Table Of Contents
- – Understand Your Audience
- – Get Past an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
- – Use Keywords in Your Teaching Resume
- – Get Ready to Create Your Teaching Resume
- – Resume Examples for Teachers: Opening Section
- – Customize Your Opening Statement
- – Resume Examples for Teachers: Experience Section
- – Resume Examples for Teachers: Education Section
- – Write a Cover Letter for a Teaching Resume
Teaching requires exceptional people: people with a unique combination of skills, a big heart, and nerves of steel. People who don’t run away screaming at the thought of spending their days in a classroom with a horde of energetic children or a group of angsty teens.
You have the skills, the heart, and the nerves of steel. Now you’re looking for a job. You know you’d be amazing at this job. But communicating all of that in a resume can be an intimidating task.
How can you fit all that you are and have done in your life onto a page or two? (Or maybe, if you’re just starting out–how can you possibly fill a whole page?) A common mistake is to approach a resume like a summary document, listing all the duties and skills gained from any job you’ve ever had. Instead, a resume should be focused. It’s an abbreviated introduction to why an employer should hire you. Think of a resume as a billboard for your key achievements rather than a long review of all your past job duties.
Generic resume guides fail to recognize that certain industries have different rules and expectations for resumes:
- Most industries are traditional and conservative, but certain fields like to see some creativity and a bit of individual personality.
- Some industries can’t tolerate a dense resume, while others appreciate the details.
- Some fields are heavily quantitative and want lots of numerical evidence, while others value qualitative highlights.
Getting your resume right depends on knowing your audience. That’s why ResumeHelp offers resume guides specific to your industry.
In this teaching resume guide, we focus on K-12 teachers. We will take you through the process of constructing your resume and provide free resume examples for teachers, which you can use and customize. We’ll show how to market your strengths to potential employers and how to communicate why you’re the best candidate for the job!
Ready? Let’s get started.
1. Understand Your Audience
Your first goal with your resume is to understand who your reader is. In most cases, your reader is initially nonhuman (an applicant tracking system), but eventually, the hiring manager. You need to craft your resume for both readers.
Let’s start with the human: the hiring manager in your field. That hiring manager is busy. They’re juggling multiple responsibilities. They have to review many resumes for a single job opening. They may spend only seconds viewing your resume. You’ve got to grab attention quickly, in a way that the hiring manager can quickly digest, in the right industry language. You’re showing respect and helping yourself by presenting a resume that’s clean, free from errors, and easy to quickly scan in an expected format.
How are teaching resumes different? Teaching resumes are fairly straightforward, but there’s receptivity to being a little more human and a little less businesslike than many other fields.
Teaching resumes should give a sense of the technologies and frameworks you’ve used and a lot of details about the span and depth of your responsibilities. But your resume should also give a sense of your mission and softer skills in working with children or teens. Your hiring managers are usually people who’ve been there. They understand the stress and satisfaction of being a teacher. They want to get a sense of your human qualities, your grit, and your passion for teaching. It may even be appropriate to devote a little space at the end for your personal interests, which usually isn’t a good approach for a traditional resume.
2. Get Past an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
A hiring manager never even gets to see your resume if it doesn’t make it past the applicant tracking system, or ATS. An ATS is an automated resume-scanning software. The vast majority of large and medium-sized employers currently use an ATS in their application process. With hundreds or even thousands of applicants for a select few spots, an ATS is almost a necessity for employers to manage their workload.
“The right format and keywords are essential to getting your resume seen by an actual human.”
For K-12 teachers, application tracking systems aren’t as widespread in school systems, but some school districts do use them. It’s smart to be prepared. The right format and keywords are essential to getting your resume seen by an actual human. The ATS is programmed by employers to search for specific keywords in resumes and reduce the huge pool of potential applicants.
To get your resume past an ATS, two things matter most: how you format your resume and what keywords you use.
Formatting Your Resume
A 2018 article in CIO magazine advises using a sans serif font, like Calibri or Arial. Most ATS use Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) to analyze resumes. Some serif fonts–even common ones like Times New Roman–with their extra marks, may be rejected by a less effective ATS. Use simple round bullets. Special characters like arrows are usually unreadable.
