Writing is hard. Writing about yourself is even more difficult. But writing what’s essentially a persuasive essay advertising yourself to employers? The absolute worst. So I get it. Writing a cover letter often feels like an extra chore on top of the already stressful process of searching for a new job. Even for an English teacher who loves to write, it’s challenging.
But writing a cover letter is challenging for all the right reasons. It forces you to be introspective and reflect on your experiences. It challenges you to articulate your values and teaching philosophy. It asks that you think about what makes you unique. Your cover letter demands that you consider your goals, your future, your impact.
And even though figuring out all of that stuff can feel really, really hard, when you finally articulate it in an authentic way, you’ll be prepared, confident, and ready. You’ll know exactly who you are and what you want (this matters) and the schools reading your cover letter will know the same (and the right school will want you).
So let’s start seeing writing a cover letter as an opportunity, rather than an annoying task. A chance, rather than a chore. An opportunity, rather than a required formality.
Are you ready to shift your mindset and embrace this challenge?
If so, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Writing your cover letter just got a little easier. When you treat it like a chance, rather than a chore, you’ll find that it’s much easier to write like yourself. (Not like all of the people behind the random example cover letters of the internet).
So that’s the first secret to writing a standout teacher cover letter. Here are 10 more tips. 🙂
1. Take the time to write it (even if it’s not required)
Some say the cover letter is dying or already dead. It’s true that they’re not always required, and some hiring managers do not read or value them. But education is also entirely different from other industries. I’m not a hiring manager or principal, I don’t have statistics for you, and I won’t make generalizations, but here’s my experience: I was just hired for a new teaching position, and I know my new principal read my cover letter because she referenced it during our interview. However, during my job search, I realized that at least 2 other prospective schools had not taken the time to read it. My previous teaching position’s application did not even have an option to upload a cover letter. So it’s safe to say that it varies depending on the district and school. Some principals may read it, and others may not.
Here’s how I see it: Writing a cover letter can’t hurt; it can only help. And as challenging as writing a cover letter may be, it’s a great way to reflect on your experience, skills, and values. It forces you to describe your teaching philosophy to an outsider who has never stepped foot in your classroom. Ultimately, this chance to reflect and define who you are, what you stand for, and what you can bring to a school will probably help you prepare for the interview. So even if it never gets read, at least your school will know you took the extra step to write it in the first place, and I think that’s worth something.
2. Do your research & tailor it to the school
Before you sit down to write your cover letter, do your homework and research the school. Go back to the job posting and re-read the entire thing. Check out the school’s website, their mission statement, their school improvement plan, their social media accounts, news articles, etc. Then, find a way to weave that in and customize your cover letter for the specific school.
This can be tricky, because if your application sites are anything like the consortiums I’ve used before, they require you to submit one general cover letter. This makes it difficult to truly customize your cover letter. If you can’t tailor your cover letter to a specific school or job posting, then use language that will attract the type of school you want. Another option is to upload the “generic” cover letter to the application platform, and then email a tailored cover letter to the building principal.
3. Be persuasive
It’s easy to see writing a cover letter as a mere formality in the hiring process. But it’s so much more than that, and it’s qualitatively different from your resume and the rest of your application. Here’s why: Your cover letter should be persuasive. The rest of your application is largely informative in nature. In your cover letter, you should persuade the reader to keep reading, persuade them to give you an interview, and ultimately, persuade them to hire you. In other words, it’s your personal sales pitch. Your advertisement. A letter of not-so-humble “hire me” brags.
So in addition to treating your cover letter like an opportunity, treat it like the persuasive letter that it is. Remind yourself of how awesome you are, remember your ethos, pathos, and logos, and start persuading that reader to give you a chance.
4. Structure it like an essay
If you’re struggling to structure your cover letter, think of it as a mini persuasive essay in response to the question: Why should we hire you? Brainstorm what you have to offer, narrow it down to a few main ideas, and then draft a thesis statement of sorts. Then, structure your cover letter in a way that will accomplish your persuasive purpose. Keep the Why? question in mind as you write, and make sure your final draft clearly articulates your answer.
