Resumes & Cover Letters

How to Write a Perfect Teacher Cover Letter (Examples Included)

teacher-cover-letter
Written by Kate Lopaze

Quite simply, teachers rock. They give us so many of the tools we need to get by in life, and in the most Hollywood-ready moments, inspire us to get into poetry and stand on desks. But while we, as a society, see teachers at the head of the classroom, imparting the knowledge one needs to get by in this world, we might not think of the hiring process it takes to get there. But the reality is that every teacher had to go through the very ordinary hiring process to get their jobs, just like everyone else. If you’re a teacher, you want your cover letter to rock every bit as much as you do.

First let’s start with the basics of a good cover letter, and what that means for your job search as an educator.

Necessity #1: A Personalized Introduction

If you’re a teacher, your most basic goal is (most likely) to get a job teaching. Great—it’s the same goal as every other person applying for this open position. Your more specific goal with your cover letter is to make sure that your name and qualifications are as memorable as possible, setting a tone that the reader can carry over into reading your resume. This means that you need to engage the reader up front.

Whenever possible, make sure you’re addressing your letter (or email, if you’re being all modern about it) to someone specific. Before you start putting together your resume/cover letter package, do a little legwork about who will likely be reading this. If the job listing includes a specific name, great! You’re all set. If not, it’s worth doing a little digging online to see who will be on the receiving end.

It’s also important to use the right tone. Definitely don’t go too casual. The fact that you’re likely submitting these online, or writing an email, can lead to a false sense of shortcut familiarity. So even if you’re submitting your cover letter and resume digitally, treat the email like a regular letter.

Potential Obstacle

You’re working with an entirely online application process, with no visibility into who might be reading this. If that’s the case, and all you know is the school or school system where you’re applying, try to find information online about who has hiring responsibility for the school district. If that, too fails, go with a generic address like, “Greetings.” It’s not ideal, but it feels less stiff and formal than the old favorite, “to whom it may concern.”

Good salutation examples:

  • Dear Ms. Rodriguez,
  •  Dear Principal Rodriguez,
  •  Greetings, Ms. Rodriguez,

Bad salutation examples:

  • Dear Mudville Public Schools Administrator (too vague/impersonal)
  •  To Ms. Rodriguez, Superintendent of Mudville Public Schools (too formal—you’re not introducing royalty at a state dinner)
  •  Hi: (too impersonal/casual)
  •  To Whom It May Concern: (too formal/too impersonal)

You want your cover letter to seem professional, but approachable. The salutation helps set that tone. If you make it seem too much like an impersonal form letter, or the stiff letter of a person who is uncomfortable talking about this job application, you run the risk of not engaging the reader. And I think we all know what happens to application packages that don’t engage the reader. (Spoiler alert: they don’t get read.)

Necessity #2: Your Elevator Pitch

You’re an educator. You teach. That may be your elevator pitch in its simplest form, but this is your chance to add some necessary color. You should also be very specific about which position for which you’re applying, because there may be other openings in a variety of different teaching roles. If you think you’re applying for the high school English job and somehow your application gets routed to the pile for the elementary school gym teacher position, your very specific letter ensures that you’ll get to the right hands. Your resume would likely do this as well, but this helps the reader know up front that what position you’re seeking, and why.

And above all, make sure you’re proofreading your letter—and ideally, having a trusted friend look at it as well to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Unfairly or not, teachers are held to the highest standards of grammar and written communication, regardless of whether they teach writing or physics. You know and I know that teachers are human, and prone to mistakes like the rest of us, but you can avoid a lot uncomfortable, unforced errors by adding some extra care with your cover letter.

Good pitch example:

As a secondary math teacher for more than 10 years, I’ve found that my passion for (and commitment to teaching) have only grown with every year. Even with the complexities of the current educational landscape, the feeling of getting through to that student who just wasn’t “getting the hang of it,” or helping advanced students achieve their goals, never gets old. I have dedicated my career to helping students of all levels master the math skills and concepts they need to go on to college and everyday life beyond high school, and would love to continue that path with Mudville High School.

In my current position, I teach algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus to students in grades 9 through 12. Over my ten years of teaching, I’ve made it a point to stay up to date on the most current pedagogy and teaching methods, and use custom lesson planning to develop relevant curricula for students in order to maximize their engagement on complex concepts. I’ve also presented on curriculum planning at the National Federation of Teachers conference, and would bring that enthusiasm and expertise to your school.

Bad pitch examples:

I would love to teach at your school. Please see my attached CV, and let me know if you have any questions.

This is way too little information. Who are you? What experience do you bring? What are you hoping to accomplish in this job? It shouldn’t be a novel about your life, but you should be providing some context for your resume.

Teaching has been my only consuming passion in life. I eat, drink, sleep, and breathe calculus, and will not rest until all of my students are proficient. I have ten years of experience, and will bring nothing but focus and devotion to my next ten years as a math teacher at Mudville High School.

Too…intense. You want to position yourself as a strong candidate, but that doesn’t mean you have to pretend that you don’t have outside skills, interests, or…down time. Readers can see through hyperbole, so it’s best to find a balance between enthusiasm (a necessary part of any job application) and an exaggerated over-sell.

Necessity #3: A Strong Finish

Always have a closing that leaves room for follow-up. Yes, the reader knows that they can email you with any questions, but it’s a conversational way to close out the letter and move the reader on to your resume.