File format also matters. When you upload your resume, double check the file type requested. Usually a Microsoft Word document and a PDF file are standard acceptable formats, but sometimes the job listing will specify one or the other. Go with the file type requested in the job ad; if no file format is specified, choose either Word or PDF format. Microsoft Word is easier for an ATS to read, but PDFs are preferable for human eyes and keep the formatting from being inadvertently changed. You don’t know ahead of time if the potential employer even uses an ATS, so it’s best to prepare for one.
“Keep your design simple or the resume may be rejected because the software doesn’t know how to handle it.”
Sometimes people try to get creative or cute resume design. This usually backfires: special characters, images, and random text boxes will confuse ATS software. Keep your design simple or the resume may be rejected because the software doesn’t know how to handle it.
You may have read online about three different resume formats: reverse chronological, functional, and hybrid. Below, we will explain each format. But the vast majority of hiring managers and ATS configurations expect one format: reverse chronological. That is the format we recommend.
Format 1: Reverse Chronological Resume
What it is: It’s the most common kind of resume. On a reverse chronological resume, list your work experience based on how recently you worked at an employer. Your latest or current job comes first, and any other positions follow, from most recent to oldest.
- It’s the most common resume format in the U.S., so most hiring managers and recruiters will be expecting to see a reverse chronological format. This is the format they trust.
- Most applicant tracking systems are configured to expect this organization of content. Without this format, an ATS is more likely to reject your resume.
- This format enables you to show your career progression easily, with your most recent positions getting the most attention.
- You can show your job commitment and years of experience in the field, as well as how you’ve broadened your expertise or taken on special roles.
- This format easily highlights weaknesses in your work history (and that’s why hiring managers like it. It saves them time).
- If you’re fresh out of school, you don’t have much work experience to show. However, you still can use a reverse chronological resume format. You’ll showcase your recent graduation and employers will understand that you’re just starting out. (We’ll talk you through education later in this guide.)
- If you have long stretches of unemployment or short tenure in one job to the next, this weakness is also easily exposed.
Format 2: Functional Resume
What it is: Functional resumes are organized by skills or pieces of experience, rather than dates and a linear progression.
- Functional resumes were designed to deal with special circumstances–career changes, lack of experience, gaps of unemployment, short-tenured job hopping. They’re more flexible.
- Perhaps this approach will work for a very small company (no ATS) with an inexperienced, open-minded hiring manager.
- The problem is: nearly all recruiters and hiring managers fully understand that a functional resume is used to conceal unfavorable work histories. So they quickly reject them.
- If the company uses an ATS, hiring managers will probably never see a functional resume as the ATS isn’t designed to scan this format.
- Functional resumes tend to be a waste of time for both candidates and hiring managers.
Format 3: Hybrid Resume
What it is: A hybrid resume is a catch-all term for some combination of a functional and a chronological resume. Some use this term to describe a format that an ATS can scan (basically a reverse chronological resume with an opening section focused on skills); some use this term to describe a format that an ATS doesn’t scan well (basically a functional resume with some chronological component).
Our advice is that a reverse chronological resume is the way to go; however, one opening section that highlights key skills or a professional summary can be very effective and ATS systems and hiring managers accept them. If that’s what a “hybrid format” means in this sense, hybrids are worth considering. More on that opening section to follow.
3. Use Keywords In Your Teaching Resume
An ATS tracks specific keywords. These keywords are programmed in, then each candidate’s resume is scanned. The resumes with the right keywords, in the right amount, get to move on to the next level. So you can see why it’s so important to include the keywords employers are seeking!
How do you know what keywords to use? You’ll make an educated guess (we’ll tell you how, below). Obviously, you are limited by the range of your experience as well. If a teaching position wants experience with “classroom management techniques,” for example, and you lack experience in that, you can’t honesty put those keywords on your resume. Never lie about or exaggerate your experience or skills to match keywords. Do use the keywords that match up with your relevant experience.
“Many candidates have relevant experience, but haven’t listed that experience in the same words as the job listing. […] Make the terms match exactly whenever possible.”
