by Trevor Waddington, Principal, Truth Tree Consulting
Your school’s website has come a long way since its first inception, am I right? Let me guess. It was one-part news center for current parents, one-part dumping ground for curricular minutia, and a dash of a scrolling IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT that took your tech team 24 hours to get on the website.
Today, your site is a sophisticated inbound marketing masterpiece that has prospective families marveling at your ethos and experience...except for maybe one section that’s growing in importance.
A recent deep dive by the Truth Tree team uncovered a noticeable increase in the number of new users visiting the section dedicated to those people charged with educating our youth: teachers.
In an internal comparison, 26 of our school partners with analytic data going back at least three years demonstrated a 31% increase in new visitors going to the teacher pages in September of that year.
Historically, the top five site pages visited by prospective parents included:
School calendar, and
About/quick facts page.
In September of 2020, even with the reopening/COVID plan page being the top destination upon entry, teacher pages have cracked the top five.
Teacher pages/directory/meet our teachers, and
The increased attention on teacher pages can partially be explained simply because, during the admission process, parents usually get to meet the teachers or see them in action during a tour. That’s not readily happening right now. While the 2020 spike is explainable, the steady rise needs more investigation.
To evaluate how our own school partners’ teacher profile pages (or lack thereof) stacked up against a random sampling of peer schools, we reviewed 54 non-client school sites.
While we were happy to see that 43 of the 54 had at least a directory (name and position), only 24 schools had teacher bios in the form of professional and semi-personal information (family situation, pets, favorite places to visit, etc.).
To get the skinny on the importance of teacher profile pages and how to build a compelling teacher page section, we tapped Clairbourn School’s Director of Communication, Nancy Ward. Clairbourn, an age three to grade eight school in California, has been a Truth Tree school partner since last year.
Trevor: Did the school have a robust "Our Teachers" section when you started in your position? If not, why did you make it an obvious priority?
Nancy: No, we didn't have a page where we highlighted each teacher when I started in 2006. I had to talk about our teachers in general terms. I wanted this content for many years for basic school storytelling and point-of-difference-from-the-competition reasons. The main block to having this content was two-fold; first, a fear that it may reveal a weak link in our teacher line-up, and secondly, there was a fear that it would exacerbate an existing problem of parents lobbying to have their child assigned to what they considered to be the most exciting-sounding teacher. Back then, teachers and admins were still concerned about personal privacy and didn't see the need for self-promotion. The birth rate was high, the economy was good, and business was booming. The window of opportunity came in 2016 when our school dropped the religious-background hiring requirement for our teachers (which previously limited our hiring pool) and dropped two sections for each grade level. Those two changes eroded the main objections to featuring our teachers individually.
Trevor: How has this page impacted the real or perceived value of Clairbourn? Have prospective parents ever mentioned it?
Nancy: When we added teacher pages, it was important to play catch-up because we were behind the content curve. Other competing schools already had this type of content on their websites. When we finally added it, it really did help set us apart because it created a very clear picture of the special type of teacher that we hire - those who are not only highly-skilled, tech-savvy, and qualified educators, but also ones that glow with kindness and nurturing qualities, those who gravitate to our character-building and growth mindset theme, and those who can maintain a positive view of the capability of each child. Our teachers are fantastic! Kids don't want to go home at the end of the day, and it's because they love learning from our teachers. It's wonderful to be free now to highlight who we've hired.
Trevor: Besides the web page, how else do you use the information to communicate with parents/families?
Nancy: We have quite a close-knit and supportive community with highly involved parents. By providing these profiles, there is the potential to create conversation points and establish commonalities for a strong parent-teacher team in raising children. It helps our families understand and get to know the teachers as partners in parenting and their children's guide to learning. It is also important to note that there are well-known barriers to parents and teachers mixing socially to build community. It is often hard to get teachers to show up to school galas or events where they might be barraged with what-is-the-status-of-my-child's-grade questions. These teacher profiles are designed to build a level of person-to-person comfort prompting parents with conversation topics on the teachers' interests, such as international travel, reading mystery novels, yoga beach retreats, etc.
Trevor: Many schools struggle to highlight teachers because teachers are often reluctant to be a part of marketing. How were you able to get them on board?
Nancy: Watching for favorable timing was how the teachers were finally brought on board. Everyone knew we were launching a new website in 2018, which required a total content refresh. It was easy to reach out to them with a request to support the new website launch and point out what makes them unique in new teacher bios. A questionnaire was sent out to teachers before school started, so they would have plenty of time to provide answers. I made sure to let them know that they were welcome to be cryptic in their questionnaire responses, and I would form it into a cohesive statement (which they could approve), so they didn't have the pressure of writing a formal bio.
The questionnaire referenced above was graciously provided by Nancy Ward.
Teacher Profile Questionnaire
Q1 Full Name
Q2 Years of teaching experience?
Q3 Educational background / degrees / credentials?
Q4 Describe prior related work experience:
Q5 Job title at the school:
Q6 Other assigned duties (be specific). e.g. coach, drama teacher, dean, etc.
Q7 How many years have you been at the school?
Q8 What steps do you take to stay current with tech/ed/and learning advances?
Q9 What are some classroom innovations you've implemented?
Q10 How do you keep students engaged in their learning experience?
Q11 What do you expect from your students?
Q12 What can parents and students expect from you?
Q13 What qualities or life-skills do you wish to impart to your students?
Q14 What fuels your passion/drive to be an educator?
Q15 Why do you choose to teach at this school?
Q16 As a teacher, what do you consider to be your greatest superpower?
Q17 Please share some interesting facts about you / hobbies / interests.