Good closing example:

I would love continue my career as an educator with Mudville Public Schools, with its strong reputation for putting students first. If you have any additional questions or if there’s any additional information I can provide, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I look forward to hearing more about this teaching opportunity.

Bad closing examples:

  • Please let me know more about this job opening. Thanks.
  • I expect to hear from you within a week. Thank you.

In these examples, one teacher suggests that she has put thought and consideration into applying for this particular job. The other teachers, well…one closes with the most generic exit possible, and this adds nothing to the cover letter. In the second bad example, it comes off as too demanding, like the writer is evaluating the reader, not vice versa. I know it can be frustrating when you send your application package into the void and don’t hear back right away, but demanding a response doesn’t guarantee you’ll get one.

A strong closing is important, as it’s one of the few remaining elements between the cover and the resume.

Necessity #4: Keep It Clean

Like with your resume, you want your cover letter to be clear and easy to read. That means:

  • A standard font. This is not the time to test out “fun” fonts. Pick something clean and basic, like Times.
  • No huge blocks of text. In a letter, unbroken paragraphs can look like the ramblings of a manifesto. You want your reader to see a series of separate, elegantly outlined points. Short paragraphs, 2-3 at most.
  • Short length. A cover letter should never be more than a page, and even a full page is definitely pushing it. Brevity is the soul of wit, and the friend of application readers everywhere.

Good letter body example:

As a secondary math teacher for more than 10 years, I’ve found that my passion for (and commitment to teaching) have only grown with every year. Even with the complexities of the current educational landscape, the feeling of getting through to that student who just wasn’t “getting the hang of it,” or helping advanced students achieve their goals, never gets old. I have dedicated my career to helping students of all levels master the math skills and concepts they need to go on to college and everyday life beyond high school, and would love to continue that path with Mudville High School.

 In my current position, I teach algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus to students in grades 9 through 12. Over my ten years of teaching, I’ve made it a point to stay up to date on the most current pedagogy and teaching methods, and use custom lesson planning to develop relevant curricula for students in order to maximize their engagement on complex concepts. I’ve also presented on curriculum planning at the National Federation of Teachers conference, and would bring that enthusiasm and expertise to your school.

 I would love continue my career as an educator with Mudville Public Schools, with its strong reputation for putting students first. If you have any additional questions or if there’s any additional information I can provide, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I look forward to hearing more about this teaching opportunity.

Bad letter body example:

As a secondary math teacher for more than 10 years, I’ve found that my passion for (and commitment to teaching) have only grown with every year. Even with the complexities of the current educational landscape, the feeling of getting through to that student who just wasn’t “getting the hang of it,” or helping advanced students achieve their goals, never gets old. I have dedicated my career to helping students of all levels master the math skills and concepts they need to go on to college and everyday life beyond high school, and would love to continue that path with Mudville High School. In my current position, I teach algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus to students in grades 9 through 12. Over my ten years of teaching, I’ve made it a point to stay up to date on the most current pedagogy and teaching methods, and use custom lesson planning to develop relevant curricula for students in order to maximize their engagement on complex concepts. I’ve also presented on curriculum planning at the National Federation of Teachers conference, and would bring that enthusiasm and expertise to your school. I would love continue my career as an educator with Mudville Public Schools, with its strong reputation for putting students first. If you have any additional questions or if there’s any additional information I can provide, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I look forward to hearing more about this teaching opportunity.

One of these letters is clear and readable. The other is not. If the reader can’t get through your letter and know several things about you right away, it decreases the odds that your resume will click with him or her—and may even prevent someone from looking at the attached resume at all.

Once you’ve got the body of the letter in shape, all that’s left is the closing. Like the salutation, you want to err on the side of formal, but friendly.

Good closing examples:

  • Best wishes,
  •  Sincerely,

Bad examples:

  • Thanks. (brusque tone)
  • Fondest wishes, (too flowery)
  •  [name—no greeting] (too abrupt)
  •  Let me know, (too informal and oddly personal)

And with that, you’ve got your cover letter! Teachers are taking on an incredible commitment, and that means that those hiring them are looking for the most put-together, obviously qualified applicants available. You can have an amazing resume, but if you aren’t making your case with your cover letter, you’re missing out on an opportunity to really set the narrative and the tone for your application.

Let’s take a last look at the good sample cover letter as a whole:

 Dear Principal Rodriquez,

 As a secondary math teacher for more than 10 years, I’ve found that my passion for (and commitment to teaching) have only grown with every year. Even with the complexities of the current educational landscape, the feeling of getting through to that student who just wasn’t “getting the hang of it,” or helping advanced students achieve their goals, never gets old. I have dedicated my career to helping students of all levels master the math skills and concepts they need to go on to college and everyday life beyond high school, and would love to continue that path with Mudville High School.

In my current position, I teach algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus to students in grades 9 through 12. Over my ten years of teaching, I’ve made it a point to stay up to date on the most current pedagogy and teaching methods, and use custom lesson planning to develop relevant curricula for students in order to maximize their engagement on complex concepts. I’ve also presented on curriculum planning at the National Federation of Teachers conference, and would bring that enthusiasm and expertise to your school.

I would love continue my career as an educator with Mudville Public Schools, with its strong reputation for putting students first. If you have any additional questions or if there’s any additional information I can provide, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thanks for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing more about this teaching opportunity.

 Sincerely,

Rosemarie Jones

 

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