Many candidates have relevant experience, but haven’t listed that experience in the same words as the job listing. A candidate, for example, may list experience with “methods to manage children’s behavior” and the ATS may not recognize this as a match for “classroom management techniques.” Make the terms match exactly whenever possible.
Job Title Keywords
Job title keywords are the most basic scan that ATS and recruiters use to determine if a resume is a good fit. If your job title doesn’t quite match exactly what the job opening is, but they are similar roles, it is legitimate to list both job titles in your resume.
As a basic example, the listing could be for an “English Teacher.” You may have your most recent position listed as a “Language Arts Teacher.” If the ATS is programmed well, it should recognize the match. But just in case it’s poorly programmed, you might want to list your job title as “English/Language Arts Teacher.”
Spell terms out as well, in case the long version is what’s programmed into the ATS. “Mathematics Teacher” rather than “Math Teacher” or “Special Education Teacher” instead of “Special Ed Teacher.” You’re just aiming for the maximum match rate if they’re using an ATS.
Job Description Keywords
Be sure to include keywords for the job position, as well. Use teaching keywords and phrases like teaching certificate, assessment methods, classroom management, technology, curriculum development, time management, emotional intelligence, etc. It really depends on the job listing. Look it over carefully and highlight potential keywords. Then use all the words you can legitimately put on your resume when describing your work experience or listing your skills.
“…your resume needs to be ATS-friendly, but it also needs to read naturally.”
And here’s the tricky part: your resume needs to be ATS-friendly, but it also needs to read naturally. You don’t want to create a random assembly of keywords and abbreviations. Try reading your resume out loud to identify any issues with readability.
4. Get Ready to Create Your Teaching Resume
If you’re writing your resume for the first time or it’s been a while since you last updated it, get all the information you’ll need in one place (often a digital or physical file). A little preparation will make the process so much easier:
- Go through your calendar or financial records for accurate start and end dates on your previous jobs. You only need the month and year.
- Get your educational details right. K-12 teaching resumes are a little unusual, because in certain cases, it might make sense to list your secondary or even elementary school (if it’s the same school or in the same district as the one in which you’re applying). Not only recent graduates, but all candidates may benefit by adding other relevant details. No matter the setting, you always need to list clearly your relevant certifications and/or CE courses to demonstrate that you’re current and ready. (See the Education section below for more details.)
- It’s an outdated practice to include references on a resume. And don’t include a line such as, “References available upon request.” Employers already know this and if they want references, they will ask for them. There may be an exception to this: a K-12 teacher resume for a local school system might benefit from listing references on a resume if among them is a familiar name of a former Principal or Superintendent of schools, for example.
Once you’ve collected the pertinent documents and files, you can verify the details as you put information into your resume. Ensure that all your details are correct and your resume will be easy to update, customize, and use for job openings as needed. Careers often stall simply because individuals don’t keep their resumes up-to-date and then they are reluctant to apply to new opportunities which would further their career.
5. Resume Examples for Teachers: Opening Section
It’s not absolutely necessary to start with an opening section to your resume before getting to your reverse chronology work experience, but an opening section is usually beneficial. And application tracking systems anticipate this.
This opener comes right after your contact information at the top of the resume. Here are some options:
1. A short, specific resume summary statement
In 1-3 sentences, explain the value you’d add to the teaching position you’re seeking. You don’t have much time to draw your reader in, so make sure your concise statement is only filled with the essentials. Your summary statement should describe you: your teaching specializations, skills, or interests. Here’s an example:
“ESL teacher with 8 years of high school teaching, including experience working with refugee populations and migrant worker families.
Creative elementary teacher with 5 years of experience, recognized by administrators, faculty, and parents for “most engaging classroom.” Specialized in struggling emergent readers, enabling an average 50% increase in reading proficiency over each semester.”
2. A professional summary
This is similar to a summary statement, but more detailed. This might be a full paragraph or 4-8 bullet points of career highlights. A professional summary is essential for those who have more than 10 years of experience or perhaps have only 5-10 years, but diversity of experience. (They usually aren’t advisable for early career individuals.)
