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Become An Elementary Special Education Teacher

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Working As An Elementary Special Education Teacher

  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Scheduling Work and Activities
  • Developing Objectives and Strategies
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Deal with People

  • $51,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Elementary Special Education Teacher Do

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Duties

Special education teachers typically do the following:

  • Assess students’ skills to determine their needs and to develop appropriate teaching plans
  • Adapt general lessons to meet the needs of students
  • Develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student
  • Plan, organize, and assign activities that are specific to each student’s abilities
  • Teach and mentor students as a class, in small groups, and one-on-one
  • Implement IEPs, assess students’ performance, and track their progress
  • Update IEPs throughout the school year to reflect students’ progress and goals
  • Discuss student’s progress with parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators
  • Supervise and mentor teacher assistants who work with students with disabilities
  • Prepare and help students transition from grade to grade and for life after graduation

Special education teachers work with general education teachers, counselors, school superintendents, administrators, and parents. As a team, they develop IEPs specific to each student’s needs. IEPs outline the goals and services for each student, such as sessions with the school psychologists, counselors, and special education teachers. Teachers also meet with parents, school administrators, and counselors to discuss updates and changes to the IEPs.

Special education teachers’ duties vary by the type of setting they work in, student disabilities, and teacher specialty.

Some special education teachers work in classrooms or resource centers that only include students with disabilities. In these settings, teachers plan, adapt, and present lessons to meet each student’s needs. They teach students in small groups or on a one-on-one basis.

In inclusive classrooms, special education teachers teach students with disabilities who are in general education classrooms. They work with general education teachers to present the information in a manner that students with disabilities can more easily understand. They also assist general education teachers to adapt lessons that will meet the needs of the students with disabilities in their classes.

Special education teachers also collaborate with teacher assistants, psychologists, and social workers to accommodate requirements of students with disabilities. For example, they may have a teacher assistant work with them to provide support for a student who needs particular attention.

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide variety of mental, emotional, physical, and learning disabilities. For example, some work with students who need assistance in subject areas, such as reading and math. Others help students develop study skills, such as by using flashcards and text highlighting.

Some special education teachers work with students who have physical and sensory disabilities, such as blindness and deafness, and with students who are wheelchair-bound. They also may work with those who have autism spectrum disorders and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

Special education teachers work with students from preschool to high school. Some teachers work with students who have severe disabilities until the students are 21 years old.

Special education teachers help students with severe disabilities develop basic life skills, such as how to respond to questions and how to follow directions. Some teach the skills necessary for students with moderate disabilities to live independently, find a job, and manage money and their time. For more information about other workers who help individuals with disabilities develop skills necessary to live independently, see the profiles on occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants and aides.

Most special education teachers use computers to keep records of their students’ performance, prepare lesson plans, and update IEPs. Some teachers also use various assistive technology aids, such as Braille writers and computer software that help them communicate with students.

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How To Become An Elementary Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers in public schools are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license. Private schools typically require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, but teachers are not required to be licensed or certified. For information about teacher preparation programs and certification requirements, visit Teach.org or contact your state’s board of education.

Education

All states require special education teachers in public schools to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some earn a degree specifically in special education. Others major in elementary education or a content area, such as math or science, with a minor in special education.

In a program leading to a bachelor’s degree in special education, prospective teachers learn about the different types of disabilities and how to present information so that students will understand. These programs typically include fieldwork, such as student teaching. To become fully certified, some states require special education teachers to complete a master’s degree in special education.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools may prefer to hire teachers who have at least a bachelor’s degree in special education.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed. A license is frequently referred to as a certification. Those who teach in private schools are not required to be licensed. Most states require teachers to pass a background check.

Requirements for certification vary by state. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, states also require teachers to complete a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching. Some states require a minimum grade point average. Teachers may be required to complete annual professional development classes or a master’s degree program to maintain their license.

Many states offer general licenses in special education that allow teachers to work with students with a variety of disabilities. Others offer licenses or endorsements based on a disability-specific category, such as autism or behavior disorders.

Some states allow special education teachers to transfer their licenses from another state. Other states require even an experienced teacher to pass their state’s licensing requirements.

All states offer an alternative route to certification for people who already have a bachelor’s degree. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately, under the close supervision of an experienced teacher. These alternative programs cover teaching methods and child development. Candidates are awarded full certification after they complete the program. Other programs require prospective teachers to take classes in education before they can start to teach. They may be awarded a master’s degree after completing either type of program.

