Aside from being successful, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton, Walt Disney and Bill Gates have something else in common; they all had learning disabilities. Therefore, having special education needs does not mean that a student cannot become successful.
Many students face physical disabilities, behavioral problems and learning difficulties that challenge their ability to learn within a regular classroom. In fact, one in eight Texas public school students are in need of special education services, and you can help.
The valuable education that you received in college or the work experience you obtained through related job positions such as nursing, social work or as an educational aide may allow you to become a great special education teacher in Texas.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in education and are wondering how to become a special education teacher in Texas, here are the steps you’ll need to take along with some useful knowledge that will help you along your journey.
There are several requirements that you need to fulfill and certification tests that you need to take, before you become a special education teacher in Texas.
You must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 2.5. The GPA requirement can apply to the overall GPA posted on your transcript or over the last 60 semester hours of your college coursework to become a teacher in Texas.
Many district job postings state that they are looking for special education candidates that have an educational background focused on special education or a specific learning disability, such as autism, in their chosen majors of undergraduate or graduate studies to land the best positions.
Some districts may REQUIRE an emphasis on special education with your educational background with either bachelors or masters level of study.
However, your bachelor’s degree doesn’t necessarily have to be in education in order to become a special education teacher. While you must have a bachelor’s degree to become a teacher in Texas, it can be in another subject area. You will then have to enroll in an educator preparation program to complete your certification training, which we’ll discuss in the section below.
However, the need in the state is very acute and some districts may waive these educational emphasis requirements to fill open positions. Some of the best candidates are people that don't check off the educational experience box, but have hands-on experience working with special needs children either as educational aides in the classroom or parents of special needs children.
Special education teachers should be prepared for focused preparation during certification and continued study to excel in the classroom. A good educator preparation program will teach the full complement of special education assignments and disabilities.
Educator preparation programs are specialized programs that provide training on the necessary skills that you need to become a teacher in Texas. You must enroll in one of these programs that have been approved by the state. The programs include university teaching programs, school districts, community college and alternative certification programs.
Online Texas teacher alternative certification programs (ACP) are steadily rising in popularity as the option of choice for candidates switching careers or those who have graduated from college, but did not go through university education programs. In fact, 49% of all new teachers in Texas are prepared through alternative certification programs.
To be eligible for an educator preparation program, Texas Administrative Code says you must:
After you’ve applied and been accepted in an EPP, the required training will consist of online or in-person courses or a combination of both. You will need to both complete coursework and field experience. Here is a more detailed look at what your training includes:
It’s important to note that the 30 hours of observation by a teacher advisor is a very important part of your certification process. These certified teachers recommend your credential program whether you are ready or not to teach in the classroom.
Here is where the program you choose makes a difference. ECAP has former principals, vice principals and teachers who have extensive experience to help you through this process. Not all programs do this. Some simply send past teachers who are ex-students of their program to evaluate you, so it is important to contact the program you are considering to ensure that you are going to get the best advisor to help you.
Pass Certification Examinations
To become a certified special education teacher in Texas, you must pass a series of certification exams provided through the state. These tests are aimed at determining whether you possess the necessary knowledge and skills to teach students with special needs and disabilities. They vary based on grade level and subject area.
You must first take a certification exam to get your intern certificate. You’ll take a content exam specific to special ed as part of this process. The TExES content exams are available in more than 60 specialties, which you can explore in our article, List of Texas Teacher Certification Tests: What You Must Take To Teach.
Depending on the content exam you choose, you may also have to take the Science of Teaching Reading. This teaching reading exam is required if you plan to get certified in one of the following areas:
Currently, you must take the PPR as well. The PPR, or Texas Examinations of Educator Standards Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities, “is designed to assess whether a test taker has the requisite knowledge and skills that an entry-level educator in this field in Texas public schools must possess,” according to the TEA.
However, there is a VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE to this exam that we’ll go over in the next section about when you should begin your teacher training.
One of the most common questions from those interested in beginning a teaching career in special education programs is when they should begin their teacher training courses.
The answer is: As soon as possible.
Initially, the Texas State Board of Education sought to replace the PPR with a new requirement called the edTPA, a strenuous exam that would have made it more difficult and costly to become a teacher. The board ultimately rejected this testing requirement for certification, expressing concerns that it wouldn’t help solve the state’s teacher shortage.
However, while we narrowly avoided another contributor to the shortage, nobody knows what’s coming down the pipeline. State board members have expressed their displeasure for the PPR exam, calling it inadequate. What will replace it hasn’t been determined.
The solution could involve bringing back the edTPA and finding a way to work it into the current curriculum, or the state could develop an entirely new tool.
No matter what, while there is a reprieve in testing changes, for now, there could be another new requirement in the pipeline within the next one to three years.
If you consider earning your teaching license, NOW is the time to act while current certification requirements remain. If you wait until as soon as the 2023-24 school year to begin your program, you may face more difficult barriers to earning certification.
Even though you may not have previously considered becoming a teacher, many school districts in Texas are in desperate need of your valuable skills. As a special education teacher, you can make a difference in the lives of students who need individual attention and assistance due to learning and other disabilities in a one-on-one environment.
The United States government projects that special education teachers will be one of the high demand teaching jobs for the foreseeable future.
In fact, the Texas Education Agency has consistently named Special Education as an area experiencing a significant teacher shortage. This can offer a benefit for those considering teaching in this field since educators who teach in shortage areas may be eligible for student loan forgiveness.
According to the projections made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of all special education teachers is predicted to increase by 8 percent nationwide from 2020 to 2030. An average of about 38,600 openings for special education teachers are projected each year.
Because there is a high demand for special education teachers, you may be offered a higher salary, especially if you are a teacher in a high-need area. You can read more about some of the factors that influence teachers’ salaries in our article, Highest Paying Teaching Jobs In Texas.
A special education teacher is responsible for creating a flexible program and learning environment that provides specialized instruction for students with disabilities. The goal is for students to benefit from the general education curriculum to the greatest extent possible when supported with supplemental aides, accommodations, and other needed supports.
A typical job description might include the following duties:
As you can see by the above-listed duties, additional education is required for this type of position.
Ideal candidates to become special education teachers normally have the following attributes:
Organization: people who are highly organized make great teachers. Students need a solid structure within the classroom where they clearly understand their goals and expectations. Organized teachers can also better keep records of student behavior and track their learning progress.
Calm and Composed: a classroom atmosphere can be intense and intimidating, especially for students that need special attention. A good special education teacher should, therefore, be able to maintain a calm and composed environment that reduces stress and anxiety among students.
Creativity: Teachers should have an open-minded approach to teaching. They should be willing to try new ideas and different teaching styles in response to how students are reacting in the classroom. Therefore, good teacher candidates are those who are willing to think outside the box.
Pay attention to Detail: candidates who pay attention to detail can identify changes in the behavior of students and identify a problem that the student may be having.
Desire to Learn: of all the teaching disciplines, special education teachers have a need for continuing education. Changes in teaching techniques and specialization for specific learning disabilities make these positions challenging and require a great deal of preparation for continued learning. Ideal candidates will have the motivation and desire to stay current on advancements in their field to make the most impact in the classroom.
If you possess these qualities and feel that you are called to work with special needs children, becoming a special education teacher may be a desirable career path.
Download a copy of “The Ultimate Checklist On How To Become a Teacher in Texas” to learn about the steps required to start your career.
Topics: Becoming A Teacher
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank. In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.