Detail the number of years you’ve specialized in a particular field or area, your special certifications, awards that are particularly relevant, major projects or achievements in your work, whether you’ve managed people, etc. If you can find a way to quantify something, do it:
“5 years of experience working in overcrowded schools with large classes of up to 35 students is more impressive than experience with large classes.”
Other examples can be:
“Creative Elementary Classroom Teacher recognized by administrators, faculty and parents as caring and highly qualified to teach foundational concepts in reading, writing and mathematics. Over 10 years of experience teaching self-contained Kindergarten, First and Second Grade students. Delivers fun, exciting instruction that engages students, launches lifelong learning and provides solid start for success in higher grades.”
“High School Science Focused Secondary Science Educator with over 15 years of teaching experience at high school level, specializing in college preparatory instruction. Positive educator with Master of Science in Physical Science and special endorsements for teaching a broad range of science and mathematics courses including Physics, Biology and Chemistry.”
3. An objective statement
Objective statements are usually a one-sentence statement of purpose which clarifies the type of position someone is seeking. Objectives are one place where it’s acceptable to switch from third person to first person (for example, using “my”).
Objectives used to be much more common and have kind of gone out of fashion in the resume world. But here are two limited situations where they could be helpful:
- Early career situation – Objective statements can be helpful in explaining why there isn’t much experience on a resume; the applicant simply wants a chance at an entry-level position.
“Positive, energetic recent elementary education graduate seeking starting position in K-6 that will allow me to contribute and grow my experience.”
- Mid-career switch – Resumes may appear confusing when someone has switched career fields. Say, for example, you worked in operations for ten years before deciding that you wanted a more purposeful career and went back to school to get your teaching degree. The resume may initially look like an operations resume, but you’re applying for a teaching role. Objective statements can explain that quickly, so the hiring manager isn’t wondering.
“Recent Florida teaching certificate holder with previous career in business operations seeking opportunity to share my business skills and enthusiasm with high school students.”
Your approach to your resume opener should depend on your career stage and circumstances. Whatever approach you take, make sure your resume summary statement has some of those ever-important keywords.
Don’t follow the practice of simply listing keywords, such as “patient, creative, disciplined” in your opening section. Instead,, describe those attributes in the context of your experience.
Show how you’re been creative in your curriculum development. If you’re disciplined, give evidence of the awards you’ve received because of preparation or classroom management. Those are more effective approaches.
6. Customize Your Opening Statement
Customize the summary statement, tweaking it when needed for specific positions. This is particularly important for mid- to late-career professional summary statements. Review the job listing and look for keywords, specific responsibilities, highlighted skills, or other clues that tell you what’s most important for that particular job.
- Use some of the words you pulled from the job listing in your summary statement, as appropriate.
- Keep the roles and skills that are most relevant for the job; cut the roles or skills that aren’t.
- Add in adjectives, nouns, or phrases that match the job listing exactly, if needed.
Review your summary statement one last time and try to find a few ways to make it more specific and more quantifiable.
7. Resume Examples for Teachers: Experience Section
The experience section is usually the second section in a resume unless you’re a recent graduate. This section may be titled: Experience, Work Experience,Teaching Experience, or Professional Experience. It should be filled with specifics, it should be achievement- or evidence-oriented, and it should incorporate all relevant keywords in a natural way. Work experience should always be listed in reverse chronological order: start with your most recent job at the top and work your way backwards through your experience.
What to Include in the Experience Section
The standard elements for each work experience entry are:
- Job title
- Place of employment
- Dates of employment
- Brief description of your accomplishments and responsibilities in the job, as well as skills gained and used in that piece of experience
Sometimes job title is listed first, sometimes the place of employment is listed first. Just be consistent in whichever approach you take. And listing the dates along the right-hand margin helps hiring managers and recruiters quickly scan dates so they can assess career level.
