school, and beyond. Some students end up staying in touch with their teachers for years to follow. 

 

On a more logistical side, it’s also important to build strong relationships with your teachers for college letters of recommendation. Most colleges require at least two teacher rec letters, and the better your teacher knows you, the more likely their letter will stand out.

 

It can be difficult to get to know your teacher in a classroom setting though, and students are also often apprehensive about approaching teachers outside of class. In this post, we’ll suggest some ways you can build a strong relationship with your teachers as organically as possible. 

 

Ways to Build Strong Relationships with Your High School Teachers

 

 

1. Participate in Class

 

For recommendation letters, your teacher will need to have a good sense of who you are as a student, but they won’t know much about you if you never speak up in class. Teachers are also more likely to engage with students who engage with them, and leave a positive impression through their preparedness for class. 

 

If you want to build a positive relationship with your teachers, you’ll need to be an active participant in their class. Try to regularly contribute to classroom discussion, and don’t hesitate to ask for clarification on a concept. If you have a question about the material, other classmates likely have the same one. Make it a goal to speak up at least once per class, or even more, if there’s a classroom discussion.

 

2. Ask them for help with your work

 

Teachers often have open periods or office hours where you can go to them for help. Attending these open periods shows your dedication to the class and your willingness to put in the extra work to be successful. 

 

It’s not as simple as just showing up, though. Come armed with clarifying questions or topics of conversation that you’re genuinely interested in, and that you can’t easily answer on your own. Your questions shouldn’t be trivial (i.e. “what decimal place should I round to?”—this can be answered quickly after class). 

 

You don’t need to have a major issue to go to your teacher for help, though. Some reasons to seek them out might be to discuss an essay idea, or to work through a tough math problem. This time is also a valuable opportunity for you to get to know your teacher, and for them to get to know you as an individual. Try to go regularly—bi-weekly or monthly—or more frequently, if you find the sessions especially helpful.

 

3. Be Open About Your Life and Goals

 

People respond well to honesty, vulnerability, and emotion. It’s okay to be real with your teachers—this kind of openness fosters a close, strong relationship. Be honest about both your successes and your struggles. These can be academic, but they can also be personal, like a fight with a friend. Being open allows you to show trust in them. 

 

You should also share your goals, whether these are academic, professional, or personal. Teachers will become invested in your personal and professional success, on top of your academic success, if you share your aspirations with them. They may also have valuable insight gained through experience that will be useful to you in pursuing your goals. 

 

Finally, be sure to be reciprocate. Don’t always talk about yourself—that gets too one-sided, even to invested adults like teachers. Be sure to ask them about their lives, too. It’s as simple as asking if they have plans for the weekend or the school break, or how their family is doing (if you know they have one). You can also ask how they ended up becoming a teacher. Asking teachers about their professional journey is a great way to learn more about them, while gaining professional insight for yourself. 

 

4. Join Extracurriculars That They Coach or Advise

 

Another great way to build relationships with your high school teachers is by getting to know them in other contexts. Joining a team they coach or an extracurricular they advise allows your teachers to see another side of you (and you to see another side of your teachers).

 

You obviously shouldn’t be disingenuous and join a club you’re not interested in, but if you’re already curious about an activity they lead, such as debate or theater, you should give it a try. It may not end up being something you excel at, and that’s okay. Simply trying something new and giving it your all is always admirable. This will also provide great material for a strong, more nuanced letter of recommendation. 

 

Final Thoughts 

 

Remember that consistency is key for any kind of relationship. Getting to know someone requires regular contact over time. Make an effort to connect with a few teachers you especially like, and stay in touch with them, even if you aren’t in their classes anymore. 

 

While it’s natural to be intimidated by a teacher who is in a position of authority, remember that teachers are not there to intimidate you. They are there to mentor and teach you during your important high school years. Your teachers are an invaluable resource, ready to share the knowledge and insights they’ve gained through their own personal and professional life. In addition, building strong relationships with your high school teachers will inevitably lead to a more authentic letter of recommendation when college application season rolls around. 

 

For more information about getting the best letters of recommendation possible, check out these posts:

 

How to Pick Which Teachers to Ask for Letters of Recommendation

9 Rules For Requesting Letters of Recommendation from Teachers

Applying to College: How to Get a Great Recommendation Letter

 

For more college admissions resources, we invite you to check out our YouTube channel, where we post regular videos on topics from improving your extracurriculars to getting into the Ivy League. We also host a weekly Q&A, where we answer your most pressing questions.

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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.