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Five Traits of a Great Special Education Teacher

It requires more than basic teaching skills to succeed in special education.

Our schools are filled with exceptional teachers, but without the proper training, even our most talented educators could be overwhelmed by a class of special needs students. A Master of Arts in Teaching, with a specialization in Special Education, prepares special education teachers with the skills to face the unique challenges of teaching students with mental and physical disabilities.

The National Association of Special Education Teachers refers to its special education teachers as “exceptional teachers teaching exceptional children.”1 All special education teachers must be certified in special education, but it’s helpful if these truly exceptional teachers possess these five traits.

Five Traits of a Great Special Education Teacher

1. Interpersonal Skills

It’s important that special education teachers are friendly and personable. It goes without saying that special education teachers require a cheerful disposition to maintain a positive classroom. Special education teachers also interact regularly with parents and specialized teams of educators to develop individualized education programs (IEPs) for special ed students. This requires the ability to build and maintain positive working relationships.2

2. Critical Thinking Skills

Special education teachers must be able to assess the individual needs and development of each student in the classroom. Lessons must be adapted, sometimes quickly, to accommodate individual students. Special education teachers need the critical thinking skills to try new teaching strategies.2

3. Resourcefulness

Like any teacher, special education teachers must learn to be resourceful, but instructing a classroom of students so individual in their needs requires an extra amount of ingenuity. A special education teacher is often called upon to teach the same lesson using myriad methods and examples. IEPs can be drastically different for each student.3

4. Communication Skills

Special education teachers need to communicate with each student in a language that the student can understand. Some students may have visual or hearing impairments. Special education teachers may need to employ educational software designed to aid in the communication process, such as Braille writers. They may also need to implement calming mindfulness techniques to aid in the communication process with autistic students, or students with emotional disorders.3

5. Patience

Special education teachers need patience on a level required by few other professions. They are expected to work with students who have learning, mental, emotional, or physical disabilities, ranging from mild to severe. They must be prepared to work with students of all ages—from preschool to high school—and they might teach large groups, small groups, and individual students, all in a single day. Special educators also work with an extended circle of supporters that include general education teachers, specialists, administrators, and parents to ensure that individual goals are being met.3

Special education teachers are unique individuals with a passion for helping others. For those who develop and exhibit these essential traits, a career in special education can be rewarding beyond measure. Furthermore, opportunities for special education teachers continue to increase. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the special education job market is projected to grow 8% between 2020 and 2030, adding nearly 38,000 new jobs.4

A great step toward this rewarding profession is to earn a master’s degree in special education from an accredited online college.

Walden University has provided working professionals with the support they need to advance their knowledge and inspire social change for more than 50 years. At Walden, an accredited online university, you can pursue your Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) – Special Education (K–Age 21) while you continue to work full time.

Walden’s MAT – Special Education online degree program allows you gain the evidence-based skills and strategies to create effective, personalized curriculum design and teaching experiences that help special needs students thrive.

Walden University’s Master of Arts in Teaching – Special Education program has recently been expanded with new coursework specific to online learning. New classroom simulations allow students to practice interaction strategies in hypothetical situations, to experiment with different teaching approaches, and to put theory into practice by interacting with avatars representing students, parents, and colleagues.

If you haven’t yet earned a teaching degree, you can also pursue a BS in Elementary Education at Walden. This program teaches you to create impactful instruction as a new elementary educator. A bachelor’s in elementary education prepares you to become a K–6 teacher.

And with Walden as your online learning partner, you can balance your studies with your other commitments in a way that is comfortable and convenient for you. Set your own weekly study schedule, allowing you to work a full-time job as you pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching – Special Education.

Walden University is an HLC-accredited institution offering a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) – Special Education degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

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Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,