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Becoming a Teacher of Gifted and Exceptional Students

written by: Mayflor Markusic•edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas•updated: 2/25/2010

Teaching gifted and exceptional students can be one of the world’s most rewarding careers. How can you become a special education teacher?

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    Why Choose Special Education

    There are many reasons why teachers choose to join the special education niche. Some reasons are noble: the special education teacher becomes instrumental in achieving successes for children who face more difficulties because of their disabilities. Some reasons are personal: teaching gifted students is particularly challenging and inspiring. And some reasons are practical: the U.S. Department of Education reports that the number of special children who benefit from IDEA is meteorically rising. This implies that the number of special education jobs is also rapidly increasing and is obviously advantageous to the teaching career.

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    The Nature of the Job

    All teachers share the same general responsibilities towards the community they belong to, towards their colleagues, and towards their students. The special education teacher, however, is expected to make a major difference in the lives of students with disabilities and of gifted and talented students. Although the majority of the teacher's responsibilities are carried out within the school, teaching gifted students will entail working in different environments, including the homes of students, hospitals and clinics, and in various facilities. Within the school, the teacher may work in self-contained classrooms, in general classrooms with an inclusion program, and in resource centers where the teacher can provide specialized instruction. Teaching gifted students also involves working with a team that includes families, therapists, social workers, and other professionals who are concerned in providing these exceptional students with the best relevant education, such as evidence-based practices.

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    The Job Requirements

    Due to the varying responsibilities of the special education teacher, the initial requirements are broad: a teaching license and a college degree. But due to the unique needs of special students, the requirements of many special education jobs are very specific. For example, teaching hearing-impaired students requires fluency and skill in using the sign language, besides mastery of all teaching-learning principles and special education legislation. In teaching gifted students, some schools will require teachers to undergo further special education training. For example, the training may include knowledge of various intelligence tests. But beyond these paper-based requirements, the special education teacher must also demonstrate creativity in solving problems, expertise in various teaching strategies and learning styles, ability to work collaboratively with others, flexibility, and enthusiasm. And finally, success in this particular niche in teaching is best achieved by gaining additional experience in the field.