Learning disabled teachers are most commonly known as special education teachers, and they work with students with mild to severe learning disabilities. Special education teachers assess students to gauge their skill levels, which in turn helps develop Individualized Education Programs. These IEPs are personalized lesson plans that match a learning disabled student’s strengths and weaknesses in areas like reading, math, communication and general life skills.
As of May 2010, the starting salary of a special education teacher was approximately $35,580, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national average salary was $53,220. They typically work full time when students are in school, which is 10 or 12 months out of the year, depending on the school’s schedule. Teachers either receive a two-month summer break or a one-week break every eight weeks with a five-week winter break. Often, they work after school grading papers, preparing upcoming lessons and handling paperwork. They also meet with parents before or after school, as needed, to discuss students’ progress.
Factors affecting starting salary include grade level assignment and teaching region. Special education teachers working with preschool to elementary level students earned an average of $52,250, while middle school special education teachers received an average of $53,440. High school teachers earned a bit more at $54,810. The bureau reported in May 2011 that states with the highest paid special education teachers in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school programs were in Alaska, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island, although teachers in some metropolitan areas in other states such as the Lake County-Kenosha County metropolitan area earned salaries as high as $87,920. The top three paying middle school special education teachers were in Maryland, New York and Rhode Island, but the metropolitan area with the highest paid teachers was Nassau-Suffolk, New York at $89,490.
Unless you work in a private school, the minimum educational requirements for special education teachers are a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license, but some states require a master’s degree. You may major in education with a specialization in special education if there are not degree programs specifically in special education. Some states offer special education licenses through traditional or alternative certification means. Besides meeting educational requirements, special education teachers should possess good instructional skills and have patience to work with students with varying degrees of challenges.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 13 percent of all public school students were served in special education programs in 2009 under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The bureau expects the demand for special education teachers to grow as much as 17 percent overall by 2020 as the need for more special education programs increases. Earlier identification of special needs children has caused an increase in student enrollment in kindergarten, elementary and middle school, so those programs are expected to 21 percent, which is much higher than the need for high school special education teachers.