After working in the childcare profession for over ten years, teaching preschoolers, I was presented with the opportunity to go to work at a local elementary school. The class I was assigned to was for children with mild to moderate disabilities, assisting them with the academics and the social support needed to function in a general education setting. This was a life changing opportunity for me. As I sat in awe for the first few weeks, watching my new co-workers help these children with love, patents, and respect, I realized this is what I wanted to do! I have realized over the years that teaching is a profession of passion. No one becomes a teacher to get rich, or gain power. People become teachers because they have a love for children and they want to instill confidence, self worth and a love of learning in them. This is even more true of special education teachers. Although, becoming a special education teacher has it's challenges, such as the time and finical resources put into obtaining the credentials, to the continuing challenges faced when you find yourself in working in your dream job as a certified special education teacher, I know unequivocally that this is what I want to do.
According to the Mississippi department of Education, one may become a certified teacher in one of two ways. The traditional method is to participate in a teacher education program with an emphasis in special education. Student teaching is also required by the state department (Mississippi Department of Education). After obtaining a bachelors degree, the candidate must also pass the “Praxis II test 0354 subject area test for Special Education, as well as the Praxis II Principles of Learning and Teaching (choose 1 of 3)”(Mississippi Department of Education). An alternate route is also available to anyone who has received a bachelors degree in any other subject area, although, going this route will limit the grades that you can teach to seventh through twelfth grade(Mississippi Department of Education). In order to obtain a special education teaching certificate through this means “These applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-education major. They must pass both the CORE per-professional test and the Praxis II subject area test 0354 for Special Education” (Mississippi Department of Education). This type of liscensure is temporary and additional steps must be taken in order to maintain your teaching liscensure. After one year of teaching on a trail basis one may apply for a five year teaching certification (Mississippi Department of Education).
There is an old saying that a degree does not make you a teacher, teaching comes from the heart. Dr. Jennifer Pope, principal of Oak Park Elementary School in Ocean Springs, MS states, Besides having the credentials to work with special needs students, I look for the following character traits:
· A genuine desire to work with special needs children
· High expectations