As an educator in the field of special education for over 27 years, I have seen the role of the special educator change from one as a teacher of a group of students with disabilities in a secluded classroom, to a more collaborative role with increased opportunities to serve students, families and staff.
Legislation has been revised over the years, and the role of the special education teacher continues to evolve. Teachers are accountable for documenting parental involvement, inclusive practices and tiered supports in general education settings.
The role of the special education teacher is less isolated, and there are many opportunities for collaboration with others. This changing role provides a unique opportunity for special education teachers to serve students, parents, staff and faculty.
In order to serve my students and their parents, as a special education teacher, I had to have effective communication skills and motivation. Additionally, I collaborated with teams of professionals, including administrators, school psychologists and related service providers such as speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists.
Of course, during all of these interactions, I was mindful of my major responsibility: an IEP case manager. As such, I cultivated a partnership with my colleagues and parents that was built on trust. We all worked collaboratively to identify student strengths and needs to develop an IEP that addressed how the school team would provide the most appropriate and relevant education for the student.
Most often, as part of the student’s IEP, I was an integral member of grade-level committees that planned activities and instruction for all learners. Sometimes, I co-taught with other teachers to support all of our learners. This modeling of collaboration demonstrated to other teachers and our students how the needs of all students could be met. Furthermore, I served as an onsite consultant to other staff.
The expanding role of the special education teacher encompasses much more than the traditional role of assessment, IEP developer and teaching in a self-contained classroom. There are so many ways to have a powerful impact on teaching and learning. These include being a coach and consultant; leading campus and district committees; advocating for students and their families; and modeling collaboration and teamwork.
Meeting the individual needs of students, colleagues and families is a service I am honored to perform.
Grand Canyon University offers a variety of education degrees through the College of Education, including a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in special education. Backed by the context of our Christian heritage, our education degrees prepare you for a rewarding career of learning, leading and serving.
More About Virginia:
Virginia is an online faculty member at Grand Canyon University, experienced Autism Spectrum Disorder coach and teacher mentor dedicated to providing support in classroom management, IEP development, development of focused transition plans, behavior management and differentiation of instruction to teachers and their students in kindergarten through twelfth grade general education settings, resource classroom settings and self-contained classroom settings. Virginia also owns Virginia Murray Consulting and assists clients in providing education for adults with disabilities, helping young adults with disabilities gain independence and employment. She has over 25 years of experience in public education. She is currently working on her Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Special Education at GCU. She is passionate about preparing and supporting new teachers in finding their purpose and providing service to students in education settings.