If you’re considering a career as a teacher, you might find the most rewarding opportunities in special education.
Over the past decade, Chicago and the nation have experienced a severe shortage of special education teachers. Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. In 2019–20, the number of students ages 3–21 who received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was 7.3 million, or 14 percent of all public-school students.
Data shows that black and brown and students are identified with a disability at a 40 percent higher rate. According to the most recent federal data available, just over 82 percent of special education teachers in public schools are white, while only about half of students receiving special education services are white, according to 2017-18 data. Yet teacher diversity matters: decades of research has shown that students often perform better academically when they are taught by teachers of the same race.
All teachers need to be patient and understanding, but these traits are even more essential for special education teachers, as a teacher and student will often spend extra time and energy on a single task. Because each student’s needs are different, no two days are alike. The rewards are great when you see students make progress, whether big or small.
Some special education teachers specialize in a particular subject, such as reading or math, while others have a more general focus. Whatever your focus, a degree in education with an emphasis in special education can help you find the right fit for your strengths and interests.
The demand for special education teachers is expected to grow by 8 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. School districts are eager to fill those vacancies.
Requirements for a Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers are required to have a Bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license. Teachers in private schools typically need a Bachelor’s degree only and may not be required to have a state license or certification.
One avenue to becoming a well-trained and prepared special education teacher is through AUSL’s Chicago Teacher Residency (CTR). The CTR is an accelerated teacher preparation program hosted within Chicago neighborhood public schools. One of the first and most successful programs of its kind, the CTR recruits, trains and retains high-quality teachers and leaders committed to equity and culturally responsive education.
Resident teachers are immersed in a training experience alongside mentors who model researched-based and culturally sustaining practices of academic and social emotional learning. Residents gain the practical skills of teaching in a localized context, allowing them to reflect
on and internalize the professional habits required by transformational educators. This includes creating meaningful relationships with students and providing them access to rigorous content that will prepare them for their future careers. Ultimately, this leads CTR trained teachers who have a greater impact within their broader school communities.
Through the Chicago Teacher Residency, you will:
- Earn a Master’s degree and teaching license in one year through DePaul University
- Receive a discounted tuition rate on your Master’s degree
- Begin teaching in a Special Education classroom right away
- Get training and coaching from actual teachers
- Receive training in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) (DEIB) ( B= Belonging)
- Be part of a cohort – resident teachers support each other as they train
- There is job security and there are plenty of opportunities for advancement with the
- Plenty of equity driven professional development opportunities
- Be part of a strong alumni network