Cole, Rachel - Special Education Teacher

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Special Education Teacher (Rachel Cole)


Job Title (Rachel Cole)

Special Education Teacher

General Overview

Special education teachers assist students who may have “behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities”,to be able to help students and gain from their time during school (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014). Special education teachers teach school subjects to students who have an exceptionality or type of handicap. For example, “teachers who specialize and work with audibly and visually handicapped students and those who teach basic academic and life processes skills to the mentally impaired” (O*Net Online, 2013). In addition, “instructors and teachers of persons with disabilities teach children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities communication techniques, such as Braille or sign language, and rehabilitation skills to increase independence and mobility” (Service Canada, 2013).


Job Duties and Responsibilities

Specific tasks that are required include making and following rules for students, preparing materials and modifying the curriculum to suit individual needs based on the students’ exceptionality (O*Net Online, 2013). Special education teachers normally teach small groups of children or older students and in doing so they must “develop and implement strategies to meet the needs of students with a variety of handicapping conditions” (O*Net Online, 2013). In addition, special education teachers administer standardized tests to students, “establish clear objectives for all lessons, units, and projects and communicate those objectives to students” (O*Net Online, 2013), and “develop individual educational plans (IEPs) designed to promote students' educational, physical, or social development” (O*Net Online, 2013). Additionally, special education teachers must talk with various people involved in the students’ learning and life, such as parents and other professionals, “to develop individual educational plans designed to promote students’ educational, physical, and social development” (O*Net Online, 2013). Furthermore, another responsibility of a special education teacher is to “maintain accurate and complete student records, and prepare reports on children and activities, as required by laws, district policies, and administrative regulations” (O*Net Online, 2013).


Typical Workday

Special education teachers usually work 40 hours a week (O*Net Online, 2013). However, the hours may vary based on the individual needs of the students. The work setting for special education teachers is in a classroom teaching children, however, this depends on individual needs and some special education teachers may work in a hospital or other kinds of care facilities teaching children, youth, adults, and the elderly (Service Canada, 2013). Throughout the day special education teachers “employ special educational strategies or techniques during instruction to improve the development of sensory- and perceptual-motor skills, language, cognition, or memory” (O*Net Online, 2013). Encouraging students through learning activities and helping students with challenging work are other duties that special education teachers engage in. Tools required for special education teachers are a variety of resources such as Braille devices, adaptive communication switches, eye-controlled computer mouse, scanners, and touch-screen computer monitors (O*Net Online, 2013). Special technologies required for individuals who are deaf or blind are: “computer based training software, data base user interface (such as American Sign Language browser), device drivers or system software, electronic mail software, and voice recognition software” (O*Net Online, 2013).

Educational Requirements and Other Qualifications

According to the Ontario College of Teachers (2014), “to teach in Ontario’s publicly funded schools, a teacher must be certified by the Ontario College of Teachers. Certified teachers pay an annual membership fee to maintain their membership and certification.” In addition, to be certified, teachers must “have completed a minimum three-year postsecondary degree from an acceptable postsecondary institution, have successfully completed a one-year acceptable teacher education program, and apply to the College for certification and pay the annual membership and registration fees. Application process includes providing proof of identity and a Canadian Criminal Record Check Report” (Ontario College of Teachers, 2014). Additionally, other kinds of required qualifications may include certifications such as CPR and First Aid training. Furthermore, according to Service Canada (2013), “to work in this occupation, candidates must usually have at least a diploma of collegial studies (DEC) in special education. An Attestation of College Studies (AEC) in special education may sometimes suffice.” Moreover, “employees in these occupations usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training” (O*Net Online, 2013).


Related Skills, Interests, and Abilities

Special education teachers are required to possess skills, such as communication skills, “instructing skills, active listening, speaking, critical thinking, monitoring, social perceptiveness, time management, and active learning skills” (O*Net Online, 2013). Communication skills are especially important so special education teachers can engage with parents and students and communicate effectively and in a variety of ways to help students understand materials. Special education teachers also have the ability to think creatively by “developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions” (O*Net Online, 2013). Special education teachers are understanding, have a concern for others, and are patient with their students since the “job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job” (O*Net Online, 2013). Other personal characteristics that help to meet the challenges of being a special education teacher are dependability, self-control, cooperation, adaptability, stress tolerance, and persistence (O*Net Online, 2013).

Relevance of Psychology Undergraduate Degree

A Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology directly applies to and is very useful for being a special education teacher. Various courses like Psychology of Parenting, Psychology of the Exceptional Child, Theories of Development and Socialization, Personality and Individual Differences, Psychology of Learning, Lifespan Development, and Psychology of Stress are all relevant as they help prepare teachers for teaching exceptional children. Relevant courses help teachers to understand students with exceptionalities better and how to best teach them and help them to grow in various areas of their lives, such as socialization. For example, the course Psychology of the Exceptional Child is specifically important for teachers because this course teaches and includes particular detail about various exceptionalities, such as autism or learning disabilities, and how to understand the exceptionality and what to do to help and teach student with such exceptionalities. Knowing about disabilities and handicaps can help teachers to better know how to modify educational courses and plans to best suit the needs of the students, as well as to be more aware of the students’ needs. Furthermore, a psychology course such as Psychology of Learning will help special education teachers to know about learning styles and how to use the best one to help students succeed.

Additionally, an undergraduate psychology degree will help teachers to know characteristics of disabilities and will also provide them a foundation for knowing about the exceptionalities as well as how to find more information about disabilities and ways to help children and parents through providing additional resources.

Salary Potential

Starting salary for a special education teacher is around $30,000 and the potential salary is approximately $40,487. According to a report on special education teachers on Service Canada (2013), 52.4% make $20, 000 to $49, 999 while 31.1% make over $50,000. (Service Canada, 2013).

Job Outlook

According to Service Canada (2013), “over the last few years, the number of instructors and teachers of persons with disabilities has increased significantly. This increase is primarily due to the increase in demand for special needs services. Considering the growth of the demand for services in special education and the government's health care and social services priorities, the number of these instructors and teachers is expected to continue to rise significantly over the next few years…This occupation attracts many candidates, but the labour market demand is sufficient to absorb them all” (Service Canada, 2013).


To Know More

For more information visit the following websites:


O*Net Online. (2013). Special education teachers, kindergarten and elementary school. Summary Report 25-2052.00. Retrieved from

Ontario College of Teachers. (2014). Jobs in education. Ontario College of Teachers. Retrieved from

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013). An introduction to special education in Ontario. Queens’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from

Service Canada. (2013). Instructors and teachers of persons with disabilities. Government of Canada. Retrieved from

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