Writing descriptions of your accomplishments, responsibilities, and skills gained is the difficult, but essential part of writing your resume. Use bullet points, not paragraphs, and be concise, but specific. Use examples to show evidence of your effectiveness. For exaple:
“Increased student reading proficiency test scoresby 15-22% for five years in a row.”Think through any significant projects you were part of or oversaw, any major organizational changes or administrative shifts you supported, the size of staffs you were responsible for, scheduling challenges, increased responsibilities, recognitions, and awards. It’s also a good idea to think through what made each job most satisfying for you and the areas in which you consistently exceeded expectations. Focus, as often as possible, on evidence of your effectiveness in your role, as opposed to simply describing job duties or responsibilities.
Key Guidelines for the Experience Section
- Don’t use personal pronouns. Instead, as in the examples above, start with a verb (“Managed”) and leave off the understood pronouns (“I”).
- For past jobs, use past tense verbs. For any position you currently hold, use present tense verbs.
- Use bullet points, one for each sentence or phrase. You can end your sentence or phrase with a period or leave it off. Just be consistent–use one method or the other.
- Avoid superlatives. Teaching isn’t a sales role and exaggerating does not fit the culture. But use adjectives and adverbs that show your level of performance. Be concise and stick to the facts.
- Generally, use 2-4 bullet points per job. For jobs where you stayed many years and had several important components, you might use up to 6 or 7 bullets.
- Quantify, quantify, quantify! Anytime you can tie in data, measurable results, or specific numbers, do so.
Once you’ve drafted the work experience bullet points for each job, don’t forget to scan the job ad and note the keywords and job requirements used. Then scan your work experience. Can you add or substitute a keyword from the job ad? Can you reorder a point to highlight one of the job requirements? Can you adjust your wording to match the tone and language of the job ad more closely?
On your resume, highlight experiences with components like classroom management, parent communication, lesson planning or curriculum development, and student test score performance. Skills like time management, relationship management, and adaptability are important. Use action words and be as specific as possible when describing your experiences.
Quantify Your Experience
Try to quantify your work as best you can, using examples like test score improvements, grant awards won, or the number of students in your classes. It also helps to show related experience outside of your mandated job, like school teams you’ve coached or after-school activities you’ve sponsored to show your involvement with school communities.
If you don’t have relevant teaching experience, you can highlight similar positions like a nanny, student teacher, tutor or camp counselor.
Here are some examples:
- Increased standardized test scores in Math by 30% and Science by 24%, implementing creative coursework into curriculum as Elementary School Teacher.
- Built collaborative and friendly classroom environment using and enforcing behavior guides, team teaching, and interactive learning.
- Received Teacher of the Year Award in 2010 for incorporating engaging technology into high school science curriculum.
Additional certifications and added skills can help you land the teaching job you’re looking for. Adding multiple specializations can make you more versatile and expand the range of potential job matches. So even if it’s been ten years since you worked with Special Education students, you may want to make sure that important specialization stays on your resume.
What if you are early career and have little relevant experience or are just finishing your teaching degree? To emphasize your strengths, you can list the education section before the work experience section.
8. Resume Examples for Teachers: Education Section
Let’s define “early career” as roughly 3 years or less of experience in teaching. If you’re early career, your resume may flow like this: Objective statement, Education section, Work Experience section, and so forth. It’s smart to expand this Education section when you don’t have much relevant work experience and/or you’re a local, applying in the K-12 system you attended in your youth.
What to Include in the Education Section
List your highest degree first, and make sure to include which type of degree you earned, your major, what university you received the degree from and its location. Take care to be as specific about your teaching degree as you can, including industry-related words for your resume (ex. Not a “B.S. in Teaching,” but instead a “B.S. in Math Education (K-12) and a minor in English Education.”) You can include your GPA if it was particularly favorable (3.5 or over). Many people remove their GPA and even graduation date from their resume when it was a long time ago (10+ years).
The Education section of K-12 teaching resumes can be a little unusual because in certain cases, it might make sense to list your secondary or even elementary school education if it’s a recognizable school for that system in which you’re applying. If you were on the high school track team or in student government and you’re applying at that same high school, they may love those details. It’s not at all required, but adding a little local color might make your resume stand out.
