Building a Professional Teaching Portfolio

In recent years, teaching portfolios have become an integral part of the job search process. Many schools now expect teachers to have a portfolio available for review, in order to help them evaluate job candidates.

What is a portfolio? It is a collection of carefully-chosen documents that illustrate your achievements, teaching style, classroom skills, and credentials. When compiled well, the portfolio should complement and expand upon the information you provide on your resume and in your interviews.

The portfolio, like your resume, is a continually evolving work. Just as you will continue to add new things to your resume over time, so too will you continue to develop your portfolio—even after you have landed your first job—so that it will be ready whenever you re-enter the job market.

For starters, your portfolio must by easy to use and also sturdy enough to hold all of your documents securely. You certainly don't want anything to fall out of your portfolio when you hand it to an employer! Perhaps consider using a three-ring binder, which is not only sturdy, but also can be easily modified as you add new elements to your portfolio. Simple folders or accordion-style files are riskier, as documents are not as well protected. If you are tech-savvy, you might also consider constructing an electronic portfolio that employers can access online.

As for documentation, there are no limits on what you can include in your portfolio, but certain types of documents are typical:

Personal summary/Introduction

  • Resume
  • Transcripts
  • Copies of teaching certifications and other required clearances
  • Awards/scholarship notices
  • Philosophy of teaching statement
  • Classroom management plans
  • Sample lesson plans/unit plans
  • Examples of use of technology in the classroom
  • Samples of student work
  • Samples of how you motivate/encourage students
  • Letters from parents/students
  • Photos to document your classroom, extracurricular, and field trip experiences (with labels/captions)
  • Community involvement
  • Student evaluations
  • Publications
  • Letters of recommendation

Because so many different kinds of documents can be included in the portfolio, it is useful to have a table of contents.

As with the content, the style of the portfolio is flexible, but you should aspire to make it visually appealing. Some people add graphics; others put a simple border around the pages. But you don't want it to be so plain and unadorned that it looks uninteresting.

As you construct your portfolio, keep in mind who will be reading it. What do you think they will want to learn about you? Thinking about your reader can help you design an effective professional portfolio.

For additional suggestions, including samples, click here. If you would like to see other samples, you might take a look at Developing a Professional Teaching Portfolio: A Guide for Success by Patricia M. Constantino and Marie N. DeLorenzo, and How to Develop a Professional Portfolio: A Manual for Teachers by Dorothy M. Campbell, Pamela Bondi Cignetti, Beverly J. Melenyzer, Diane H. Nettles, and Richard M. Wyman.. These books are available at the Career Services Library.

One final word: remember to have your portfolio on hand when you go to an interview, even if you have not been asked to bring it! Keep in mind, however, that it is highly unlikely that the interviewer will want to review it with you page by page. Rather, make sure that you are prepared to pull out selected artifacts that allow you to reinforce your answers to particular questions about your teaching.