As previously discussed in part 1 and part 2 of Teaching Students with Exceptionalities, majoring in education can be well worth the reward of the career. When completing a bachelor’s degree program for education (general education), some students may feel called to the ESE area of teaching.
When working as an ESE educator and working with students of varying exceptionalities, you can expect to encounter at least some of the areas I have included. Among them are physical/hearing/speech/vision impairments, learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders, Autism disorder, etc.
I am covering gifted aspects and learning disabilities together because, in my opinion, they each are related to the other in terms of educational development.
- Gifted: What does it mean to be gifted? There are many definitions and characteristics, but the general guidelines for teaching gifted students are to continuously challenge with deep concepts at higher difficulty levels than that of their peers, provide real-world analogies, hands-on materials, etc. Modifications and accommodations need to be implemented to enrich gifted students’ learning because they often learn more at a faster and more challenging pace, and they learn at a higher level of difficulty, often being ahead of their ‘average’ peers. This area definitely impresses its challenges, but the right person with a passion for it could ultimately feel very comfortable in this education career field. Generally speaking, certification in ESE is usually enough to work exclusively with gifted students, with a minor or another degree in higher-level subject matter.
- Learning disabilities: Learning disabilities can be defined as being conditions in which students learn and acquire knowledge and skills with more difficulty or at lower levels than what is considered average or normal. This is a broad area because learning disabilities can be caused by cognitive or physical factors including brain injuries, Autism (covered in Part 1), behavioral issues, etc. Most general education teachers sometimes receive a student in their class that has a learning disability that goes unnoticed. Whatever the case, teaching and reaching students with learning disabilities can be very fulfilling. Much like gifted students, students with learning disabilities may excel in some areas and have low performance or development in others. A certification with ESE and being an inclusive ESE teacher means that you will—a very likely possibility—have students with learning disabilities in your classroom.
There are many colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s programs for education online, 3 of which I have included for more information:
- Florida Atlantic University (FAU)
- Western Governors University (WGU)
- and of course University of Phoenix
In order to become certified in ESE, the student must pass a certification exam covering the subject matter under the ESE topic. While in traditional college, the student will have the option to take ESE education courses that will be part of their program. Upon completion of the bachelor’s program, the student may take the certification exam as well and receive their ESE endorsement.
For graduates wanting to become certified ESE educators, there are study courses through states’ certification sites and all you have to do is take the exam. For example, if I were to seek certification in ESE, I would visit the Florida Department of Education website and sign up and pay for the certification exam. Then I would be able to take refresher courses and access study guides through the state’s site. This is a quick way to go, and the cost is not too terribly high.
ESE is not only a rewarding teaching career, it is becoming more in-demand and available than positions in the general education classroom.