Teacher quality is the most important factor contributing to overall school effectiveness, and teachers require optimal functioning and wellbeing to teach well. Maintaining quality teachers in rural areas is a growing concern worldwide, however, in rural China this is exemplified because it is a disadvantaged area in comparison to their urban counterparts in terms of working conditions, rewards and professional development opportunities. Yet, some rural teachers are so motivated to teach in these areas that they stay and even excel in the teaching profession to help ‘left-behind’ children to learn and thrive in rural regions. This study aims to explore how teachers flourish in rural areas who face some of the greatest social and economic challenges in contemporary China by using an appreciative inquiry approach with mixed- methods. This study is deviated from a traditional focus on remediating stress and incorporates unique Chinese cultural context to examine teacher’s wellbeing via a self-determination theoretical lens. The study identifies the positive factors that will enable policy makers and schools to undertake strategies and actions to address teacher’s wellbeing that enable positive educational outcomes for students. As well, the study has implications for the broader corpus of teacher wellbeing literature on international school community and school effectiveness.