222222222222222 Do You Know the Difference Between Mentor, Coach & Teacher

What is the Difference Between Coach, Mentor and Teacher?

by Adalia on April 11, 2012

I was reading an article on Michelle Shaeffer’s blog and was draw to these words “I am a teacher not a coach.” (edited).  Hmm, this is interesting. I have been on the internet for a couple of years and this was a first – reading about someone who clearly defined her role of helping entrepreneurs as a teacher.   Not a coach. Not a mentor. A teacher.

Michelle’s statement aroused my curiosity. Somewhere in the back of my mind I have wondered about the difference between a coach and a mentor but not so with a teacher, for me, teacher was clearly defined. I was determine to have a clear understanding of the difference between a coach, a mentor and a teacher. And a blog post was born.

So, what is the difference between a teacher, a mentor and a coach?

Do you have any confusion in this area?

My findings


A couple of years ago when the word coach was mentioned, I visualized someone who coached athletes. When I started my online journey, the definition of a coach took on a whole new meaning.

From Google:

Noun: An athletic instructor or trainer.

Verb: Train or instruct (a team or player).

Synonyms:  Noun:  trainer – tutor

Verb:  train – teach – practice – educate – tutor

Wikipedia: The purpose of coaching is to help others move forward from their present situation. The individual getting coached may be referred to as the client, the mentee or coachee.

International coaching Community: In coaching, the coach is not the expert, coaching does not give answers, but asks questions. Coaching explores the present and designs the future for the client, the client learns in the process, but the coach does not teach directly.


This name has a fascinating history: the first MENTOR was a character from Homer’s epic tale, The Odyssey.

When Odyssesus, King of Ithaca, took off to fight the Trojan War, the care and education of his son, Telemachus, was left in the hands of his trusted friend MENTOR.


From Google:

Noun:  adviser

Verb: to advise or train someone

Synonyms: adviser – preceptor – monitor – counselor – tutor

Wikipedia: someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.

Mentor Scout.com: A mentor is a coach, guide, tutor, facilitator, counselor and trusted advisor. A mentor is someone willing to spend his or her time and expertise to guide the development of another person.

Ask .com: A mentor is an individual, usually older, always more experienced, who helps and guides another individual’s development. This guidance is not done for personal gain.


I was never confused about the meaning of teacher. In kindergarten I understood that a teacher was  someone who taught you “stuff.” As an adult I know that teachers pass on their knowledge and skills to their students.

From Google

Noun: A person who teaches, esp. in a school.

Wikipedia: A teacher or schoolteacher is a person who provides education for pupils (children) and students (adults).

What I learned

Coach: a coach is not teacher A coach is like a guiding light helping you to stay the course to make it safely to your destination. Coaches  can help their clients to achieve a goal even if they do not have the skill or knowledge about that particular goal.

For example: a Health and Fitness Expert wanted to use my service to help him to stay focused and motivated. I could coach him and I did. Even though I have some knowledge about health and fitness from living life, I did not have enough knowledge about the subject  to TEACH or MENTOR him.

Mentor: a mentor is someone who is more knowledgeable than you in a given area and they share this with you as a mentor.  Using the Health and Fitness Expert model – an experienced Health and Fitness Expert can mentor a novice about his/her business. It may appear to be teaching but it’s not … a mentor shares the experience of becoming a Health and Fitness Expert but a teacher is going to tell you “this is what you do to become a Health and Fitness Expert.”

Teacher: the definition for teacher is clearer than the definition of coach and mentor.  There are no grey areas. Teachers impart the knowledge and skills they have to their students.


From my observation, today’s coaches teach and mentor their clients. However, their biggest influence with their clients is through coaching.

From my findings, a mentor can wear many hats: coach, facilitator or guide  but never the hat of a teacher.

Unlike coaching – when someone says “I am your mentor or teacher” he/she is making it very clear what you will be getting from the relationship.

How can these individuals help you to make your dreams real?

  • coaches guide you to perfect your potential
  • mentors share parts of their lives that you can emulate
  • teachers help you with their knowledge and skills

Your turn

Please share your understanding of these three words?

images#1 by: zirconicusso

image #2 by: Stuart Miles

image #3 by: nokhoog_buchachon

image #4 by: Stuart Miles

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine Johnson
April 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Adalia, your article has captured my interest and I’ll be digging out some previously used materials later this week – to me, your distinctions are right on target and I’m reminded of my mentor in Fortune 500 company – I did learn things from him, of course, but it was up to me to ask LOTS of questions. In work I’ve done on this topic, I recall recommending that the mentor and “mentee” negotiate how they will operate together, so the relationship is maximized and the ground rules are understood. Thanks for the interesting topic.


April 14, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Hello Christine, thanks for stopping by. You clearly understand the difference between a mentor, teacher and a coach. I struggled with the definition of a mentor. This what I determined, a mentor is someone you emulate who is more knowledgeable than you in a given area, unlike a coach, who can guide someone to complete his/her nursing degree without being a nurse or even someone in the medical field. Writing this post helped me to gain clarity.


Online Tarot
May 13, 2014 at 5:10 am

There is some great information here and gives one real food for thought…and also helped me understand the differences between each of these terms. So far I’ve had mentors, teachers, and coaches…and I’ve been blessed to have dealt with each of those individuals. It’s amazing how the right person shows up at the right time!
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Adalia May 18, 2014 at 10:46 am

Hi Atell,
I don’t know how important it is to know the difference between a mentor, teacher and a coach. At the end of the day what is important is getting the guidance you need to uncover your potential.

I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts.


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