Why it is Totally Cool to be a Special Education Teacher

Okay, so this isn't where I will be teaching in the Fall. This is actually the school where I have been completing the second half of my student teaching. However, it will still always hold a special place in my heart. Plus it has a really cool entrance sign, don't you think?

I often get told/asked, "You must be so patient."
"It takes a special person."
"Wow, what made you choose that?"
"How do you do it?"

I am here to tell you that those are all ridiculous hyperboles.
I am the opposite of patient.
Nothing special.
There is no secret to doing it. (okay actually there is).

Here's why:
  1. You get to change kids' lives. Like, actually, CHANGE. Sure, when I am in the general education setting (remember, I am getting both my special education and my elementary education degree- so I have been there) I definitely feel the warm fuzzies. It's awesome teaching students new strategies, seeing their brain light bulbs turn on, and watching their socialization. However, I always gravitate towards the lower students. The ones who are struggling need the most help, and therefore get the most attention. You may see progress with the average students-- they will always be making learning progress. But, if you want to see learning leaps, turn to special education. The lower students may not always get to benchmark, but the majority make huge progress. By helping them out, you are truly making a difference.

    Socially, it will be the same. Students that struggle academically can also struggle socially. Whether it is because of their home life, a behavior, or because the other children don't understand, they need you! By showing these kids more appropriate ways to interact, they can make more friends. This makes a huge difference.
  2. There are different levels of special education. Can I just tell you that this is such a huge misconception?! University students that are not in the program  sometimes come to observe the classrooms I have student taught in because the want to go the special education degree route. The most common thing said? "But, they are so high-functioning???" Many people think that special education only means severe cases. I actually will be teaching in a mild/moderate classroom which serves students qualified under learning disabilities that inhibit their academic progress. This can range from struggling readers to social problems. The children I work with are in the classroom with their peers for most of the day, and I will either "push-in" and help them in the classroom, or they will come to my classroom and I will AID them in their classroom instruction. It is just to supplement their learning.
  3. You can get up to $17, 500 in loans forgiven. Ya, bro, you heard me. If you teach in a qualified school for 5 consecutive years, you can get your Federal Direct loans or Stafford Loans forgiven up to that amount. The teacher loan forgiveness form for that is here. More information is on the loan forgiveness here. When I found this out, I think I may have actually said, "hallelujah!" Taking on student loans was the only way for me to go to school. This will help a ton.
  4. You can get $4, 000 a year as a grant for 4 years of schooling. A grant is money that does not have to be paid back, as long as certain terms are met. It is like a free loan! The TEACH Grant promises to give $4, 000 a year ($2, 000 a semester) for up to 4 years of undergrad and 2 years of post grad if certain qualifications are met. You have 8 years to meet these qualifications.  You MUST teach in an eligible school, most of which are low-income or Title 1. You must teach for 4 years. You must be a highly qualified teacher. That's it. CRAZY RIGHT?! Now, if you choose not to teach the four years within 8 years, or you teach in an unqualified school/position, the grants will be transferred into loans. So make sure you meet the standards. More information on the TEACH Grant is here.
  5. Job placement is about 90%. I have always been told 100% of special education teachers will be placed. I say 90% because I don't want to be the one to tell you something wrong. However, I can tell you first hand that places will CONTACT YOU to offer jobs. They need to fill these jobs because special education is hard (but highly rewarding). It does take a lot of work. You will always have a job though.
  6. Retailers love to give teachers discounts. For a complete list of places that you should show you ID badge, check out this website for discounts.
  7. If you love psychology, you will love behavior management. Going into college, I thought that psychology sounded interesting. But, most people think that as well. This makes it a really hard degree to get a job right out of college. What I didn't know is that special education deals a lot with psychology. There is something called behavior management. Basically, you find the root of the unwanted behavior, and replace the antecedent or behavior with a more appropriate response. Sometimes it really takes some digging to figure what makes a child tick (psychology, people!) in order to figure out why they are exhibiting a behavior. It is like a constant puzzle-- except more rewarding because it changes peoples' lives.

    There are so many other things I could tell you about, but instead I'll mention them oh so fast. Utah may be upping SPED teachers' salaries by $5, 000 a year. You get summers off. The hours aren't half bad. You can make lesson plans from home. The health benefits are killer! You get the picture. We need more special educators! If I didn't entice you just now, then I'll just have to try harder next time.



  1. Great post! It's totally cool to be a teacher:)

  2. Really unique! My friend works as a special education teacher and she feels similarly to the reasons you mentioned. Very rewarding work!

  3. I love your outlook! As a school nurse for 15+ years I have worked with a lot of sped kids! I am in a school with only sped kids right now and love it!

    1. Thank you! YOU ARE AMAZING. School nurses help the school function. Truly.

  4. I volunteered for a year at a program for special needs young adults just out of high school. It was so rewarding. I commending you for your work!!!

    1. Thank you so much, and thanks for your volunteer work!

  5. Very good points! I got my degree in Psychology and am currently working as a Substitute in a needy district. I have loved subbing in the behavior/social skills rooms and found it really does use psych skills! I'm seriously thinking of pursuing a masters in SpEd. Thanks for this inspiration!

    1. You definitely should! My mentor teacher had her degree in psych and she recieved her masters in Sped and loves it! You could always be a school psych and still get the chance to work with those sped kids. Do it girl!

  6. Great article! After homeschooling for a few years, I have the upmost respect for teachers! Thanks for sharing your tips at Inspire Me Mondays!

  7. I was a special education assistant one summer at the school where my mother taught kindergarten. It was definitely an educational and rewarding opportunity!!! The children were extremely knowledgeable, even if they couldn't express it in words!! There were all different aptitudes and levels of teaching that the children went through...and with flying colours, for the most part!!!

  8. Great post! Teachers are so under appreciated and under paid!


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