Many general education teachers see the need to improve the learning of students with disabilities and special needs in their classrooms and school systems. Becoming a special education teacher is a logical way to do this, but it requires specialized training and education specific to the field, not to mention further licensure, testing and certification requirements.
So how does one take the necessary steps to become a special education teacher? Graduate degree programs like the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s online Master of Science in Education (MSE) — Special Education are designed to give educators the knowledge and skills needed to be successful special education teachers as well as prepare those educators for licensure and testing requirements specific to their state. Pursuing a master’s degree in special education through an online program can be a convenient and efficient step toward becoming an effective special education teacher.
How Can Well-Trained Special Education Teachers Bring Positive Change to Students’ Learning and Lives?
Special education teachers are uniquely suited to ensuring every student gets a good education and is prepared for college and life after school. As required by law, special education teachers are an integral part of each student’s team and the development and actuation of that student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
The special education teacher plays an important role in the appropriate education of each student with special needs, from early intervention, IEP planning, classroom and community integration, adaptive technology use, curriculum adaptation and modification, to transition services. The special education teacher is an expert in teaching strategies and techniques suited to each student’s unique learning needs, as well as that student’s advocate throughout their schooling.
How Does a Master’s Degree in Special Education Prepare Teachers to Work in the Field?
Dr. Nicoline Ambe, author of Above & Beyond: How to Help Your Child Get Good Grades in School, and Position Them for Success in College, Career, and Life, states in a GradSchools.com interview: “Soon after I started teaching elementary school, I realized that many of my students who had been designated as having a disability really did not have a disability.” Appropriately teaching students with special needs means striving to understand each student’s abilities and strengths as well as their disabilities and weaknesses.
Well-trained special education teachers know how to adapt a student’s education to meet their unique learning styles through differentiated instruction techniques as well as use adaptive technologies and collaborative classroom design. But they also know how to nurture each student’s abilities, reinforcing their strengths and self-confidence. And using the depth of knowledge and learning skills obtained through a master’s degree program like UW-Superior’s MSE in Special Education, teachers can further teach their students how to be lifelong learners. Referring to her advanced degree, Dr. Ambe says, “It’s helping me engage my students in high-level and higher-order thinking. It is helping me raise my expectations of them, and raise their expectations of themselves.”
What Specialized Positions Can Master’s Level Special Education Teachers Hold?
In addition to the knowledge and skills required to teach special education students, master’s program graduates gain a skill set required for important roles within a school system. These are wide-ranging, but the following are a few such jobs:
- Intervention Specialist.
- Resource Specialist.
- Transition Team Specialist.
- Professional Trainer.
- Inclusion and Curriculum Adaptation Specialist.
Clearly, there are many ways a teacher with an MSE in Special Education can have a positive impact on student learning. Such degree programs prepare teachers for their state’s specialized licensure requirements. And in obtaining a degree through an online program like that offered by UW-Superior, teachers can put what they learn into practice immediately while continuing to work, integrating that learning in a deep way.
Learn more about the UW-Superior online MSE in Special Education program.