Being a special education teacher is as rewarding as a teaching position, with the added bonus of helping every child and young person access education and learning. Special education teachers help those who have learning difficulties understand what is being taught in a traditional classroom by presenting the material in a different way and working at the student’s individual learning pace. You can work with students in preschool, primary and secondary settings and who’s learning difficulties may vary from physical, emotional, intellectual or sensory impairments. Special education teachers must have completed the relevant tertiary qualifications, generally considered to be a minimum of a Bachelor of Education with a special education major. Qualified teachers can also complete postgraduate qualifications in special education in order to move into this field.
Special education teachers have an important role in helping those with special needs have a rewarding experience at school and to help shape their learning, development and education. Special education teachers are able to assess and evaluate the different circumstances and needs of their students, understanding that each person may have different requirements to their peers. They often have a role in assisting students with their physical needs and also regularly act as advocate for the special needs services and students within the wider school setting.
Because it is hard to predict the requirements of a special needs student, a special education teacher must above all remain patient and understanding, showing flexibility to tailor lessons accordingly. They must be adaptable, responding to situations in the classroom quickly and evaluating the moods of their students throughout the day. Special education teachers must be passionate about learning and able to motivate their students.
As they progress in their careers, special education teachers may wish to focus on a specific specialisation or pursue senior positions.
Special education doesn’t have to be just about kids, as there are many adults out there who need help improving their reading and writing. Improving the literacy and numeracy of adults through reading, writing and mathematical training uses many of the same skills required for special education teaching. These teaching roles can take place in a variety of settings including government agencies, private practice and community education.
Many special education teachers move into teaching English to speakers of other languages over time. The adaptability and experience in creative teaching approaches that special education teachers have can make these roles, working with new immigrants or international students, a great fit.
Gifted and talented students have different learning needs to many of their peers and are often very advanced in their learning and understanding. These students benefit from additional lesson plans that allow them to develop their ability or interest in a particular subject and teachers who operate gifted and talented programs tailor the curriculum to meet those needs.
Special education teachers generally complete a Bachelor of Education, specialising in special education, or pursue postgraduate study in special education to enable them to work in this area.
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Demand for special education teachers is growing strongly and these roles are generally paid above the average salary level for teaching staff.