Don’t forget to clearly list the details and years of all your relevant certifications, whether it’s a Montana State Teaching Certificate, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification, etc. It’s also smart to list professional development or continuing education courses to demonstrate that you’re current and ready.
If you’re not done with your degree or certifying quite yet, list an expected graduation or certification date. If you don’t have a teaching degree, make sure you’ve completed all the lateral entry requirements (alternative route) — which vary depending on the school system and demand for teachers — and list them in this space too. Note that private schools often have different and looser requirements for teachers than public schools and you may want to customize your resume differently for those different types of hiring managers.
9. Write a Cover Letter for a Teaching Resume
Do hiring managers read cover letters? Well, some do–they value them highly and read them carefully. And some don’t–they pay no attention to what a cover letter says. Because you never know if this particular hiring manager will value your letter, you need to act like any hiring manager would value your cover letter. Craft it carefully. There are several different acceptable approaches, but the general purpose of a cover letter is to:
- Demonstrate your specific interest in the type of school to which you’re applying (performing arts, low income, private, urban, rural, etc.).
- Highlight 2-3 particular skills or areas of expertise.
- When needed, give you an opportunity to explain any extenuating circumstances that make your resume look unusual.
First, do your research on the schools that you’re pursuing. Find an aspect that genuinely appeals to you:
“I thrive in a Special Education teacher role where the needs are urgent and significant.”
Drop “To Whom This May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam” from your cover letter if you can and address your pitch to whomever is actually in charge.
Then, highlight 2-3 specific skills or areas of expertise that you want to emphasize. This may be customized by position or it may not. Share examples or specifics, even a story if it’s appropriate. Is the school looking for a confident classroom leader? Write about the time you refocused squirmy second graders eager for recess with an engaging lesson on snakes. Maybe they want an organized, adaptable leader in lesson plans. Write about the time you added a new unit on fractions after you noticed your students were struggling to understand them. This is a way to personalize your resume for the reader. Stories can be tricky to convey well, though, so if it’s not flowing, skip it. Simply pointing out your achievements in making standardized test preparation fun and effective, for example, helps the hiring manager get a specific perspective on your individual strengths.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, revisit your work experience section. Read those bullet points and think about how you handled your responsibilities every day.
Cover letters should be between half a page and one page. Don’t exceed this or you’ve lost your reader. Use standard business letter formatting (see the example below). Around three to four single-spaced brief paragraphs is a good length. Order is not necessarily key here; whatever flows best can work.
Here’s a sample approach:
- In the first paragraph, introduce yourself with a one phrase summary of your experience; state that you are seeking the position and reference the job ID#, if applicable. That helps ensure the resume gets to the right place. Explain what attracts you to this role at their organization. As someone who grew up in a rural school system, I have always wanted to return and teach in that environment.
- In the second (and maybe third) paragraph, expand on a couple of strengths you want to emphasize and give some specifics to give your candidacy some vibrance.
- If you have extenuating circumstances, such as a mid-life career change or several years out of the workforce, explain the circumstances very briefly and confidently. One example:
“After ten years in a field that never really inspired me, I discovered my passion for teaching and am graduating this spring with my mathematics teaching degree. Just briefly address the issue. Another example: I loved teaching, but needed to drop out of the workforce for twelve years due to family needs. I have looked forward to returning to the classroom and have now updated all necessary credentials.”
Don’t spend too long addressing potential concerns about your work history or you may attract more attention than is necessary.
- In the final paragraph, close by mentioning how you’re a good match, including some of the information you gained from research. For example:
“I’d love to be part of the Salem County School District and learn from your outstanding teachers.”
Cover letters are less rigid in format than resumes, though it’s advisable to use a traditional business letter format. One universal rule, however, is that cover letters should always be brief. The longer they are, the less likely they will ever be read!
Both cover letters and resumes require a balance between brevity and explanation. It’s important to show your strengths, your relevant skills, and the experience you bring to a position. Doing so in a concise way keeps the attention of the hiring manager and can help you find success in your job search sooner. Stay focused on what’s relevant to the position, use terms that match, and ensure that your resume has impeccable formatting. Soon you’ll be out of the job hunt and into your own classroom.