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.
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.
According to the projections made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of all special education teachers is predicted to increase by 17 percent nationwide until 2020.
The BLS projected the greatest growth, 21 percent, for special education teachers at the preschool through elementary school levels. At the middle-school level, the growth rate is projected at 20 percent. (Source: Houston Chronicle)
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.
A Bachelor’s degree
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, 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 the certification process and continued study to excel in the classroom. A good educator preparation program will teach the full complement of special education assignments and disabilities.
Apply for an Educator Preparation Program
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.
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.
Special education Texas teachers undergo specialized training through these programs and can sometimes be allowed to teach, while completing the program requirements.
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.
Candidates for special education take the TExES Special Education EC-12 exam, which assesses a candidate’s understanding and ability to work with students in need of special attention.
All candidates seeking to teach in Texas also need to take the TExES Core Subjects EC-6 (291) exam that assesses your knowledge of core teaching subject areas, as well your ability to adequately process this information to students. In addition, you will need to take the TExES Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (PPR EC-12 exam) that assesses your ability to perform well in the teaching profession.
After completing an educator preparation program, along with the required TExES examinations, you are able to obtain a license as a special education teacher 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 are also better able to 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 on continued learning. Ideal candidates will have a 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 or feel that you are called to work with special needs children, then 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.
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.