Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School Career Video
Description: Teach academic, social, and life skills to secondary school students with learning, emotional, or physical disabilities. Includes teachers who specialize and work with students who are blind or have visual impairments; students who are deaf or have hearing impairments; and students with intellectual disabilities.
With patience, resourcefulness and strong communication skills, special education teachers create a positive learning environment for students with special needs. Special education teachers work with students who have learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They teach reading, writing, and math, and—for students with severe disabilities— they also teach communication and basic life skills. A special education teacher begins by developing an Individualized Education Program for each student, then implementing it and tracking student progress. Communicating with parents, counselors, other teachers, and administrators helps ensure they meet students’ needs. Tasks vary based on the student’s needs; teachers might develop flashcards for a student with hearing loss, facilitate a small group to teach collaboration for a project, or create a quiet corner for students with autism. Many use assistive technology to communicate with students. Most special education teachers work in public schools, with students ranging from preschool through high school. They generally work during school hours, following the traditional 10-month school year schedule. The work can be highly rewarding, but also emotionally demanding and physically draining. Special education teachers need a bachelor’s degree in special education or in an education-related field; or a content area, such as math or science with a minor in special education. A license is required to teach in public schools. States may offer a general license in special education, or disability-specific credentials, such as autism or behavior disorders.