It’s always thrilling when an educational colleague asks for a letter of recommendation from you. Afterall, it’s highly likely that they not only trust and value your opinion, but, also, that they are moving on to a more desirable position. Even still, it can be nerve wracking when you actually sit down to write. What should you say? What does the next school expect of your friend? What if your letter inadvertently costs your colleague the job? Where do you even start? Knowing how to write a letter is half the battle.
First things first: Who can write a letter of recommendation?
Some job postings specify that you must be a direct supervisor to the teacher to write a letter of recommendation. If this is the case, a present or former principal, vice principal, school head, director, or someone of similar caliber would be required to write the letter.
Generally, however, anyone can write a letter of recommendation. Most often, teachers ask trusted colleagues to write letters of recommendation for them. This can include mentors, members of the same team, principals, or even classroom assistants. It is usually best to request someone write the letter with whom you have a strong, professional relationship. Go with your best judgement.
For instance, if you are questioning whether someone is qualified to write you a letter of recommendation (or, if you are the writer, if you are questioning that you should be the one writing the letter), you should probably pick another colleague to write your recommendation. You should never have to question what may be said in the letter, especially if you will not be seeing the letter before it is sent away to a potential employer.
What Information Should You Ask Your Colleague Before Start Writing?
The first thing that you should ask your colleague for is who you should be addressing the letter to. Professional letters of recommendation follow a specific format and include the name and address of the person who will be receiving the letter. If your colleague does not know who the letter should be addressed to, ask them for the school and the position they will be applying for. If you have this information, you can do your own due diligence. Looking at the job posting on the school’s website usually specifies who one should be contacting to apply for a position. If it does, make sure that the letter is addressed to this person, instead of utilizing a generic “To Whom It May Concern”.
Another important piece of information to have from your colleague is what position they are applying for. This helps to further tailor your letter of recommendation. By knowing the position for which they are applying, you can better speak to the accomplishments and experience of the person you are writing for. It is also acceptable to ask them for their resume, especially if you have known the person only in the setting of their current school. Many resumes include a list of achievements that people have reached during their time in specific positions. You can use these to your advantage when writing your recommendation.
How do You Format a Letter of Recommendation?
Letters of recommendation should always be formatted in a professional manner. There are templates that you can utilize to write these in programs such as Google Docs and Microsoft Word, or you could find a template from below. There is not one tried and true way to write the letter, however, all professional letters follow strict formatting rules that adhere to business standards. We are including an example below for your convenience!
Teacher Recommendation Letter Templates
What do You Need to Include in a Recommendation Letter for a Teacher?
There are certain key elements that need to be included in all letters of recommendation:
- Professional Formatting: This starts with your name and contact information, the date, who the letter is being sent to and a formal introduction.
- Your introduction as the writer: Answer the question: what makes me qualified to recommend this person for the job?
- Qualifications of the teacher: Include their education, if you know their background, and accomplishments they have made while working at your school. Make sure to be specific.
- Positive reasons to hire this person: List their strengths and offer examples.
Sample Recommendation Letter for a Teacher
Jannette Doe (YOUR INFORMATION)
123 Park St
Anywhere, MA 12345
January 1, 20XX
Blythe Smith (INFORMATION OF RECIPIENT)
123 School Rd
Anywhere, MA 12345
Dear Ms. Smith: (If you know who the letter should be going to, address it as such. Do not use “To Whom It May Concern”.)
I would like to inform you of my recommendation of Linda Johnson (name of applicant) for the open third grade teaching position at your school. As the head of the fourth grade team here at Adams Elementary, I have had the pleasure of working with Ms. Johnson for the past three years of her career. I served as Ms. Johnson’s mentor teacher through her Master’s degree and have thoroughly enjoyed watching her blossom into a capable leader on our team.
Ms. Johnson has always been driven to forward her skills as a teacher. Ms. Johnson came to us while she was working on her Master’s degree, which she finished early, graduating with distinction. She took on many responsibilities during her tenure with our school, including advisor to the drama club and the head of our professional development committee this past year. Linda embraces all opportunities for professional development and willingly accepts feedback to more readily engage students in her classroom.
Ms. Johnson has the unique ability to build a rapport with all students. Ms. Johnson has worked with a variety of age groups during her tenure and makes unique connections with each student she comes across. This connection helps her to teach even the most advanced concepts to her students easily and is truly marvelous to observe. She has excellent written and verbal skills when communicating with parents and administrators and is often praised on her professionalism by members of the staff.
Linda accomplishes all tasks with great initiative and a positive attitude. I recommend Ms. Johnson to you without reservation. If you have any further questions with regard to her background or qualifications, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Ms. Jannette Doe (HAND SIGN YOUR PHYSICAL COPY!)
Fourth Grade Team Lead
Last Minute Writing Tips
- Make sure that you are prepared to write your letter. This will take time and you should not quickly write the letter. Be patient and make sure that you are representing your best work.
- Proofread your letter before you print. And then proofread again before sending the letter or giving it to your colleague. Grammatical errors seem unprofessional in recommendations and leave a bad impression of yourself. You never know when you will run across someone who has read your recommendation.
- Do not write a letter you are not comfortable with. If someone asks you to write a recommendation for them and you are not comfortable doing so, it is professionally acceptable to tell them you are unable to write the letter for them. It is better to give someone else the opportunity to write a good letter than to give a colleague a mediocre recommendation because you are unsure what to write.