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Rock Your Teacher Interview: Tips, Questions & Portfolios

Getting ready for a teaching interview? These tips for elementary teacher interviews include interview questions, notes, what to bring to an interview, and portfolio tips. Plus download free printable interview notes and picture portfolio templates to help you prepare!

Teaching interview graphic

Getting the right teaching job can be so overwhelming! Whether you’re excitedly preparing for your first teaching interview, are looking to move to a new school, or are adventuring to a new state (I feel your pain!), getting a teaching job is no joke. Despite a whole lotta talk about teacher shortages, in my experience the competition for an elementary teaching position has been fierce. If you’re in the same boat, and looking to get serious about your own teacher job search, check out these simple tips for rocking your teacher interview. (Plus if you make it to the end there might just be some FREE printables for you!)

Picture of phone

The Phone Interview:

Although talking on the phone isn’t as ideal as talking in person, one nice thing about a phone interview is you can do it with no makeup in your jammies! You can also move around and have as many notes as you want in front of you the entire time (no one will ever know).

I recommend prepping highly specific notes (more details on these below), and having your laptop logged on and ready to type all the interview questions as they are given. These questions are great for reference, not only for this interview, but also as you prepare for interviews in the future. All of the interview questions I’ve mentioned in this post are ones I’ve typed during or written down after an interview.

Interview note examples

Divide your teaching interview notes into clear sections for quick reference:

*Introduce self – Personally and professionally
*Why am I interested in this school?
*Teaching Philosophy
*Classroom Management
*Difficult child – what do you do?
*Professional reading and development (include specific titles of books and presentations)
*Strengths and weaknesses
*Good reading instruction – what does it look like?
*Good math instruction – what does it look like in your classroom?
*RTI and assessment experience
*Parent involvement
*What sets you apart from other candidates?
*What can you add to your team?

Interview note examples

Send a picture? You decide.

For a final phone interview for an out of state position, I reluctantly decided to upload a picture through their online application system as an attachment. I like to visualize who I’m talking to and figured they would as well. I learned after I got the job that they had my picture up as I interviewed, so this worked for me. I’ve heard arguments against this as well, but I wasn’t attempting to send a Glamour Shot. I just wanted them to have some idea who they were talking to. For the record, I would NOT send a Glamour Shot. πŸ™‚

Glamour Shot

The in Person Teaching Interview:

For every question that deals with the classroom, think of a student you have had in the past that demonstrates that particular part of teaching. For example, instead of simply talking about working with struggling readers generally, say something about your classroom practices and then add the student example like: “One example from my own classroom was when I helped Terra who was unable to find motivating just right books by doing some emergent publishing. We spent 15 minutes a day during the literacy block typing up her own stories as she told them to me aloud. She loved her personalized stories and used these as a supplement to her just right texts. She also used them during our writer’s workshop block. This was one way I’ve tried to individualize instruction for one of my struggling readers.”

Frame your answers

Try to frame your answers using the question at the beginning and end of your response. I know from friends who have been on a crazy amount of interview committees that this is one thing that sets candidates apart when they have a number of qualified applicants. An articulate speaker is someone you hire! I always try to use the question or part of it as I begin and finish the answer to every interview question. Using something like “In short, those are a few examples of how I organize the math block in my classroom.” as the end to a response helps your interviewers to know you’re done rather than waiting for you to trail off and then look at them awkwardly as a signal you’re finished rambling.

Interview notes examples

Possible Teacher Interview Questions:

*Tell us a little about yourself (this is not a question, but you don’t need to point it out) πŸ™‚
*What could you bring to the position? What sets you apart from other candidates?
*Tell us about your teaching experience as it pertains to the position.
*What is your background as it relates to classroom management?
*What is the most recent professional development you’ve participated in?
*What is a professional development book you’ve found useful in your classroom, and give examples of how you’ve integrated what you’ve learned into your classroom instruction.
*Give an example of one of your favorite children’s books and how you’d use this for instructional purposes in your own classroom.
*Describe a lesson in your classroom that went well and how you knew it went well.
*Describe a lesson in your classroom that did not go well, how you knew it did not go well, and what you did after the lesson.
*How do you differentiate for students on different academic levels?
*What assessments are you familiar with?
*How do you know that your students are learning?
*You notice a student crying at his/her desk – what would you do?
*You notice your whole class is not engaged in a lesson – what would you do?
*How do your students know they can depend on you?
*Do you do anything outside of school to further your learning?
*Do you consider yourself a reflective teacher?
*Your whole class fails an assessment – what would you do?
*Why did you decide to become a teacher?
*What would you be if you weren’t a teacher?
*How do you involve parents in your classroom?
*How do you effectively communicate with parents?
*Have you ever changed course due to the needs of a teammate?
*Have you ever gone above and beyond for a student?
*What are your strengths and weaknesses as an educator?
*Why do you want to teach at this particular school/district?
*Do you have any questions for us? (My go to for this is: What do you love about working here? I genuinely want to know what is so great about this school and what sets it apart from others. The swiftness with which the interviewers respond to this question is also quite telling.)

More interview note pages

What to Take to Your Teaching Interview:

Resume (5-6 copies)
Picture Portfolio (3-5 color copies of stapled packets)
Letters of Recommendation (5-6 copies of stapled packets)
Interview Notes (pictures of pages shown above)
iPad to show how you use Class Dojo/Confer app/class website/class IG – just make sure you pull up tabs BEFORE the interview when you have Internet access because you probably won’t be able to login to their wifi, nor do you want to spend time messing with tech during the interview

Resume, picture portfolio, and letters of recommendation

To Portfolio or Not to Portfolio?

