Translation:Vera Ivanovna is our favorite teacher.
I asked my Russian girlfriend. She says that when you approach a female teacher, you would address her using the feminine word for teacher. But when you talk about her with someone else, you'd usually use the general masculine word for teacher. (I hope I delivered her message right)
Even the highest magistrates are called publicly by baptismal name + patronymic, like saying "Привет, Владимир Владимирович!" as one sees him being addressed in TV interviews.
I guess some of this usage came from Soviet times, to give the impression the leaders were people from the people, товарищи. In Czarist times, good manners would probably demand a more frequent usage of titles.
I first learned that these soft ended '-тель' forms take the gender of the person that they refer to.
It's was seen as necessary part of the 100 or so years of egalitarian socialism that most recently sculped the language-- aided by the fact that almoat all professions are of this gramatically genderless '-тел' form.
I was at МГУ, so I think this is at least 'officially' authoritative.
Unfortunately, you have two options if a noun ends in a soft sign:
- a feminine noun like мышь, ночь, мать, болезнь, кость, тень.
- it is a consonant-ending masculine noun just like стул or телевизор but with a patalised consonant at the end: день, февраль, конь, олень, медведь, гость, словарь.
Nouns derived from verbs using - тель are all masculine. Some examples include учитель "teacher", родитель "parent", выключатель "on/off switch", свидетель "witness", создатель "creator". The suffix is very similar to -er in English, i.e. if someone were to drive (водить) that person is a driver (водитель).
-арь acts the same way but it's not a very common suffix (словарь, библиотекарь, бунтарь), though it has a foreign origin so you can see it in words where the source language already had it (секретарь, слесарь, аптекарь)
All month names are masculine nouns.
Abstract nouns derived from adjectives through the addition of -ость are feminine: мудрость "wisdom", скорость "speed, velocity", слабость "weakness", относительность "relativity", выносливость "endurance".
If a noun ends in -чь, -щь, -жь, -шь it is always feminine. Masculine words are spelt without -ь after hushes (e.g., борщ, луч, нож).
TL;DR: consult the dictionary when you encounter a new word of this type, and it is not built in a way you know what the gender should be.