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How to Be a Successful Special Education Teacher

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education has identified teacher shortage areas across the U.S. This list reveals that Missouri needs more highly qualified special education teachers. Only about half of its special education teachers are highly qualified, according to a 2014 U.S. Department of Education report.

Here are the special education specialties from birth to grade 12 where there is a teacher shortage:

  • Blind and partial sight.
  • Deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Mild to moderate cross-categorical.
  • Severe developmental disabilities.
  • Speech-language pathology.
  • Special reading.

Almost 125,000 students in Missouri are receiving special education services. Given this number and the teacher shortage, people interested in becoming highly qualified as special education teachers may find new career opportunities in this field.

What Are the Top Qualities of a Special Education Teacher?

Anyone can be good at dispensing knowledge to students, but not everyone has the traits to be a great special education teacher. Students in special education need someone who can do more than provide them with skills.

The most successful special education teachers have these traits:

  • Passion: A dedicated teacher will work through challenges and keep going.
  • Patience: Students can take longer to complete tasks or comprehend information.
  • Acceptance: The students will have diverse challenges, which requires the teacher to be accepting of all students.
  • Organization: Special education teachers not only manage individualized education plans (IEP) and paperwork but also need to create an environment that meets the students' diverse needs.
  • Flexibility: Situations will come up that demand the teacher to adapt on the fly.
  • Even Temper: When a student has an outburst, the teacher must remain calm to properly address the situation.
  • Creativity: Successful teachers find multiple ways to teach a single topic to best reach their students' varied needs and learning styles.
  • Sense of Humor: Finding opportunities to laugh and have fun create a cheerful environment for students.

Working in special education is a rewarding career for teachers with these qualities. It allows them to get through each day knowing they make a difference in their students' lives.

What Does It Take to Become a Special Education Teacher in Missouri?

Missouri has different requirements for earning certification to work in education. It depends on the job, grade level and specialty. The Compendium of Missouri Certification Requirements lists all the requirements.

Teaching special education in Missouri requires the following:

  • Baccalaureate degree from an education program approved by the state education agency.
  • Recommendation from an official from the educator preparation program.
  • A minimum grade point average based on listed criteria.
  • Minimum score on the required exit assessment.
  • Complete professional requirements per the recommended educator preparation program.

There are additional requirements for those who earned their bachelor's degree outside of the United States or want to teach in a specialty area, such as work with students who are blind or have poor vision. Teaching students in special education typically requires earning special education licenses as outlined in the Compendium.

The directory of approved Missouri Educator Preparation Programs allows you to search programs by subject areas or program. For example, here are Northwest Missouri State University's state-approved programs for students interested in the school.

Some positions prefer or require a master's degree in special education, especially those in leadership roles. A state-approved educator preparation program usually prepares students to meet all or most of the state's certification requirements.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's online Master of Science in Education in Special Education program.


Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education: Compendium of Missouri Certification Requirements

Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education: Certification

Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education: Educator Preparation Programs

U.S. Department of Education: Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing 1990-1991 through 2016-2017

U.S. Department of Education: Special Education -- Technical Assistance on State Data Collection -- IDEA General Supervision Enhancement Grant

National Center for Education Statistics: Digest of Education Statistics: Table 204.70

Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education: Northwest Missouri State University

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