There's a lot of talk about heroes these days—and if you're a special education (SPED) teacher, you know you're one them. Though education has been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the need—and appreciation—for teachers has never been greater.
Teaching students with special needs in an online environment can be tricky, but this pandemic has generated the need for teachers who can develop fresh, creative solutions to reach our most vulnerable kids.
Further Reading: One Teacher's Path to Special Education
If you've ever thought about becoming a SPED teacher, here are some things to consider.
SPED Teachers Are Recession-Proof
Businesses are closing, and many employees are getting furloughed or permanently laid off, but teachers are still working—and earning their full salaries. Historically, Value Line says, education has been a countercyclical industry—when economies are doing poorly and unemployment is rising, working adults look to upgrade their education to boost their career prospects.
This tends to keep teachers safe during downturns. MoneyCrashers says that teaching is one of the most recession-proof jobs, and prior to the pandemic, SPED teachers were in especially high demand. The Learning Policy Institute reported 48 states and the District of Columbia were short on special education teachers—and the number of students receiving special education is growing.
As the country prepares for an economic downturn, SPED teachers can relax knowing that their careers are secure.
How the Pandemic Creates a Need for New Teachers
It's already unclear what schools will look like when they reopen, and Education Week writes that many teachers at high risk of contracting the novel coronavirus might not return to the classroom. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 19 percent of the teaching workforce is 55 or older. Those teachers, and those with potentially exacerbating health conditions such as asthma or diabetes, might find that returning to the classroom is just too risky.
Some districts are considering letting older teachers retire early; others have explored letting at-risk teachers continue teaching from home. However, many teachers 55 and older are less comfortable with technology, and some might think that remote teaching isn't the job they signed up for. That creates a void that'll need to be filled by new teachers.
An Increased Appreciation for SPED Teachers
The pandemic has brought attention to many of the deficiencies in the education system, including the value of teachers. And after a few months of homeschooling their own children, parents—including Jimmy Fallon—have a newfound appreciation for teachers.
Throughout the pandemic, SPED teachers have struggled to offer students online support that matches the support SPED students receive in the classroom. For students with more severe needs, it has been almost impossible.
SPED teachers who are used to working with students one-on-one or in small groups are now using Zoom or Google Hangouts to meet virtually. They're also assisting students' parents in providing support at home.
As states and districts work to reconfigure how SPED services are delivered, SPED teachers who are flexible, innovative, and capable of developing new strategies are going to be in high demand—and much more appreciated.
Become a SPED Teacher
Are you ready to become a hero? Earning a degree in special education could be a life-changing decision. Western Governors University offers a well-established, affordable program that lets teachers get into classrooms faster than traditional degree programs do. WGU's K–12 bachelor's or master's program in SPED teaching can help you begin a new, secure, and satisfying career.
Further Reading: 6 Tips for a First-Year Special Education Teacher
Download our free ebook to learn what it takes to become a SPED teacher and how to get there.