Special education teachers are primarily responsible for teaching students who experience any form of mental, physical, learning, or developmental disability. They specialize in modifying general education lessons according to the specific needs and requirements of their students. They evaluate their students' skills and develop teaching plans accordingly. Teachers spend a lot of time in providing individual attention to each student. They are responsible for keeping track of their students' performance and discussing their progress with parents, counselors, and administrators. They may teach many subjects like math, reading, writing, and science. Special education teachers are also required to teach basic skills, like literacy and communication techniques, to students who suffer from severe disabilities.
As far as educational requirements are concerned, special education teachers working in public schools should have earned their special education degrees and attain state specific certifications or licenses. Private schools usually require teachers to only have a bachelor's degree and not necessarily a state license or certificate. Some states, however, may require you to hold a master's degree before you can be certified. Teachers who wish to take up leadership roles typically go on to pursue a doctorate degree.
As far as the curriculum of a special education degree program is concerned, you will mainly learn about the various types of disabilities, and how to teach children in a way that they will be able to understand and comprehend. Most programs require students to get involved in fieldwork like teaching students in special education classes. Prospective special education teachers should also develop a comprehensive knowledge base of the particular subject that they wish to teach. Although the name and range of courses vary, depending at which school you are enrolled in, some examples of the types of courses you may come across include:
Introduction to Hearing and Speech Sciences
Child Growth and Development
Language Development and Reading Acquisition
Behavior and Classroom Management in Special Education
Instruction of Students with Physical Disabilities
If you want to continue to keep your current teaching job, you may enroll in an online special education degree program. Distance learning programs help cut down on costs, and offer flexibility by allowing you to study within the comfort and convenience of your home. Online degrees are equally good as far as the quality of course content and curriculum is concerned. They also prove useful for professional special education teachers who want to enhance their skills and learn more about the field. Many institutes offer diplomas and certificate programs particularly designed for these professionals.
In order to ensure that you receive hands-on knowledge and training, some institutes offer hybrid programs that require students to attend some on-campus classes too. In 2012, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), special education teachers earned a median salary of $55,060 per year. Special education teachers may work in private schools, public schools, hospitals, childcare centers, or in students' home.