Are you unsure whether you should choose to major in Special Education or in Elementary Education? Or, would you be interested in teaching students who are both elementary school aged and may have special needs? If so, the B.A. in Special Education and Elementary Education is perfect for you. This dual program will enable you to pursue a dual initial licensure in Special Education and Elementary Education (K-6), giving you the opportunity to become a highly qualified educator in both disciplines.
Why teach Special Education?
Students with disabilities often require more time, patience, and understanding than their non-disabled peers; they also require differentiated instruction that is tailored to their distinctive learning abilities. Special Education has many unique rewards which set it apart from any other type of teaching, such as:
- The opportunity to develop close, long-lasting bonds with students and their parents/guardians.
- The opportunity to make a significant difference in students' abilities to see their 'abilities and strengths' both academically and socially.
- Confidence as a teacher that you will be knowledgeable and skilled in responding to a diverse range of learners' academic, behavioral, and social emotional needs.
- Ability to work in both general education and special education K-6 learning environments.
Why teach Elementary Education?
For most children, elementary school is where it all begins: Learning, exploration, rules, consequences, and relationships outside of the family. As an elementary school teacher, you will have the unique opportunity to instill a love for learning in children that will serve them for years to come. You will be responsible for setting the groundwork for a child’s success later in life, both behaviorally and academically. Some reasons elementary school teachers love what they do include:
- As a Special Education teacher, there will never be a “typical” student or a boring day. Every day will be filled with new opportunities and challenges.
- You will be much more than simply a classroom teacher. You will also be a community advocate, a role model, a counselor, a specialist in learning and behavioral challenges, and a guide for disabled students and their parents. Because of this, you will develop close, long-lasting bonds with your students and their parents, which will often last throughout a child’s entire life.
- All teaching is rewarding, but there is a special magic in seeing a child grasp a new skill that he or she has been working on for weeks. For many Special Education teachers, the light and joy in their students’ faces is something that cannot be matched in any other learning group.
Why study both?
Many parents of students with disabilities do not know that their children struggle with certain tasks. In many cases, it is only when a child is placed with other children in a similar environment that challenges can be identified. Elementary school teachers, who work with many children each day, are often the first to recognize such differences.
As a teacher with training in special education, you will be equipped to identify student challenges as early as possible and ensure that sufficient adaptations are put into place. Your extra training will help you give all your students the accommodations they need to be successful.
A dual licensure also provides a competitive advantage when you are applying for teaching positions upon graduation. Schools place a high value on graduates with special education training, since they know how crucial it is to have teachers who can adapt to diverse learning needs.
Though most of our graduates pursue careers in a classroom setting, you might choose to perform educational, administrative, research, or advocacy work for either special education students or elementary school students in one of the following settings:
Since the field of Education is constantly evolving, this is far from an exhaustive list of opportunities. By the time you graduate, there may be even more opportunities available.
Students interested in the dual program should anticipate a robust schedule of courses in both disciplines. In order to determine a plan of study, your first step will be to meet with an advisor in the Teacher Education Advising and Licensure (TEAL) office in the College of Education building. Generally speaking, your courses will teach you classroom management strategies, behavior management strategies for diverse learning needs, curriculum design, time management skills in the classroom, and various other special education strategies.
Hands-On Teaching Opportunities
Throughout your studies, you will you will have opportunities to participate in various field experiences where you will observe, interact with, and teach diverse populations of children in area public schools. These experiences are designed to expose graduates to real children with educational needs in their area of study.
Finally, in your last year of study, you will participate in a yearlong Internship designed to give you even more hands-on experience. In your first semester, you will spend at least one day per week in an assigned classroom while continuing to complete your other coursework. In the second semester, you will progress to full-time student teaching in the same classroom. By the time you graduate, you will have plenty of experiences to discuss in interviews!