Special education teachers have a remarkable responsibility. They not only serve as educators but advocates. Every day, special education teachers work to ensure that children have access to and receive a quality education. In doing so, they prepare diverse learners to live to their fullest potential. The role of a special education teacher is multifaceted and requires a wide range of skills. If you’re an aspiring special education teacher and considering a special education credential, here are the six skills and traits you should develop.
1. Passion for Educational Justice
Special education teachers are committed to educational justice and believe that positive learning outcomes should be accessible to all students. By serving diverse learners, they aim to bring balance to an educational system that often overlooks the students who need it most. The University of Redlands offers an online master's in learning and teaching that is rooted in social justice principles. It helps candidates build a strong foundational knowledge of cultural diversity, special education, and inclusion. As graduates, they are prepared to enrich learning for students with mild to moderate disabilities in public or private K-12 settings.
Special education teachers are reflective. They must self-assess to minimize their bias and better meet the needs of every learner. Part of this process is examining their innate perceptions. What are the ways in which they make sense of student behavior? Self-reflection also involves exploring the efficacy of their teaching. What can they do better? By demonstrating dedication to lifelong learning, special education teachers can enhance their expertise and continually improve their practice.
3. Research & Assessment Proficiency
From entry-level to transition planning, special education teachers employ research and assessment at every stage of the learning journey. These tools are fundamental to effective instruction. In the field of special education, research drives continuous improvement as well as innovation. So, it is vital that educators know how to design, conduct, interpret, and report theoretically grounded qualitative and quantitative research. Assessment helps evaluate the effectiveness of special education programs. It is also used to identify the strengths and needs of each student. Special education teachers must be able to use student assessment data from multiple measures, including observations, work samples, and diagnostic tests.
4. Differentiated Instruction
Every child with a disability learns differently. So, special education teachers adapt the design, implementation, and assessment of the curriculum accordingly. These processes require critical thinking, knowledge of theory and practice, as well as ethical judgment. By developing differentiated, culturally responsive teaching practices, special education teachers improve learning for all students.
5. Classroom Management
To maximize learning for all children, special education teachers must promote a positive community in the classroom. They do so by interacting with each child not only as a learner but as a human being. Educators must know how to apply evidence-based instructional practices that are inclusive of all learning styles. Equally important is the ability to ground instruction in person-centered values, such as individuality, respect, and independence. When student behavior requires intervention, special education teachers must be able to manage it appropriately. The essential tools include Response to Intervention (RtI), Behavior Support Plans (BSP), Positive Behavior Interventions (PBI), and IEP goal-writing.
6. Technology Savvy
Special education teachers now use an array of technologies to supplement their instruction. Technology has been shown to enhance education for children with diverse learning styles. It can help students gain confidence, become more independent, and challenge themselves. As a result, special education teachers must develop an in-depth knowledge of instructional and assistive technologies. Learning apps, iPads, and speech-to-text software are among the most common tech tools found in special education classrooms.
Become an Empowered Educator With a Master's in Learning and Teaching
The University of Redlands’ online master's in learning and teaching program equips candidates with all of the skills required of today's special education teachers. With an underlying philosophy derived from social justice principles, it prepares aspiring K-12 educators to improve learning for all children.
The program is innovative and interdisciplinary. Candidates concurrently earn their master’s degree while meeting the State of California-approved requirements for the Preliminary Teaching Credential in the education specialist preliminary credential.
Through engaging online coursework and in-field practice, students learn to:
- Know and understand the various types of disabilities and their causes.
- Design, adapt, and differentiate instruction for learners with a range of abilities and disabilities.
- Design and implement positive behavior support plans for behavioral challenges.
- Administer and interpret a variety of assessment instruments for referral and progress monitoring.
- Conduct meaningful educational research with the appropriate tools to inform the relationship between theory and practice.
- Connect coursework to relevant community issues while exploring their identity as a teacher and researcher.
Are you ready to cultivate the key skills and traits of a special education teacher? To learn more about our online master’s in learning and teaching, complete the form on this page. A University of Redlands online Enrollment Counselor will be in touch to answer your questions.