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Writing the Successful Teacher Recommendation. Peggy Johnson and Kathy Schmidt Saint Mary’s Hall San Antonio, TX. Do You Feel Like This?. “Flight or Write?”. The Difference Between Counselor and Teacher Recommendations.

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writing the successful teacher recommendation

Writing the Successful Teacher Recommendation

Peggy Johnson and Kathy Schmidt

Saint Mary’s Hall

San Antonio, TX

do you feel like this
Do You Feel Like This?

“Flight or Write?”

the difference between counselor and teacher recommendations
The Difference Between Counselor and Teacher Recommendations
  • Counselor letter gives overview of student’s academic and extracurricular life, identifies student’s passions and values, identifies essence of student, places him in contexts of school and community
  • Teacher letter focuses on student’s role in the classroom, should be specific to the teacher’s class; identifies student’s intellectual qualities
what do admissions officers hope to find in a good teacher recommendation
What do Admissions Officers Hope to Find in a Good Teacher Recommendation?
  • Honesty
  • Information that is specific to the student
  • Detailed picture of student’s intellectual ability, curiosity, critical thinking skills, passion to learn, work ethic, study habits, interpersonal interactions within your classroom, motivation, perseverance, creativity, etc.
  • Information limited to the teacher’s classroom experience
samples of inadequate letters of recommendation
Samples of Inadequate Letters of Recommendation:

For the past two years I have had the pleasure of associating with _________ on a professional level. _______ has been a student in my Spanish II and Spanish III classes. She has that rare ability that coalesces a fine mind, an inexorable intellectual curiosity, and an affability that draws in the other students to her pursuits. In the end, she makes the students around her feel as if they have equally contributed.

Any institution would be proud to count _______ as a member.

how does this letter measure up
How does this letter measure up?

I have known __________ as a student in my high school, where he was enrolled in a U.S.History class that I taught. He was with me his entire junior year. I have also observed _________ in performances of Chamber Choir.

My exposure to __________ was not always positive. Although he is very bright, he did not always apply himself to his studies. Often he was late in turning in his written assignments. On the other hand, he often read ahead and was able to answer many questions. In fact, __________ is quite verbal. I often had to remind him to quit talking and laughing with his neighbor. He was seldom quiet for long.

__________ is, at times, entertaining and at other times a pest. He gets along well with his peers but can also be disruptive. In speaking with his golf coach, I was told that the season would have been more enjoyable without _________. I believe he has a very high opinion of himself.

Despite these concerns, I recommend __________ for your program and am certain that he will succeed.

continued
(Continued)

__________ is, at times, entertaining and at other times a pest. He does get along well with his peers but can also be disruptive. In speaking with his golf coach, I was told that the season would have been more enjoyable without _________. I believe he has a very high opinion of himself.

Despite these concerns, I recommend ________ for your program and am certain that he will succeed.

and this one
And This One?

I am delighted to recommend _________ to your fine institution. I have known _________ for two years and can honestly say that he is one of the finest students we have ever had at our school. He has my full support in the college application process. ________ will be a source of pride to whichever institution he chooses to attend.

Sincerely,

so what should a teacher recommendation accomplish
So, What Should a Teacher Recommendation Accomplish?
  • Be an advocate for the student. If you can’t say anything positive about the student, don’t agree to write for him. Suggest that he ask another teacher to write his recommendation.
  • Describe briefly the “culture” of your classroom in terms of your teaching style, expectations, and types of assignments.
  • Include anecdotal information about the student and his performance in your class.
teacher recommendations
Teacher Recommendations:

4. Whenever possible, be evaluative and make comparative statements, such as “highest grade on the exam,” or “leader of class discussions,” or “one of only two A’s I gave that semester.”

5. If you have particular knowledge of why a student is likely to be successful at a particular institution, mention it in your letter.

  • Limit your letter to one page, and keep a copy for future reference.
teacher recommendations11
Teacher Recommendations:

7. Don’t be afraid to describe a bad grade. Sometimes a comment about a “poor” grade can be more helpful and revealing than comments about a good grade.

8. Don’t “gush” or make comments that appear too personal (“We’ve enjoyed a close relationship.”)

9. Don’t include a student’s physical description unless it’s important to the context of your class.

qualities to highlight
Qualities to Highlight:
  • Achievement
  • Analytical ability
  • Originality
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Research skills
  • Communication skills
  • Effectiveness in class discussions
  • Insight
  • Thoroughness
a look at the classroom r sum
A Look at the Classroom Résumé
  • Purpose of the resume – to refresh your memory of the student’s performance in your class
  • To allow the student to give the teacher his perspective of the classroom experience
  • To help the teacher identify student’s strengths, challenges, intellectual qualities
structure for a teacher recommendation
Structure for a Teacher Recommendation
  • Introduction: Identify the class in which you taught the student, its goals, challenges, the skills you emphasize, your experience in teaching your subject.
  • Body: Describe the student in the context of your class, highlighting student’s qualities as specifically as possible, giving anecdotes about student’s performance on papers, projects, and class participation, etc.
  • Conclusion: Summarize your assessment of the student’s ability; offer a realistic opinion of student’s ability to succeed in college.
final tips for teacher recommendations
Final Tips for Teacher Recommendations:
  • Follow the principles of good writing:

be concise, to the point, and grammatically correct.

  • Use active verbs and few adjectives.
  • Know your audience and keep them in mind.
  • Provide relevant information.
  • When writing for a weaker student, highlight strengths and discuss weaknesses.
  • Beware of the “crystal ball” syndrome: “I know he will improve next semester.”
  • Proofread your recommendation, and proofread it again.
value of an effective teacher recommendation
Value of an Effective Teacher Recommendation:

Helps admission officer understand how the student thinks and performs in the classroom

Fills in the academic details of the student’s profile—colleges are looking for students above all else

contact information
Contact Information

Peggy Johnson

Director of College Counseling

Saint Mary’s Hall

9401 Starcrest Drive

San Antonio, TX 78217

210-483-9250

pjohnson@smhall.org

Kathy Schmidt

Assistant Director of College Counseling

Saint Mary’s Hall

9401 Starcrest Drive

San Antonio, TX 78217

210-483-9228

kschmidt@smhall.org