A professional teacher portfolio is essential to your success. These 9 simple steps will take you through the process and ensure it is always up-to-date.
A Professional Teacher Portfolio is something that you will begin working on as an education major and will be with you throughout your career. It is a tool that tells others who you are when you are not around. It is not a task that should be taken halfheartedly. This is something you will have to invest in.
The following 9 simple steps will take you through the entire process from conception to completion. I have also included tips for interviewing and updating. Bookmark this page, it is one you will want to come back to and visit again and again.
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The 9 Simple Steps
.01 – Electronic vs. Paper
Your district or university will have requirements for your portfolio. You will need to read through these requirements carefully. This will tell you if you need to create a portfolio website or if you need a paper version. I was required to have both for graduate school but only paper for my district.
Personally, I prefer a paper version with a PDF backup as the bridge between the two methods. Having a PDF back-up will aid you in completing teacher applications.
If you go the website method, the following sites are a good place to host your portfolio with little to no cost: Wix, Weebly, PortfolioGen, or Pathbrite. If you have your own domain, I recommend creating a subdomain and using that for your portfolio.
.02 – Branding your Portfolio
Creating your own brand is essential to your success. If you have not read about Branding You, please go back and read this very important article. You will need to consider your brand when creating your portfolio.
I highly recommend ordering a custom binder from Zazzle (Affiliate Link). I purchased my binder from there 10 years ago and it looks brand new. I also have a custom binder that I use for family recipes. Both look great!
.03 – Determing the Structure
How you put the information together will depend upon who will be reviewing your site. Again, check for the specifics your site is requiring. Below are some basic structures that you could use:
.01 Resume & References
.03 Classroom Management
.04 Classroom Design
.05 Lesson Plans
.06 Parent Communication
.07 Certification & Education
.09 Professional Development
.01 Professional Documents
.03 Domain 1
.04 Domain 2
.05 Domain 3
.06 Domain 4
.01 Professional Documents
.02 Component 1
.03 Component 2
.04 Component 3
.05 Component 4
.06 Release Forms
.04 – Collecting Evidence
Once you have determined your structure and what requirements you will need to satisfy you can begin to collect the evidence you will need.
Basic components of your portfolio will include professional documents (cover letter, resume, test scores, certification, college transcripts, and references), lesson plans, student work samples, and your philosophies in regards to teaching and behavior management.
.05 – Request References
You will need at least 3 professional references. Find three people who adore you and ask them to write one for you. It is best if you have one from a colleague, one from a mentor, and one from a supervisor. You need to keep these updated so try to ask someone new each year for a reference.
References from parents are gold! You cannot ask for them but if you can get one from a parent, use it. If your child has a favorite teacher and you think he/she is also great, write them a reference letter. Honestly, there is nothing better that you can do for them than being willing to tel the world how awesome they are.
Student letters. If your student writes you a letter about how great you are. Save it. I store these in my portfolio inside of a page protector. I have one for each year of teaching as I usually collect several each year. These are also references, people just can’t call and verify these as they can with professional references.
.06 – Compiling your Portfolio
You have your custom binder, you know what is expected of you, and you have collected your evidence and resumes. You have a giant pile of stuff in front of you. What do you do next?
My Editable Portfolio Kit is a great resource! It is 80 pages long currently and gives you all the documents you need to create a professional portfolio.
This kit includes a checklist for how to put together your portfolio, worksheets to complete for professional development, course work, and reading materials. The complete Danielson Framework, Section Dividers, and more. All in one easy to use kit. Plus any updates are free. You really can’t lose!
.07 – The Interview Portfolio
An interview portfolio is a smaller version of the main portfolio. I place all of my pages inside a page protector this way when someone is flipping through, the pages still look new. Added bonus, they are easy to shift from one portfolio to the next.
I use a presentation folder for my interview portfolio. Inside is my cover letter, resume, 3 references, philosophy of classroom management, how I handle behavior issues in my room, and 1 sample of student work with the coordinating lesson plan and results of the lesson (data).
This should be 10 pages maximum! Keep it short and sweet. No matter what you want to share, the interview time is going to be limited.
.08 – Get Feedback
Now that you have everything put together, you need to get feedback from a trusted colleague before you ever show it in an interview or to an evaluator.
Ask them if the order it is presented works well, if the evidence you provided answers the questions being asked, and if you need to add anything or take something out. Ask if the materials are presented in a professional manner or if they are “too cute” and need to be mellowed out. Make sure the fonts you used are readable. Ask them what they think the portfolio says about you as a teacher.
Now, take this to someone who is not a teacher who you know will be honest with you. Ask them what they think of the materials. Here you are checking your branding. What are the characteristics of this teacher, what are her strengths, weaknesses, and is there anything that you would change.
One idea, is to trade your portfolio for a friends at a different school. Take it to a teacher who does not know you and have your friend ask the questions. This is a great way to get an outside look at your portfolio before your evaluator does. Use the suggestions you receive to perfect your portfolio.
.09 – Update Frequently
The last section of my portfolio is where I store my evaluations from the previous years. When reviewing these, I look for areas where I can grow as a teacher. These become my goals for the upcoming year. Once a quarter, sit down and look at your goals. Collect evidence for these particular things.
Put your new evidence into the summer folder. Each summer when school let’s out, update your portfolio and resume. Write down the highlights from the year and reflect on what you can do better the following year. This will keep your portfolio fresh and ready for review whenever an evaluator requests it.
What should I purchase?
I am very particular when I purchase or recommend anything. I will not recommend something that I do not personally use. I have rules about purchasing things. I do not like to buy things that break or will have to be replaced soon. I want to buy it once and never (if I can get away with it) purchase it again. I am willing to spend a little more now if it saves me from having to re-do things later.
Why am I telling you this? You need the products that I am recommending. My portfolio is 12 years old. You could never tell. Some of the pages inside are even older. You will not be able to tell. Why? Because I made sure that this portfolio would last my entire career.
Remember when I said a portfolio was an investment? Below are the things you need to invest in.
You will need the archival page protectors to ensure that your evidence is kept safe and does not fade with time. The extra wide dividers allow you to still see and use them. They are specifically designed for use with page protectors. I use these dividers for all of my binders now. They are one of my favorite teaching supplies.
With these simple steps and the supplies I listed above, you will have a portfolio that you are proud of. One that matches your brand, your voice, and tells the world that you are a professional that is passionate, dedicated, and exceeds expectations.