Are you a middle school, high school, or college student who has been asked to submit a reference letter from a teacher as part of an application for a job or a volunteer position? Or are you a teacher who has been asked to write a reference for a student? What information is needed to write an effective reference letter, and what should the letter include?
Most teachers are more than willing to write reference letters (also known as a letter of recommendation) for students who have performed well in their classes.
Still, be aware that crafting an effective reference letter is a time-consuming task for teachers and one that's often completed outside of school hours. Since you're asking your teacher for a reference, it’s a smart idea to make this task as easy as possible.
Find out what information to share to make the process as simple as possible for your teacher.
Information to Provide to Your Teacher
If you learn that you’ll need to provide a reference letter from a teacher as part of an application, don’t delay asking your teacher if they’ll supply one for you. No teacher, no matter how dedicated, will be happy if a student comes to them asking if they can write a letter of recommendation for them “by tomorrow.” Instead, give your teacher as much time as possible to write an effective letter for you.
There’s also certain information you’ll need to provide your teacher so that they can write an effective letter. This includes:
- The deadline by which the letter must be submitted
- The email or street address to which the letter should be sent
- The name of the organization you’re applying to
- The name of the person at the organization who will be reviewing your application
- The title and description of the position you’re applying for
- A list of the qualifications or skills that will be required for the position
- Your resume (if you have one)
If you don’t have a resume and are a high school or college student, then it’s time to develop one. You don’t need actual work experience to create your first resume: it’s enough to describe your schoolwork, personal academic or volunteer accomplishments, and participation in clubs or other organizations. If you’re a middle school student, you can simply give your teacher a list of activities you’re involved in—things like scouting, band, church groups, or sports.
The more information about yourself and your achievements that you can provide your teacher, the more detail they’ll be able to incorporate into their letter.
Depth of detail can make all the difference in whether you land the role you’re applying for.
What a Reference Letter Should Include
The reference letter should include:
- The position or program. The reference letter should start by mentioning the job or program you are applying for. That way, the reader will know at a glance what the recommendation is for.
- How the writer knows you. A recommendation letter should include information on who you are, your connection with the teacher recommending you, and why they are endorsing you.
- A match between the position’s requirements and the candidate’s skills. The objective of a reference letter is to help the candidate get hired or accepted, and showing how you’re a strong match will help make a case for hiring you or accepting you into an academic or volunteer program.
- Examples. Whenever possible, the letter should provide examples of your qualifications and how you are a good fit for the role.
- Contact information. The letter should include the recommender’s contact information for follow-up questions.
Sample Reference Letter From a Teacher
Take a look at this sample reference letter from a teacher. It demonstrates the sort of information your teacher will need in order to write a glowing letter for you. For instance, Katie may have reminded her teacher which classes she took and what grades she received in them. Katie may also have shared details on the position she's applying for and asked that the teacher emphasize her supporting strengths.
Download the reference letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.
Sample Reference Letter From a Teacher (Text Version)
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345
October 5, 2021
St. Francis Hospital
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321
Dear Mr. Lee:
I am writing this reference at the request of Katie Kingston, who is applying for the Student Volunteer Program at St. Francis Hospital this summer.
I have known Katie for two years in my capacity as a teacher at Smithtown Middle School. Katie took my English and Spanish classes, earning superior grades. Based on Katie's grades, attendance, and class participation, I'd rate Katie's academic performance in my class as superior.
Katie has a number of strengths to offer an employer, and she is always interested in supporting others. For example, when we worked on our class community service project this year, Katie was helpful to me in collecting and organizing the food for the pantry here in Smithtown.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend Katie Kingston. If her performance in my class is any indication of how she'd perform in your position, Katie will be a positive addition to your organization. Should you need any additional information, please feel free to contact me at 555-555-5555 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime.
Signature (hard copy letter)