Tips for Teachers – Resume, Cover Letter and Networking

by Sharon Elber


Whether you plan to teach in pre-school, elementary, or secondary school, the best teaching jobs are highly competitive. In order to land the spot that will put your best skills and passions to work, it is critical that your resume and cover letter grab the attention of the hiring committee and convey your most relevant strengths.

This guide will explore best practices for teachers so that your application materials will stand out from the rest!

Resumes for Teachers

The ideal teaching resume is generally 2 pages long. The most important objective for this important document is to communicate your fit for the position you are applying for. Chances are, you will need to significantly customize your resume for each job that you are applying for in order to best highlight your fit.

Hopefully you have taken your time to review the job advertisement, research the district and the school to learn more about their student population and teaching philosophy, and reach out to any contacts you have to gain insights about the learning environment at the school. This is all valuable information to have before you finalize your resume.

Remember that the principal and/or hiring committee will likely only spend a few seconds to a few minutes on each resume in the initial review round. This means your design choices should make the most important information easy to find. Modern education resumes should use elements such as lines, bolded text, and/or columns to help break up the information without making the document look cluttered.

Here are a few additional tips to help you craft a resume that will get you noticed:

1) Emphasize Classroom Technology Skills

One of the ways in which education continues to change is through new classroom technologies designed to facilitate learning. More and more, high school (and to a lesser extent elementary school) teachers need to be able to translate lessons across various different platforms and types of media. And, not surprisingly, employers are keen to hire new faculty who are up to date on their classroom tech skills.

If you decide to include a skill section at the top of your teaching resume, this is one place where you can be specific with technology that you are comfortable with, such as whiteboards, digital portfolios, or online education suites such as Google Classroom or Seesaw.

2) Keywords for Teachers

If you are applying for a job teaching in a large school district, the odds are good that they may be using an automated applicant tracking system, in other words a computer, to scan the first round of job applicants. In order to make sure your resume and cover letter make it to the next round where people will review your qualifications, it makes sense to generously pepper your resume and cover letter with words that these programs are designed to look for.

The first step is to carefully mirror the language used in the job ad itself, as long as doing so accurately reflects your skills and work experience. In addition, be sure to include both abbreviations and full names for important certifications that are relevant to the state you teach. Finally, use industry buzzwords that are current and timely to make sure you not only communicate your strength as a candidate, but you also make an impression in the digital review phase.

Note that whether you teach elementary or secondary education, as well as the subject you teach, can make a big difference in terms of which keywords are likely to be used. Here are some strong education keywords to consider:

  • Student guided learning
  • Learner centered
  • Classroom technology
  • Positive learning environment
  • Strategic curriculum
  • Individual Education Plan (IEP)
  • Peer teaching
  • Cooperative learning
  • Critical thinking
  • Inclusive classroom
  • Classroom management
  • Research based pedagogy
  • Digital literacy

3) The Teaching Portfolio

Although a full description of how to write a strong teacher portfolio is outside the scope of this article, it is a good time to emphasize how important the portfolio can be to landing a job. In fact, it can be just as important as the resume.

Make sure your teaching portfolio clearly provides your teaching philosophy, along with materials such as lesson plans, student feedback, performance evaluations, or video of your classroom that support that philosophy. In addition, consider the portfolio as a form of “evidence” for the claims you will make in your cover letter and resume. Try to include items that will showcase the special skills and qualifications that make you a strong candidate for the job you are applying for.

4) Be Results-Oriented

Whenever possible, throughout all of your application materials, try to bring the focus to quantifiable results that showcase your commitment to helping students achieve higher scores on standardized learning, stronger rates of parental involvement in learning, and/or student engagement in the classroom. These kinds of quantified results go a long way to proving your solid teaching skills to those making hiring decisions.

5) Resume Sections for Teachers

The following sections are the most typical for elementary and secondary teaching resumes:

  • Contact Information
  • Professional Profile
  • Skills Summary
  • Education and Certifications
  • Experience
  • Honors and Awards

i) Professional Profile

Also known as a professional summary, this is your chance to really showcase the top qualifications, achievements, experiences, and passions that make you the top candidate for the precise position you are applying for. Using three to four sentences, this is the “elevator pitch” of your resume.

Rather than making something generic, put yourself in the principal’s shoes and ask yourself: Is this someone I would want to invest my time to get to know better for this job? If the answer is no, keep working on this critical section of your teaching resume.

ii) Experience

The experience section of your resume is where you will list your work history. Although it is true that you can and should list relevant responsibilities that you held in previous positions, it is also important to try to word them in ways that show off achievements and/or quantifiable results where possible.

For example, “Taught algebra, trigonometry, and introduction to calculus” is a very broad statement that tells the reader little about how effective you were as a teacher. Instead “Developed a learner focused math curriculum that improved student performance on the math portion of the SAT by an average of 58 points over the previous year” allows the person reading your resume to see that you are results oriented and can effectively give your students the tools and knowledge they need to succeed.

iii) Honors and Awards

If you are an inexperienced teacher, you may be able to get away with skipping this section if you don’t have anything relevant to include here. However, the farther along you get in your teaching career, the more important it is to showcase that you caught the attention of administrators, students, parents, or other teachers for your outstanding efforts.

These awards need not be directly related to your teaching in order to be relevant. For example, you may have led extracurricular activities with your students on an environmental initiative and earned a “Green Teacher of the Year Award” as a direct result of your hard work. It still helps to show that you are a committed and active member of your school’s community.

