The Role of Special Education Teachers

A teacher sits next to a student's desk to talk to them

Special education teachers are specially trained and licensed teachers who work with students with special needs. Special educators, in some cases, carry a class roster; however, because of programs like mainstreaming and RTI, special education classes are becoming rarer. Instead, today’s special educators work closely with general education teachers to provide support to students in the classroom.

Because many special education teachers don’t have their own class of record, you might wonder what their roles actually entail. You might also be interested in pursuing a degree in special education and wonder if the role is a good fit.

Here’s what you need to know about special education teachers.

They know how to work with other teachers

Special education teachers today often do what’s called “push in.” In this case, the special education teacher works with the general education teacher to support differentiation and modified learning in the general education classroom. The special education teacher works with the general education teacher to create a plan for how to best support students with special needs during lessons provide to the whole class. This may look like small group instruction, one-on-one coaching, and even both teachers planning and implementing lessons.

They use data to develop individual plans.

Special educators are required to write their students’ Individualized Education Plans or IEPs. These plans are required by law for students with special needs and they outline the student’s diagnosis and the accommodations or modifications that need to be made In order to help students reach their academic and social goals. Special educators write IEPs using data collected during the special education testing process. This data might come from standardized testing and it might also come from observations made by the teachers and parents.

They are flexible and patient.

It may take students with special needs longer to learn the same concepts as their peers in general education. It may also take many attempts using different methods to help students with special needs to learn and remember information. A special education teacher is a problem solver who works patiently with students to uncover the best learning methods and styles.

They advocate for students.

Special education teachers are specialists when it comes to students with special needs. They act to advocate on their students’ behalf to general education teachers as well as to administration. Special education teachers are often included in disciplinary hearings related to students with special needs because they understand that certain behaviors may stem from frustrations in the learning environment.

They stay up-to-date on research and practices.

Special education teachers are constantly in training to better understand their students. Not every student with the same diagnosis presents in the same way, therefore special education teachers need to understand many different ways to come at a learning difficulty. The influx of technology in schools is an aid to special education teachers. They spend time seeing how they can best utilize the new technology that allows their students to access material in new ways.

To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s College of Education provides students with the skills it takes to work as a special educator, visit our website or click the Request More Information Button on this page

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