Training

Some special education teachers need to complete a period of fieldwork, commonly referred to as student teaching, before they can work as a teacher. In some states, this program is a prerequisite for a license to teach in public schools. During student teaching, they gain experience in preparing lesson plans and teaching students in a classroom setting, under the supervision and guidance of a mentor teacher. The amount of time required for these programs varies by state, but may last from 1 to 2 years. Many universities offer student teaching programs as part of a degree in special education.

Advancement

Experienced teachers can advance to become mentor or lead teachers who help less experienced teachers improve their teaching skills.

Teachers may become school counselors, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, or principals. These positions generally require additional education, an advanced degree, or certification. An advanced degree in education administration or leadership may be helpful.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Special education teachers discuss students’ needs and performances with general education teachers, parents, and administrators. They also explain difficult concepts in terms that students with learning disabilities can understand.

Critical-thinking skills. Special education teachers assess students’ progress and use that information to adapt lessons to help them learn.

Interpersonal skills. Special education teachers regularly work with general education teachers, school counselors, administrators, and parents to develop Individualized Education Programs. As a result, they need to be able to build positive working relationships.

Patience. Working with students with special needs and different abilities can be difficult. Special education teachers should be patient with each student, as some may need the instruction given aloud, at a slower pace, or in writing.  

Resourcefulness. Special education teachers must develop different ways to present information in a manner that meets the needs of their students. They also help general education teachers adapt their lessons to the needs of students with disabilities.

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Elementary Special Education Teacher Career Paths

Elementary Special Education Teacher
Special Education Teacher Adjunct Professor
Assistant Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher Adjunct Professor Assistant Principal
Elementary School Principal
12 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher Lead Teacher Assistant Principal
School Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher For Grades Special Education Coordinator Assistant Principal
Vice Principal
8 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher For Grades Special Education Coordinator Principal
High School Principal
9 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher For Grades Language Arts Teacher Lead Teacher
School Director
6 Yearsyrs
Special Education Resource Teacher Department Chairperson Vice Principal
Middle School Principal
11 Yearsyrs
Special Education Resource Teacher Resource Teacher Education Consultant
Student Dean
7 Yearsyrs
Special Education Resource Teacher Principal Elementary School Principal
Curriculum Director
8 Yearsyrs
Tutor Lead Teacher Planning Committee Member
Professional Development Director
6 Yearsyrs
Tutor Adjunct Professor Department Chairperson
Academic Director
7 Yearsyrs
Resource Teacher Educational Diagnostician Director Of Special Education
Director Of Special Services
8 Yearsyrs
Resource Teacher Department Chairperson Academic Dean
Student Services Director
5 Yearsyrs
Behavioral Specialist Education Consultant Educational Manager
Director Of In Service Education
9 Yearsyrs
Behavioral Specialist Guidance Counselor High School Assistant Principal
Elementary Assistant Principal
11 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Special Educator 3.3 years
Resource Teacher 2.9 years
Top Careers Before Elementary Special Education Teacher
Teacher 15.8%
Instructor 3.0%
Internship 2.6%
Tutor 1.9%
Counselor 1.8%
Top Careers After Elementary Special Education Teacher
Teacher 12.8%
Director 3.6%
Tutor 3.1%
Lecturer 2.6%
Principal 2.3%
Educator 1.8%

Do you work as an Elementary Special Education Teacher?

Average Yearly Salary
$51,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$33,000
Min 10%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$51,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Santa Clara Inc./Cigar Wholesaler
Highest Paying City
San Mateo, CA
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
4.7 years
How much does an Elementary Special Education Teacher make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Elementary Special Education Teacher in the United States is $51,800 per year or $25 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $33,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $79,000.

