My path, I completed four years of a bachelor’s degree and then two years of graduate school. So collectively, it’s six years of schooling. To go the special education route, you don’t necessarily have to go to graduate school but that’s just something, that was a goal that I wanted to obtain.
And you can be a special education teacher with a bachelor’s degree and four years of schooling with a combination of student teaching as well. The requirements for teacher certification are different in each state. So California has their own requirements and various states across their country have their own requirements as well. Well my mom is an educator, so I’ve always seen her teaching and I always loved what she was doing. And I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I didn’t know in what capacity.
I went to college and received my bachelor’s degree from UNLV. And while I was in college, I was working as an instructional assistant within a school setting. And I knew then that I wanted to work in special education because the classroom that I was working in was a special education classroom. And I didn’t know exactly if I wanted to go into that career until I started to research what were the high need areas in education. And science, math, and special education are those high need areas across the country. So I knew I would always have a job and I would be working with children and I love working with children.
My bachelor’s degree is in psychology and typically, psychology majors go on to graduate school. So I knew going into graduate school that I would have to pursue a teaching credential. And so that brought me to Loyola Marymount University which has a combined teaching credential and master’s program in special education. So within two years, I was able to receive my teaching certification in special education and my master’s degree.
And during my master’s program, I worked as an instructional assistant under a resource specialist. And I also took some time within the master’s program to do student teaching. And I was able to gain a lot more experience as to how to be an effective resource specialist. When I was in my master’s program, I had student teaching. So that kind of gave me an opportunity to see what the day to day of teaching and working as an education resource specialist was like. Obviously when you get on the job and you’re working in your own classroom with your own students, things are going to be drastically different.
But I think going to grad school gave me a lot of experience and knowledge to feel prepared when I go into that classroom day one. I remember graduating with my master’s degree and feeling so unprepared for going out and interviewing and I remember creating portfolios of like, my curriculum vitae, which is lesson plans and just my experience in a portfolio with my resume and a business card for each of my interviews. And I actually interviewed 10 times and I got all 10 job offers. So by the fall, after I graduated in May, I had a position immediately following graduate school. So I think going to graduate school and being a teacher is definitely going to put you ahead of teachers who just have a bachelor’s degree.
When I was applying, I knew where to apply for positions from a helpful website called edjoin.org. And edujoin.org has all of the educational positions available throughout the state of California. In special education, I think there’s always room for growth.
You can work with students with varying disabilities. Learning disabilities, student who have autism spectrum, which is on the rise and is a high need area within special education. And students with mild to moderate learning disabilities or moderate to severe learning disabilities. So there’s varying different ways that you can work with students in the special education space. Right now I’m in my sixth year of teaching. And I think maybe in the next two to three years, I would like to pursue another master’s degree and possibly work in the speech pathology space as a speech pathologist.
Still working in special education and working with students with disabilities, but with speech disabilities. If someone wants to pursue a career in special education, I would suggest them going and becoming a teaching assistant within a special education classroom so that they can kind of gain access and learn firsthand what the day to day of a special education teacher does. Mentoring is very important.
Tutoring is also another space that you can pursue as well to see if you really love working with children with students and within the education space overall. When you’re a teacher, you’re working with students and you’re working with children. And they’re our future.
And it’s so important that you love what you’re doing and you come in with a positive attitude every day. And special education and working in education is the most amazing and fulfilling job there is.