Giant binder portfolios are not my friend. I find them cumbersome and don’t want to wade through them as part of an interview committee. There’s always only one which means you don’t have time to pass it around and it’s awkward to have someone leave a copy since it usually gets shoved in a desk or sits with the secretary while the job candidate slinks back to retrieve it three days later. No one wants to be a slink-backer. Best to bring something that can be tossed.

Great for teachers looking for a job! Includes information about getting an elementary teaching position with Interview questions, examples of notes, and even a picture portfolio

Take a Picture Portfolio to your Teaching Interview!

You can show a lot of personality and have something extra to set you apart at your teaching interview with a picture portfolio.

I am a super visual person and have tons of pictures of my classroom due to the blog, so I decided a picture portfolio with some fast facts about me would do the trick. I always make at least 3 color copies of the picture portfolio to take and leave at interviews (no slinking back needed!). If you’re super excited about a position you can also email these as a PDF to the principal/contact person when the job is listed. This is one thing that can set you apart and it’s not too hard to put together. Not everyone will like it, but you only need one person to find it engaging and call you back.

Another plus about having this with you at the interview is you can work it in to the curriculum questions you are given. I used the writing page to show my principal/interview committee when I was asked a question about what I would change about their current writing curriculum. I was so happy I had the pictures to back up my thoughts.

Great for teachers looking for a job! Includes information about getting an elementary teaching position with Interview questions, examples of notes, and even a picture portfolio

The second page of the picture portfolio includes Fast Facts you want the interview committee to know about you. This is a nice way to show a little personality + get out a lot of info about you quickly. It’s always a bummer when you leave an interview realizing you wish you had said something, but forgot or didn’t have an opportunity. The Fast Fact page is a good way to get the basics in you are hoping to say, plus since it’s short, there’s a better chance the interview committee will actually look at it.

Great for teachers looking for a job! Includes information about getting an elementary teaching position with Interview questions, examples of notes, and even a picture portfolio

All of the photo pages have been created in PowerPoint and then saved as a PDF before printing. If you save them as a PDF, then the document can be easily sent by email to prospective principals or teammates.

Great for teachers looking for a job! Includes information about getting an elementary teaching position with Interview questions, examples of notes, and even a picture portfolio Great for teachers looking for a job! Includes information about getting an elementary teaching position with Interview questions, examples of notes, and even a picture portfolio Great for teachers looking for a job! Includes information about getting an elementary teaching position with Interview questions, examples of notes, and even a picture portfolio
Great for teachers looking for a job! Includes information about getting an elementary teaching position with Interview questions, examples of notes, and even a picture portfolio

I hope some of this info is helpful to you Super Teacher job seekers. When on the hunt for a teaching job there is so much you can’t control, but one thing you can control is your degree of preparation. All you can do is prepare as well as you can and know that sometimes the job market is a craps shoot.

If you’re looking for more job hunt resources, here are some great blog posts that helped in my own job search.

Want to Ace a Teaching Interview? from Permanently Primary
So You Want to be a Teacher? Interview Tips from Beyond the Worksheet
Top 10 Tips for Landing a Teaching Job from Luckeyfrog’s Lilypad
A+ Teacher Interview from Primary Punch
Teacher Interview Questions from Extra Special Teaching

Ready to get your interview prep started with free interview materials?

If you would like to use the interview Q&A and Picture Portfolio Pages highlighted in this post, please sign up below and editable versions will be delivered to your inbox in no time at all.

Good luck on that interview Super Teacher!

27 Comments

  1. I really like your forms that you filled out, are those somewhere that can be downloaded? I'm interviewing this week for a new school district and really want to be hired in. So I want to be 100000% prepared for this!

  2. Hi Kelsey,

    I sent you this info in an e-mail, but wanted to make sure you received it. Thanks so much for checking out my blog! I don't have the pages available for purchase but would be happy to send you a few of them. Which ones did you need?

    Thanks,
    Katie

  3. Katie-

    I just sent you an e-mail from my personal account. I only received an email stating you commented back on here.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi! I really love the forms too and have an upcoming interview! May I also have the forms to use? Do you bring these notes about yourself into your interviews? Is it ever frowned upon to have your own personal notes to reference? Thanks!

  5. Hi Super Teacher interview friends! I've had such an amazing response to these interview items that you can now receive them for FREE by signing up in the sign up boxes above. That way once you sign up, you'll get an e-mail with a link to the documents moments after your sign up is complete. Interview season is crazy enough without having to wait around for me to send you a zip folder. πŸ™‚ Good luck ladies!!! Please let me know how your interview goes! I've already heard from some gals who created their own picture portfolios and GOT THE JOB! Stories like this make my day!

  6. SARAH TURNER says:

    I would love to have copy of anything you may be willing to share. πŸ™‚

  7. Hello! I have an interview coming up soon and I would love a copy of the other forms to use? I am wondering how the interviewers react to you having notes and looking at them during the interview. Do they seem to mind you bringing them with you? Thank you!
    My email is brdavis0987@gmail.com.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Brooke,

      I saw that you signed up for the interview documents. Feel free to reply to my email if you have any questions. I’ve never had a problem bringing items to an interview, and from experiencing interviews from the other side of the table I always appreciated seeing the effort candidates put in when they brought notes and/or supplementary items. Good luck!

      1. Hi there! I LOVE these ideas! Could you please email me the forms? Thank you πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

        1. I’m so happy you might be able to use them Leah! I just checked and it looks like an email was sent with the interview items. I hope they’re helpful!

  8. Suzette Borg says:

    This is a great resource! Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information. I’m wondering if you would be willing to send me the documents, please?

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