“How do I make employers recognize me before even interviewing?”
“I’ve spent countless hours doing lesson plans and math projects, but what is the best way to display them?”
“It’s just another portfolio. Everyone has one, so how do I make mine stand out?”
These are just some of the questions I had going through as I prepared to enter the last semester of my undergraduate adventure: student teaching. Reality hit me as if I had run into a brick wall. It is my last semester before I need to stand apart from other applicants to get the job of my dreams. While I was brainstorming, I thought, “Anyone can take a binder and put some paper in it. But how many people can create a user-friendly, professional website yet displays who I am?” That is when I decided to make a website to display my hard work over the last four years. Not only does it showcase the same things as a standard binder portfolio, but it allows for interaction.
As educators, you have probably heard this quote by Edgar Dale:
By creating a website, employers are not just reading anymore. They are EXPERIENCING and INTERACTING with all the time and effort you put into your portfolio, making them more likely to remember you!
WHERE TO START
1. Choose Your Website Builder
I had two classes where we discussed using websites to keep in touch with students and parents while teaching. My advisor and professor, Dr. Marcia Hoover, also emphasized that we could use websites to show our work in an organized space. She even has her current students do this for a final project. Here are the ones that she recommended that I also find user-friendly. These website builders offer templates that make navigating and editing sections easy. However, there is an option to build from scratch to customize it EXACTLY how you want it. Ultimately, I decided to use Wix. I had previously used it to create an online resource file for another class and was familiar with it.
2. Brainstorm What You Want to Include
When deciding what to display, I wrote down some general ideas on paper. I skimmed all my files on my computer or in my class binders, then categorized them. This might look a little messy, but it’s supposed to! This is the part where you want to get your thoughts on paper. Also, keep in mind that this is NOT set in stone. You can add or remove it as you feel necessary while building the website.
START BUILDING YOUR WEBSITE
I am not going to sugarcoat it; this is very time-consuming! However, this is the fun part! You get to tailor your website to showcase your work and your personality. Here are some tips that I discovered while building this portfolio.
1. Keep it Professional but Fun
Of course, you want your portfolio to be professional, but don’t make it boring to look at! Use pops of color. Instead of a plain black or white background, maybe use a light shade of blue. It doesn’t seem like it would make a big difference, but it does! Here is an example from mine. Now imagine reading this on a plain white background with black text. It wouldn’t be as attention-grabbing, would it? Wix offers many templates that utilize professional color schemes but are still playful enough to be pleasing to look at.
2. Introduce Yourself
Do not just display your work. Be sure to make your website a little more personal. Consider adding an “About Me” section. You want employers to see who you are. Add a brief biography about yourself and include a picture. This is your chance to highlight your degree, what inspired you to become a teacher, your ambitions, and more. Don’t make this section a life story, though. Focus on what you feel is essential in a paragraph or two.
3. Insert Your Work
PDF files, pictures, videos, websites…if you have them, put them in! Wix offers an add-on where you can insert PDF files directly into the website. This looks more professional than copying and pasting ten pages of text. I advise converting any word documents you have into PDF files. After much trial and error, I found this is the best way to insert research projects, lesson plans, and reports. Wix also offers various ways to arrange pictures and videos and embed other websites you might have created!
4. Section Off Your Work
This may seem common sense, but organizing your work into categories will make a difference. In my case, I had projects for my math courses and education courses. Instead of putting everything under one section titled “Projects,” I created three tabs. The first tab is the “Projects,” which outlines math and education projects. Attached to this, I created two subtabs, “Mathematics and Statistics Projects” and “Education Projects.” These two sections are where I showcase my work that aligns with either category. Wix does not allow you to add subtabs to subtabs. However, you can easily section work by adding some titles and lines. This allows employers to find what they are looking for easily. Here is an example from my portfolio. This is precisely what I have outlined above.
5. Link to Other Parts of Your Website
Instead of saying “see more in (insert name) tab,” just add a button that, when clicked, takes the user there. This makes it much quicker and more efficient. Below is an example of mine. If you click the “Competition Conferences” button, it will take you directly to that page. The same goes for the “Development Conferences” button. Once you click it, that page will be displayed. I recommend having one main tab that summarizes each different page that you have linked. This is also an opportunity to highlight what you believe are the most critical parts of your portfolio. If you refer to my “Home” page, you will see three buttons above my biography. These are the three sections on my portfolio that I feel employers will be most interested in.
I hope this makes creating a portfolio that helps you stand out less daunting! While it may seem challenging, do not be afraid to explore this option. If you want to view mine as an example, please feel free! Just note that this is a work in progress. I will be adding to this throughout student teaching and even after. As educators, we are never done learning and professionally developing. That being said, will your portfolio ever really be finished?! Doing this now is just a great foundation to add to!
I am currently a dual degree student at the California University of Pennsylvania. My first degree is a B.S. in secondary education concentrated in mathematics. The second degree is a B.A. in mathematics with a minor in statistics. After completing my undergraduate degree, I plan to attend graduate school to acquire a P.S.M. in applied mathematics and cybersecurity.
I am involved in the TEAC, UAS, and math clubs at school. I have always had a love and passion for teaching and helping others. I want to inspire and lead the future of the world!
Fun Fact: On my dad’s side of the family, there are 23 teachers in 3 generations! However, I will only be the second math teacher (my grandfather being the first). I guess you can say teaching runs in my blood.
Outside the classroom, you can find me skiing at Seven Springs or white water rafting at Ohio Pyle!