Real Elementary Special Education Teacher Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Elementary Teacher-Special Education Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Jul 04, 2014 $92,707
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* Raina Rose Tagle Arlington, VA Jun 23, 2014 $88,260
Elementary Teacher-Special Education Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Jul 15, 2014 $80,950
Elementary School Special Education Teacher San Mateo-Foster City School District Foster City, CA Aug 17, 2013 $80,850
Elementary School Special Education Teacher San Mateo-Foster City School District Foster City, CA Aug 17, 2013 $77,706
Elementary School Special Education Teacher San Mateo-Foster City School District San Mateo, CA Jul 03, 2014 $77,238
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* Silver Valley Unified School District CA Sep 27, 2013 $76,000
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School Santa Clara County Office of Education San Jose, CA Mar 01, 2013 $75,862
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* Academy for Global Citizenship Chicago, IL May 22, 2014 $75,670 -
$82,000
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* Grace Neighborhood Development Corporation Philadelphia, PA Mar 07, 2014 $74,110
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School Santa Clara County Office of Education San Jose, CA May 16, 2014 $73,532
Elementary School Special Education Teacher San Mateo-Foster City School District San Mateo, CA Mar 14, 2013 $70,699
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* Bilinguals Inc. Hillsdale, NY Oct 30, 2013 $70,683
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* Presidio Independent School District Presidio, TX May 08, 2014 $51,000
Elementary School Special Education Teacher Allendale County School District Allendale, SC Jul 15, 2014 $50,196
Elementary Special Education Teacher Unified School District No. 259, Sedgwick County, Ks Wichita, KS Oct 12, 2015 $50,156
Elementary School Special Education Teacher Paterson Charter School for Sci and Tech Paterson, NJ Jan 01, 2014 $49,450
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* General George Patton School District 133 Riverdale, IL Sep 18, 2013 $49,313
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* Halifax County Schools Littleton, NC Feb 19, 2014 $48,910
Elementary Special Education Teacher Laurens County School District #55 Laurens, SC Aug 31, 2016 $48,778
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* Garland Independent School District Garland, TX Jan 08, 2014 $45,200
Special Education Teacher In Elementary School Garland Independent School District Garland, TX May 01, 2013 $45,200
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School California Autism Foundation Richmond, CA Feb 27, 2013 $45,000
Elementary School Special Education Teacher Global Teachers Solutions LLC Ridgeland, SC Aug 13, 2016 $45,000
Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* USD 259 Wichita, KS Jul 23, 2014 $44,697
Elementary School Special Education Teacher Unique Services Associates, Inc. Ridgeland, SC Oct 11, 2015 $44,687
Elementary School Special Education Teacher Unique Services Associates, Inc. Ridgeland, SC Nov 10, 2016 $44,687

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Top Skills for An Elementary Special Education Teacher

  1. Classroom Management
  2. Elementary Special Education
  3. Behavioral Issues
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Maintained classroom management; ensured a positive, nurturing learning environment.
  • Develop and implement Individual Education Plans for elementary special education student.
  • Organized parent/guardian-teacher conferences to maximize student learning opportunities.
  • Modified the general education curriculum for special-needs students based upon a variety of instructional techniques and technologies.
  • Adapted and differentiated classroom curriculum to teach ELA/Reading and Mathematics.

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Top 10 Best States for Elementary Special Education Teachers

  1. Connecticut
  2. Alaska
  3. Michigan
  4. California
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Oregon
  7. New York
  8. New Jersey
  9. Rhode Island
  10. Georgia
  • (229 jobs)
  • (29 jobs)
  • (424 jobs)
  • (2,489 jobs)
  • (341 jobs)
  • (97 jobs)
  • (422 jobs)
  • (496 jobs)
  • (20 jobs)
  • (235 jobs)

Elementary Special Education Teacher Demographics

Gender

Female

70.0%

Male

20.3%

Unknown

9.7%
Ethnicity

White

65.9%

Black or African American

12.5%

Hispanic or Latino

12.2%

Asian

6.1%

Unknown

3.3%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

70.6%

Romanian

5.9%

Japanese

5.9%

French

5.9%

Bengali

5.9%

Arabic

5.9%
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Elementary Special Education Teacher Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

11.4%

Grand Canyon University

9.6%

Liberty University

7.9%

Johns Hopkins University

7.9%

Montclair State University

6.1%

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

4.4%

Walden University

4.4%

Keene State College

4.4%

National Louis University

4.4%

George Mason University

4.4%

Mercy College - Dobbs Ferry

3.5%

University of North Texas

3.5%

California University of Pennsylvania

3.5%

George Washington University

3.5%

Rhode Island College

3.5%

Texas A&M University

3.5%

University of Texas at Austin

3.5%

Dowling College

3.5%

Lesley University

3.5%

University of Kansas

3.5%
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Majors

Special Education

42.2%

Education

13.4%

Elementary Education

12.3%

Educational Leadership

7.3%

Business

3.4%

General Education, Specific Areas

2.8%

School Counseling

2.4%

Psychology

2.1%

Curriculum And Instruction

2.1%

Early Childhood Education

1.8%

Social Work

1.6%

Counseling Psychology

1.5%

Interdisciplinary Studies

1.1%

Nursing

1.1%

Communication Disorders Sciences

1.0%

Ethnic, Gender And Minority Studies

0.8%

Management

0.8%

Educational Technology

0.8%

Law

0.8%

Mental Health Counseling

0.6%
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Degrees

Masters

52.3%

Bachelors

24.2%

Other

13.7%

Certificate

5.0%

Doctorate

2.2%

Associate

1.7%

Diploma

0.7%

License

0.3%
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