See education resume samples.

Teacher Cover Letters

The cover letter is not an afterthought. In fact, it is your opportunity to really make the case that you are the best candidate for the position you are applying for. Take your time to customize it for each and every job you apply for. Here are a few tips to make the most of it:

1) Customize Your Narrative

The cover letter is your place to tell a story that ties together your resume and teaching portfolio into a compelling narrative about who you are as a teacher. It is important to understand that each individual teaching job is slightly different. That is, although the subject matter or grade levels may be a constant, the individual needs of the school and the specific population of students you will serve will vary from one job to another.

Take your time reading over the job ad and doing some independent research for each teaching job you apply for. Tweak your resume to highlight those skills, passions, and experiences that most fit the needs of the position and use your cover letter to emphasize these same elements. This shows the hiring decision makers that you understand their specific needs and are ready to excel in terms of meeting them.

2) If You Are Inexperienced…

If you have recently completed your college, certification exams, and practicums then you may be competing against more experienced candidates. Use the cover letter to emphasize the relevant experiences you do have, mention your proficiency with the latest in classroom technologies, and relate your passion for teaching. These qualities can help convey to the hiring team that your recent degree is an asset to consider carefully.

You may also have some related teaching experiences outside of the classroom that can help to make the case that you excel in a learning environment with children of the age you will be working with. For example, you may have taught workshops at a day camp, volunteered to tutor literacy among underprivileged youth, or taught bible school at your church. If you lack direct exposure to the classroom, these experiences can make a difference in terms of how you are perceived by potential employers.

3) Bullet Points Can Benefit Your Teaching Cover Letter

If you have a great deal of experience and significant achievements that make you a perfect fit for a teaching job, then it might be wise to include a 3-5 bullet list in your cover letter. Keep the language concise, but strong, to make the most of this visual tool. Using a bullet list should ultimately allow you to cover more details in less space while also bringing visual attention to your strongest qualifications. Otherwise, it’s not a good use of this design tool.

4) Assets Beyond the Classroom

While it should not be the focus of your cover letter, it can be advantageous to devote a few sentences here to the qualifications that you bring that can contribute to the overall community in your school. For example, as a teacher you will be expected to take on service responsibilities, engage with parents, or help with curriculum and instruction. If you have a sense of where your interests and skills would best contribute to the larger school environment, then the cover letter is a place to consider adding this information, especially if it maps onto the job advertisement.

See education cover letter samples.

Professional Networking for Teachers

Having a strong network in place can help you stay up to date on the latest in classroom technology, as well as generate important leads on exciting opportunities throughout your career. Here are some tips tailored to building a network for educators:

1) People You Work With

Whether you are still in school preparing for your career in education or are more advanced in your career, it is important to start building your professional network by connecting with people that you work with along the way. These people who can speak to your work ethic, passion, dedication, and talent are your most powerful professional assets.

Add the people you meet to your professional network. Online platforms such as LinkedIn are the best way to keep these contacts organized and easy to keep in touch with. If you are in the job search, make sure they are aware of that fact, and consider asking them to review your application materials or give you perspective on your online presence so that you can make sure you are putting your best foot forward. In addition, don’t be afraid to approach these contacts for a letter of recommendation or job referral.

2) LinkedIn for Teachers

Teachers, like most professionals, can strongly benefit from this professional social media platform. It is a great platform for making sure your most up to date teaching experiences, credentials, and specific skillset is visible and searchable for potential recruiters. In addition, it allows you to keep your professional connections all in one place in a way that is easy to stay in touch to keep those contacts fresh.

LinkedIn also offers outstanding opportunities to join PLNs (more in the next section) which can be a huge asset in terms of helping you stay current as well as network building. However, you can’t just set up your profile and walk away if you want to make the most of this platform. Set aside some time once a week to engage on other people’s posts, handle correspondence, and post your own content that will show off some of your best ideas or experiences from the classroom.

One thing to be aware of when posting on any public site, such as LinkedIn, is that you do not violate student confidentiality. Review your school’s policy on student privacy and social media for specific guidance. And, be sure to get appropriate consent from students and their parents before sharing about specific projects you are working on in ways that can include things such as images or names of your students.

3) Professional Learning Network (PLN)

A professional learning network is, in short, a collection of educators who share resources, lesson plans, experiences, and other teaching tools to help each other grow and learn from the perspectives of others. These PLNs can be both a way to stay current with the latest classroom technologies and teaching techniques, but also a valuable professional network.

There are a wide variety of websites devoted to creating space for PLNs. Do some online research to find one that meets your needs best depending on the age of students you teach, the subject, and the types of resource you are most interested in sharing. If you meet other teachers and/or education administrators along the way, be sure to connect with them on your regular social media channels to maximize the online relationship building that you do.

4) Teaching Organizations

Finally, one of the best ways to meet other educators is to join professional organizations devoted to teaching. Consider going beyond paying your annual dues and make an effort to attend at least one conference each year (it may even be paid by your school district). In addition, keep up with the latest trends in your discipline by actually reading their newsletters and other publications. And, don’t be shy about approaching people that you click with to add to your online professional network.

If you are aiming to grow your career beyond the classroom to take on leadership roles in your school or district administration, then active participation in teaching organizations is going to be critical to your career advancement. Consider taking on a leadership role such as editing publications, treasurer, or serving on a committee to make the most of your membership.

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