How to Become a Special Education Teacher for Mild to Moderate Disabilities, K-12

By Patrick Gallant

special education teacher in the classroom with students

K-12 Special Education is one of the highest-need areas for teaching.

While there is currently a teacher shortage in general, the shortage is even greater for Special Ed teachers.

With the demand for teachers rising, schools across the country struggle to fill vacancies with committed, high-quality educators.

States are making an effort to make it easier to get a Special Ed teaching license. They hope that this will help reduce the shortage over time.

Arizona now offers a fast licensure pathway that is a big step forward for schools, aspiring teachers, and students.

Because of state teaching license reciprocity, this is a program that can benefit the country as a whole.

Qualified teachers may be able to transfer their license to other states.

Interesting information on the shortage statistics

Our most vulnerable students risk falling by the wayside with resources already spread too thin. 

A 2015 study said that 74% of districts reported a shortage of Special Education teachers. This 2021 article by the Council for Exceptional Children indicates that the number is now 98%. 

Of the teachers who enter the Special Education field, there is a 12% turnover rate- nearly twice as high as general education teachers. This is a testament to the challenges that Special Ed teachers face over and above other teachers.

The data is clear: there is an immense need to train, recruit, and retain Special Ed teachers in Arizona and across the US. Students and families who depend on specialized support require highly skilled educators who can offer them a pathway to success.

You just need a Bachelor’s degree to apply (any major). It’s that simple!

Once successfully qualified, you'll be able to teach Special Education in Arizona.

Klassroom’s Licensure Specializations

You may be thinking, Arizona? But I don't live in Arizona?

No problem! Our Arizona Teacher Certification Program qualifies you to teach in Arizona. But you don’t have to be in the state of Arizona to take it- the TCP Core coursework is 100% online.

You also don’t have to teach exclusively in Arizona when you pass the course. The clinical placement of this program may be completed from anywhere in the United States or at a U.S. international school.

Teaching Reciprocity laws are set up specifically so that you can take your Arizona license and apply it elsewhere around the country. The details of Teaching Reciprocity are a little tricky, so more on that below.

Klassroom offers three different licensure fields through this program, not just Special Ed. The licensure fields you may select are:

  • Special Education Mild to Moderate Disabilities, K-12
  • Elementary Education, K-8
  • Secondary Education, 6-12

What will I learn in TCP Core Online's Special Education Stream?

TCP is a flexible learning experience that includes core pedagogical coursework (TCP Core), essential special education content and pedagogy, and foundational content-focused curriculum (literacy and numeracy).

Candidates also complete an intensive clinical placement of at least 450 hours. When done consecutively, the entire process may be completed in under a year: TCP Core, Special Education content, and Clinical Placement.

You will be placed in a cohort with anywhere from 15 to 20 fellow TCP students as well as an online mentor, giving you the opportunity to connect during weekly lessons. Each week you will dedicate a minimum of 15-20 hours to your submissions, assignments, and discussions in order to meet the required deadlines and due dates.

There are five core modules in the course:

  • Module 1: The Role of the Teacher (3 weeks)
  • Module 2: Learner Development and Experience (4 weeks)
  • Module 3: Assessing Student Learning (6 weeks)
  • Module 4: Planning for Instruction and Instructional Strategies (5 weeks)
  • Module 5: The Role of a Special Education Teacher (3 weeks)

Plus your chosen stream coursework (Special Education Mild to Moderate Disabilities, K-12:

  • Literacy (5 weeks/45 hours)
  • Numeracy (3 weeks/45 hours)

What will I learn in Module 5: The Role of the Special Education Teacher?

Module 5 is a three-week intensive unit of study that reveals the unique expectations and responsibilities of a Special Education teacher. In this module, teacher candidates will explore what it means to be a Special Education Teacher, through the lens of instruction, case management, and as a collaborative team member.

The module is split into three sections:

  1. Specially designed instruction
  2. Measuring academic and behavioral goals
  3. Collaborative teaming and legal requirements

In the first set of learning experiences, teacher candidates delve into the world of Specially Designed Instruction. They will learn how to provide learning experiences that are aligned with meaningful and measurable individual education plan (IEP) goals. 

Candidates will focus on what it means to tailor a lesson to an individual students’ needs. They will also explore evidence based practices and understand what makes for a quality learning experience.

In the second set of learning tasks, teacher candidates will explore the question: What does it mean to measure academic and behavioral goals? In this sequence, they will learn about functional behavioral analysis, behavior intervention plans, progress monitoring, and how to intervene when students are not succeeding.

Finally, teacher candidates will explore collaborative planning and the additional legal requirements for students with exceptionalities. Candidates will learn about the Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team process, the Individualized Education Plan team, secondary transitions, and the role of procedural safeguards. 

Candidates will reflect upon best practices for effective IEP processes and understand their roles and responsibilities therein.

What you'll learn by the end of the course

The course is designed to fulfill several objectives:

  • Define and create specially designed instruction.
  • Apply evidence based practices and instructional strategies to tailor lessons to individual students.
  • Weigh the personal implications of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, IDEA 2004, and Endrew F.
  • Be able to explain the Child Find process and your role within it as a Special Education teacher.
  • Demonstrate fluency with formative assessment, progress monitoring, and tracking of IEP goals.
  • Identify best practices in PBIS at a school and classroom level.
  • Conduct a functional Individualized Education Plan meeting.
  • Explain the annual IEP process and the Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team, including the differences between the two.
  • Explain best practices for working with paraeducators.

Can I use my new teaching certificate to teach in my home state?

The short answer, yes!

Although Klassroom’s Special Education licensing program officially grants a license in the state of Arizona, the program is designed so that it will be easy to transfer that license to other states. This process is known as state reciprocity.

There is no single, all-encompassing law for all 50 states. Rather, each state has its own requirements for teaching license reciprocity.

However, most states operate together as part of the NASDTEC teaching license system. Only three states do not:

  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • South Dakota

These states have their own teaching reciprocity requirements that must be managed individually.

Eight states, including Arizona have full teaching license reciprocity:

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma

Between these states, you can freely transfer your teaching license, once you fill out a little paperwork. This is one reason why an Arizona teaching license is so useful.

The other 39 states in NASDTEC have some additional requirements. These vary, and can include demonstrating teaching experience or taking extra classes.

There are also special programs for certain people, like military spouses, who may have to move frequently.

To find out what additional requirements exist for your state, you should look at the individual state requirements.

How to sign up for the Special Education Teaching Certificate course with Klassroom

Klassroom’s Teacher Certification Program now offers Special Education as a licensure pathway. This helps unlicensed and aspiring educators to get licensed, focusing on Special Education for a fraction of the time and cost of traditional programs.

As Special Education continues to experience the worst of the U.S. teacher shortage, Klassroom offers a tangible solution that puts quality educators with specialized skill sets into the classrooms where they are needed most.

Klassroom is on a mission to ensure that every child experiences the power of a great teacher. We seek to certify and retain high-quality educators with the unique insights, empathy, and skills to support students in both general and Special Education. We maintain high quality standards that ensure our teacher candidates are prepared for the classroom, confident in their abilities, and in it for the long haul.

As we work towards better education for students across America, we are proud to include an opportunity for Special Education licensure because our most vulnerable students deserve excellent teachers who can prepare them for a bright future.

Reserve your seat for the next cohort today.

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