Teacher with special education student

Become a Special Education Teacher

Whether you are currently working in education or are new to the field, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota’s special education program prepares you to work with learners who receive special education services for specific learning disabilities, children on the autism spectrum, and those with emotional or behavioral disorders.

Program Options

Saint Mary’s offers several program options within the master’s programs in special education. Options are available for licensed educators, those seeking an initial teaching license, and those wishing to obtain a master's degree without preparing for licensure.

For Students With No Previous Teaching Licensure Wishing to Teach Special Education

If you do not hold any type of teaching license, you may pursue an initial special education license by completing 18 credits (one year) of foundational courses at the Twin Cities Campus. Once these courses are complete you can begin the special education coursework either online or at the Twin Cities Campus. Foundational courses allow you to feel comfortable with curriculum design, assessment, classroom management, educational policy, and theories of education before concentrating in Learning Disabilities (LD) or Emotional Behavioral Disorder (EBD). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may be added once LD and/or EBD are complete.

For Students Wishing to Study Special Education Without Obtaining Licensure

This degree option is intended for individuals seeking a full understanding of special education issues and approaches but does not include coursework to obtain a license in special education.

For Students With a Teaching License Wishing to Teach Special Education or Add an Additional License

If you already hold a general subject classroom teaching license or licensure as an Academic and Behavioral Strategist (ABS) you can add an additional license in LD, EBD, and/or ASD. Courses may be taken either entirely online or at the Twin Cities Campus.

Field Experience and Student Teaching

Licensure preparation includes a variety of requirements in addition to coursework, including field experience and student teaching. It is critical for you to be able to put theory into practice. Your time in the program includes field experience and student teaching, which ensure that you have practiced your skills under the guidance of a cooperating teacher and university supervisor. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Educators who already hold a general education or special education teaching licensure can add preparation for LD, ASD, and/or EBD licensure. Those who are not currently licensed can prepare for LD and/or EBD licensure. After obtaining an initial license in EBD and/or LD, learners may also add an ASD license. Master's degree completion may be available for licensure seekers.

You will earn an M.A. in Special Education. Licensure preparation is embedded into the masters degree. Learners may choose to complete the degree but not obtain licensure. Those not seeking a master's degree may choose to complete courses for licensure preparation as a non-degree seeking student.

Yes! We offer initial licensure preparation for those seeking their first teaching license. Those seeking an initial license are required to take 18 credits of education foundation coursework in addition to the special education program requirements. The education foundation courses are delivered at our Twin Cities Campus and precede online or on-ground learning. To obtain licensure, you will complete practicum experiences in elementary, middle school, and high school settings in Minnesota, as well as Minnesota state licensing exams. Licensure recommendation is contingent upon successfully completing all Minnesota state licensure requirements.

Yes! This degree option is for previously licensed classroom teachers who want to add Minnesota licensure in one or more special education areas, including EBD, LD, and/or ASD. When seeking licensure, you will complete coursework and complete practicum experiences in elementary, middle school, and high school settings in Minnesota, plus Minnesota state licensing exams. Licensure recommendation is contingent upon successfully completing all Minnesota state licensure requirements.

Not at all. As more students with special needs are placed in mainstream classrooms, special education knowledge will benefit everyone. The skills you learn in this program will help you connect with learners of all ability levels to create a more inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.

You may apply for admission to Saint Mary’s M.A. in Special Education program at any time. After you are admitted, you may begin taking classes at the start of any semester: spring, summer, or fall. Applications for the program are accepted through Dec. 5 for spring semester cohorts, April 10 for summer semester cohorts, and Aug. 7 for fall semester cohorts.

Nonlicensure seekers will complete a minimum of 36 credits of program work. If you stay on the recommended course schedule of two classes per consecutive semester, you will complete your coursework in two years. For those seeking additional or initial licensure, the timeline for the program will be extended based on prerequisite coursework, field experience/student teaching, testing, and the number of licensure preparation areas you are pursuing.

You may transfer a maximum of six semester credits earned before admittance upon recommendation of the program director and with the approval of the dean. Transfer credits are subject to both graduate school and programmatic criteria.

The program offers multiple delivery models and is available in a blended delivery format (mixture of face-to-face and online coursework) at the Twin Cities Campus. We also offer a completely online program for those seeking additional licensure or who are only seeking a master’s degree. If you are seeking your initial teaching license, you must complete 18 credits of foundations coursework at the Twin Cities Campus or Winona Campus before moving into the online or blended programs.

Yes. All learners must have access to classrooms in order to complete course activities, whether they are pursuing licensure or not. Those seeking licensure must also complete field experience/student teaching in a variety of school settings.

If you plan to complete the licensure preparation portion of this program, you need to meet the requirements of Minnesota, which include a minimum of 180 hours of practicum (for additional licensure seekers) or 15 weeks of student teaching (for those seeking their first teaching license). Saint Mary’s has a placement office that will guide you in identifying practicum and student teaching opportunities.

Connect With Us

Megan Troje, M.A.

Lead Field Specialist

LaSalle Hall-TC Campus, LSH98

Campus Box: # 28

(612) 728-5211

mtroje@smumn.edu

Connect with Megan for information on programs offered by the School of Education.

Megan Troje M.A.

Faculty

Lela Olson, Ph.D.

Program Director - School of Education

Mother Teresa Hall-TC Campus, MTH107

Campus Box: # 28

(612) 728-5116

lmolson@smumn.edu

Dr. Olson’s background covers a variety of experiences in K-12 education settings. She has worked as a special education and general education teacher. As a leader, she has served students in rural, urban, and suburban settings. Olson has been an advocate for students with special needs by developing special education programs, mentoring teachers, and collaborating with families and other stakeholders. She is a trained mediator and has served as a school principal for several years.

Lela Olson Ph.D.
John Fry, Ph.D.

MA in Special Education - Adjunct Assistant Professor

Maureen Parkes, Ed.D.

Education - Adjunct Instructor

Debra Castner, Ed.D.

MA in Special Education - Adjunct Assistant Professor

Kathy Ryan, Ed.D.

M.A. Special Education Program - Adjunct Assistant Professor

Dawn Kelly, M.A.

MA in Education Program - Adjunct Assistant Professor

Professor smiling with students

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