Teacher Preparation Program Prepared Special Education Teacher to Excel [Alumni Case Study]
Paraprofessional experience led to teaching
After graduating from college I worked as a counselor for one year at a nonprofit serving youth with emotional and behavioral problems. Although I enjoyed working with the children, the position wasn’t right for me, so I became a paraprofessional and taught high school students who where moderately and intellectually disabled. This experience peaked my curiosity in pursuing teaching special education as a career. I applied to the Special Education master’s program with a concentration in Behavior and Learning Disabilities because I wanted to distinguish myself from other teachers without this specialization, and since the demand for special education teachers was (and is) high, if the economy slumped again, I wouldn’t be let go if the district decided to lay off educators.
NET-Q Teacher Preparation grant sealed the deal
Fortunately, I enrolled with a cohort of students selected to be apart of Georgia State’s Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) teacher preparation program. It was an accelerated, 1.5-year program that provided full scholarships to individuals interested in teaching in high-needs schools. The compressed nature of the program made it very challenging, but doable. We had lots of professional development opportunities, including trainings that taught us how to develop and maintain a positive classroom environment, and how to teach diversity to students.
Practical training allowing me to excel as a teacher
One of the most practical and valuable trainings we received as students was conducting a Response to Intervention (RTI) evaluation – a multi-tiered approach to help struggling learners. This past year, I was chosen to be the lead for my school’s RTI process and performed weeks of data collection and evidenced based research interventions to determine which students should be assigned to special education classes. Normally the school counselors are responsible for RTI, but their training was lacking. I was able to step in because of the training I received through the Special Education master’s program.