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CA TOY Application Documentation Instructions

Instructions for completing the Documentation component of the California Teachers of the Year (CA TOY) Application.

This web page contains information about the requirements for the Documentation component that must be completed and uploaded into the California Teachers of the Year (CA TOY) Application.

It is recommended that you collect information and complete the Documentation component prior to beginning the Application. Instructions for completing the CA TOY Application can be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) CA TOY web page.


Each component and essay must be uploaded into the 2025 CA TOY Application (Online Survey) as one complete file in Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat.

The Documentation is limited to 23 pages, formatted as follows:

  • 1-inch margins
  • Arial size 12-point font
  • Single-spaced

The Documentation should be named as follows: County Name, District Name, followed by the candidate First Name and Last Name. (Do not include the words "county" or "school district.") For example: Orange Garden Grove Unified Jane Smith. Include the documentation name on the Cover Page.

The Documentation should include page breaks so that each component has its own page(s). For each component, include the name of the component followed by the requirement. Do not include the requirement description. Each component has its own word or page maximum. The name of the component will not count towards the requirement word count.


The Documentation must include the following components:

  • Cover Page
  • Introductory Letter
  • Professional Biography
  • Professional Resume
  • Essays
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Headshot
  • Introductory Video
Cover Page

Provide a cover page. (Not to exceed one page.)

The cover page should include the documentation name and the following information about the candidate:

  • Documentation Name (County Name, District Name, followed by candidate First Name and Last Name)
  • First Name and Last Name
  • Grade Level(s) Teaching - Subject(s) Teaching
  • School where Employed, City
  • School District, County
Introductory Letter

Provide an introductory letter from the candidate to the Evaluation Committee. (750 words or two pages) Provide the word count in parenthesis after the name of the component.

The introductory letter should present a powerful statement about your commitment to continued achievement for all students.

Address all prompts and provide specific examples:

  • Explain what it is like to be a student in your class.
  • Paint a clear picture that helps the reader to envision a typical day.
  • Include a brief example of an ideal real day and a brief example of how you turned a challenging moment into a teachable moment.
Professional Biography

Provide a professional biography in first person from the candidate. (Not to exceed 500 words.) Provide the word count in parenthesis after the name of the component.

Include the following:

  • The factors that influenced you to become a teacher.
  • Your greatest contributions and accomplishments in education or the professional community, to date.
Professional Resume

Provide a professional resume from the candidate. (Not to exceed two pages.) Provide the word count in parenthesis after the name of the component.

Include the candidate's accomplishments in the areas listed below, include the five most recent items for each of the following in chronological order (most recent first): NOTE: California Teachers Association (CTA), National Education Association (NEA), are not certifications

  • Education - Colleges and Universities attended (including postgraduate studies), degrees earned, majors, and the years of attendance.
  • Certifications - Professional association memberships, including information regarding offices held, and the year obtained.
  • Work Experience - Teaching employment history with title, organization, years in position, grade level, and subject area of each assignment.
  • Leadership Experience - Staff development position, organization, and years in position.
  • Awards and Other Recognition - Awards and other recognition of your teaching and the year received.

Provide an essay addressing each of the following six topics. Please indicate evidence of student impact. Do not include external links. (Each essay is not to exceed 750 words.) Provide the word count in parenthesis after the name of the component.

Essay 1 - Philosophy of Teaching

Describe a content lesson or unit that exemplifies your philosophy as a teacher. Show how your deliberate instructional decisions create student learning and reveal what you value in education.

Address all prompts and provide specific examples:

  • Describe what you are doing to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students.
  • The greatest rewards you find in teaching.
  • How your views about teaching are demonstrated in your personal teaching style.
  • How you engage students of all backgrounds, abilities, and readiness levels in learning and how that learning influences your students.
  • A content lesson or unit that defines you as a teacher and how your beliefs about teaching are demonstrated in this lesson or unit.
Essay 2 - School Culture

Describe how you deliberately create culture in your classroom and school.

Address the prompt and provide specific examples:

  • Demonstrate how you leverage relationships and collaborate with others to teach students of all backgrounds and identities.
Essay 3 - School Community Involvement

Describe specific ways in which you deliberately connect your students with the community. Demonstrate the impact of this work on student learning and success.

Address all prompts and provide specific examples:

  • Specific ways you are involved with colleagues in creating school-community partnerships.
  • Your commitments to the community through service-oriented activities (such as volunteer and civic) that enhance the home, school, and/or community connection, and the role you played in the projects.
  • How you foster student involvement in community service projects and utilize the community in your classroom.
Essay 4 - Education Issues and Trends

Define an issue you have had to advocate for either in your school, state, or beyond. Describe how you demonstrated leadership as part of your work on this issue and how your work contributed to the success of your students.

Address all prompts and provide specific examples:

  • Address the issue in depth.
  • Outline possible causes and effects.
  • Outline possible resolutions.
  • Describe how you address or work to improve the issue both within and outside of the classroom.
Essay 5 - State Superintendent of Public Instruction's Initiative

Describe how your teaching and/or professional experiences contribute toward the work of California's State Superintendent of Public Instruction's (SSPI) Initiatives.

Select ONLY one or two of Superintendent Thurmond's initiatives and provide specific examples. You may find them on his Transforming Schools Initiatives web page.

Essay 6 - National Teacher of the Year

As the 2025 National Teacher of the Year, serving as the ambassador of education for the United States, you have been asked to give a speech to a large audience of teachers. This speech is being recorded and will be shared broadly with a larger audience. Write the speech that you would give in this scenario.

In your speech, address all prompts and provide specific examples:

  • The skills, values, knowledge, and ethics you would convey.
  • The positive messages you would communicate to your profession and to the public.
  • Why you would recommend individuals to enter the teaching profession.
  • How you would strengthen and improve the teaching profession.
  • How you support the teaching profession, such as through teacher collaboration and mentoring.
  • What is and/or what should be the basis for accountability in the teaching profession.
Letters of Recommendation

Include three letters of recommendation from a diverse array of colleagues/stakeholders that support why you should be a 2025 California Teacher of the Year. (Each letter of recommendation is not to exceed one page.)

When choosing letters of recommendation to submit, consider how they might extend the Application by covering areas or examples not addressed elsewhere in the application. Each letter of recommendation must include a signature. Do not include other materials, such as pictures, portfolios, or press clippings.

At least one letter must be from a parent, colleague, administrator, or student. Letters may be from among the following titles or education stakeholders, and should only be one per title:

  • District Superintendent
  • Principal
  • Administrator
  • Colleague
  • Student
  • Parent
  • Community Civic Leader

Include two professional headshots that will be used for social media or other promotional materials. The headshots should be in:

  • Color
  • Portrait Orientation
  • 5" x 7"
  • 300 ppi, .jpg format
Introductory Video

Include an introductory video. (Not to exceed 3 minutes.)

Provide the hyperlinked long/bare URL to where the introductory video can be viewed.

The introductory video should include:

  • An introduction including your name and the county you are representing. (e.g., "My name is ... I am a 2025 California Teacher of the Year Candidate from ... County.")
  • A description of why you teach.
Questions:   Awards Unit | | 916-319-0842
Last Reviewed: Thursday, April 04, 2024
Recently Posted in Awards and Recognition