Contact is fundamental to teacher-student relationships, but empirical studies or theoretical frameworks on teacher-student contact are rare. This article describes a theoretical and empirical exploration aimed at building such a framework. In two studies using classroom observations and interviews with teachers and students, we found interesting features of teacher-student contact. We conclude that contact is a very personal experience, in which teachers' ideals and core values play a central role. Using frameworks from other fields, we were able to define teacher-student contact as a two-way interactive process, in which both participants influence each other's cognitive, emotional, motivational and behavioral responses. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.