Four Steps to a Polished Teaching Portfolio

To stand out from the crowd and get ahead of the competition, putting together a teaching portfolio that highlights your strengths and teaching persona can help get you to the front of the line for your next interview.

Four Steps to a Polished Teaching Portfolio

When it comes to standing out from the crowd, a strong resume is key. But to truly get ahead of the competition, putting together a teaching portfolio can help get you to the front of the line for an interview.

When done right, a teaching portfolio pulls together the best evidence of who you are as an educator. It’s also one of the best ways to self-reflect and improve upon your teaching and learning cycle.

Step 1: Start early and update frequently.

It can be stressful to locate artifacts when under a time crunch. And if you’ve already passed back assignments, who knows if you’ll ever see them again. Not to mention the fact that once a class has come to an end — or you’ve resigned from a school — it can be impossible to pull the quantitative data needed to prove your results. So, your best bet is to collect artifacts early and year-round — even if you’re not currently looking for a new job or to start another degree program. A common pitfall we see with candidates is that their last artifacts were collected when they were student teachers — though they’ve been teaching for two or more years! If this is the case, it’s highly likely you’ve strengthened your own skillset, which means your student artifacts and your student data have also likely improved. Grab the examples that put your best foot forward, and lead with that!

Pro Tip: Even if you don’t end up using the artifacts for a portfolio, they’re great as examples for students the next year you teach the assignment.

Step 2: Carefully select materials that highlight your strengths.

Be sure to showcase multiple aspects of your work. A small set of well-chosen documents not only provides evidence of your results as an educator, it also shows the level of thoughtfulness you’ve put into telling your story. When choosing student artifacts, remember to show what you did to help get the student there. For example, take a screenshot of an anonymized student’s first draft essay with your feedback or graded rubric, their revised draft with your updated feedback, and then their graded final copy.

Always be prepared to discuss your artifacts in greater depth. And just like with your resume, review your portfolio before any phone screen or interview with a school. Even better—have it in front of you to reference as needed! You never want to come across surprised when the school asks you about your results and teaching strategies.

What to include?

  • A unit plan. What you share should be the best example of how you actually plan, not how you think the school wants you to plan. When it comes to your interview, you can talk about how you will align to the school’s planning requirements. Remember, if you don’t align — or won’t align — it’s best to know that up front because the school may not be the best fit for you. And that’s ok.
  • A unit assessment and collective student data. With this you want to show an anonymized, graded pre-test and a post-test with a written explanation of how you used the pre-test data to increase those post-test scores. You’ll also want to show the class’ collective data on those pre and post-tests.
  • A lesson plan. As with the unit plan, show the school an exemplar of what you typically submit, with an explanation of how you use the plan as a guide when teaching.
  • 1-2 anonymized student work samples (i.e. one essay and one project). Remember that the samples should showcase the work you did to help students grow and improve. This might mean that the student work isn’t an ‘A’. Maybe you helped a failing student move to a ‘C’ — or got a perfect rule follower to really challenge themselves. These are great examples of who you are as a teacher and help to show your teaching philosophy in action.
  • 2-3 letters of recommendation. You’ll want to update these frequently, especially as your school or role changes. Get letters of recommendation from supervisors and close colleagues who can attest to your work ethic.
  • 2-3 professional references. These don’t have to be the same people as your letters of recommendation, but it never hurts! Ask your supervisors and colleagues for permission to share their contact information, and by including it in your portfolio, you can remove some of the back and forth that tends to happen in the interview process.
  • An example of a family and/or student survey. This is a great way to show how you gather qualitative feedback from the people who matter most, and an opportunity to show what your students and their families thought of working with you.

Pro Tip: If you’re including photos of yourself, make sure you’re in professional dress. If you plan to use photos or videos with student faces — don’t forget that permission from their legal guardian is needed.

Step 3: Add context and explain your artifacts.

This is critical. And it’s your chance to tell your story — how far you’ve come and how you hope to grow and strengthen your skillset moving forward. Again, make sure it’s clear what part you played in your students’ academic achievement as this will help a school better understand what you bring to the table. The artifacts don’t have to be perfect — if you’re proud of them and they showcase your work with students and families, speak to them. A well written explanation shows your ability to reflect and grow, and whether or not you’ll be coachable in the work you do at your next school.

Step 4: Organize your materials.

Whether you’re creating a pdf document, compiling a Google Drive folder, or designing a website as your portfolio — make sure it’s clearly organized and that it’s easy to find what the school is looking for.

  • If your artifacts will be compiled into a single document, create a table of contents. Then, don’t forget to save your document as a pdf in order to preserve formatting.
  • If it’s a Google Drive folder, create subfolders that are clearly labeled with what’s inside.
  • If a website, use tabs or a drop-down menu to help viewers navigate the site.

Pro Tip: Check out the following for free and/or low cost options to get started: Wordpress, Wix, Weebly, MyStrikingly, and Squarespace.

Finally, if you plan to print your portfolio and provide your interviewers with a hard copy, use colored folder tabs, tab labels, and paper protectors to polish off the look.

Remember, strong portfolios are a fast way to move to the head of the line when it comes to landing a teaching interview. And how you organize and visually display this information is a hint for interviewers on how you’ll organize your classroom and create your lessons. If you need additional help with your portfolio or want help making your resume as strong as it can be, set up a 1:1 support call with our team of specialists who can provide tailored, individualized support in your job search journey.

The teacher job search has gone virtual! Download a document with our latest tips on acing the virtual job search here.

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