If you need step-by-step help structuring your teacher cover letter, then check out my teacher resume and cover letter templates. Each includes a thorough guide with examples, word banks, sentence starters, and more.
5. Provide specific examples
You wouldn’t write a persuasive essay with no evidence, right? (Not in my classroom…) So don’t commit the same crime in your teacher cover letter! If you note something on your resume, you should be able to back it up in your cover letter or during your interview. Once again, think about the Why? question. Then, provide specific examples to support your answer.
Take a look at the skills you listed on your resume, and then think about how you can elaborate on those. Did you list your tech skills? If so, give an example of your innovative use of technology. Are you an expert at data-tracking? Explain your methods and how they might help the school! Make sure that your teacher cover letter offers specific examples, anecdotes, or other “evidence” to illustrate your skills and experience.
6. Show some personality
You do not have to write the same bland, boring cover letter that you’ve probably seen all over the internet. You know, the one that begins, “I am writing in response to [job posting].” While you should follow general guidelines for writing a cover letter, you don’t have to sound like a robot. You can craft an engaging, well-written cover letter that accomplishes your purpose and shows some of your personality.
Find your voice as a writer. Show your enthusiasm through your tone. Tell a story. Embrace your unique (but professional) style. Share your perspective. And just be yourself. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. But if you’ve done Steps 1-5 and really researched, brainstormed, and planned, you’ll be ready to write authentically.
7. Don’t repeat what’s on your resume
This sounds obvious, but it’s incredibly easy to fall into this trap. Your cover letter should complement your resume, not regurgitate what’s already outlined in those bullet points. Instead of repeating yourself, think about how you can add value to your resume and job application.
Like I mentioned earlier, look at your resume and think about how you can elaborate on your bullet points: your skills, experiences, accomplishments, etc. When you’re revising your cover letter, carefully check it for any repetition, and delete any sentences that sound too similar to what’s already on your resume. Don’t waste your precious space (or the reader’s time).
8. Use it to explain any unique situations or details
Do you have a unique situation or story to tell, extra details that are relevant to the job, or other information that cannot be represented in your resume or application? If so, your cover letter offers a great chance to articulate what can’t be reduced to bullet points or applications with word limits.
For example, I was recently searching for a part-time teaching position. I used my cover letter as an opportunity to explain why part-time teaching would be ideal for me. Guess what? I got a call back, and when I got to the interview, the hiring committee knew exactly what I wanted, so we didn’t have to waste much time discussing my untraditional situation. We were able to spend our time discussing what really mattered: how I teach and what I could offer. PS: I got the job!
9. Use a border or header to elevate the look of your cover letter
Your cover letter doesn’t have to be a big, boring chunk of text. A simple border, header, or a line will help you elevate its appeal, especially when paired with the right fonts and formatting. If you do this, I recommend matching your cover letter to your template. It’s as simple as copying, pasting, and rearranging some of the elements from your resume. For tips on creating a standout teacher resume, head to this blog post, and for editable, matching resume/cover letters, check out these templates designed for teachers.
10. Show your passion for teaching
Last but not least, show your enthusiasm for education in your cover letter. This is your chance to impress potential employers. Perhaps your resume and cover letter are sitting in a stack of similarly qualified candidates. If the credentials are comparable, but your cover letter is overflowing with passion, energy, and enthusiasm for teaching, who do you think they’re going to call back? 🙂
I hope these tips help you write a teacher cover letter that gets you HIRED and into a classroom you love. If you missed it, you can read my first post on creating a teacher resume HERE. For more tips, check out my various resume and cover letter templates HERE. Each set comes complete with matching resume and cover letter templates, real examples, and a 6-page guide jam-packed with tips, word choice hacks, and more.
Stay tuned for more blog posts on creating a teacher portfolio and acing a teacher interview. As always, please leave any questions or comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them! Best of luck in your job search! 🙂