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July 29, 2021 LA GRANDE, Ore. – This fall, students in Eastern Oregon University’s College of Education may be able to major in Special Education for the first time, putting them on track to graduate with a state-approved license and go directly into classrooms where their expertise is in high demand.
“There’s a shortage of SpEd teachers in the U.S., and especially in rural Oregon,” said EOU Education Professor Jerred Jolin, who helped design the new curriculum. “I’m enthusiastic about this project. I’ve been trained in this field and have firsthand experiences with the positives of helping students with learning differences be successful in the classroom.”
The on-campus program stacks neatly on top of two years of core coursework, making it easy for transfer students to apply credits from a community college and earn a bachelor’s degree in two years.
“Getting the licensure at the undergraduate level is the most efficient way to do it,” Jolin said. “It basically replaces 1.5 years of a graduate program.”
Students participate in practicums during their junior and senior years, and then a 15-week student teaching field placement in the final year of the program. Jolin explained that offering multiple hands-on experiences allows students to explore the wide range of special education settings, such as resource rooms, life skills classrooms, classrooms for students with behavior challenges, or academic interventions with math or reading.
“The placements show a range of special education classroom experiences,” he said. “This program ensures students get a general education because there are K through 12 students with disabilities.”
While it spans the breadth of ages and needs, EOU’s program prioritizes special education in a rural environment. Practicums and student-teaching placements will be located in Eastern Oregon. Jolin said schools in less populated areas and small communities tend to have the highest demand for special education teachers.
“We’re the only program like this in the eastern part of the state,” he said. “We plan to focus on the unique challenges of being a SpEd teacher in rural settings.”
EOU’s College of Education boasts four faculty members with doctorates in special education, and plans are in place to hire an additional professor.
The Special Education program is awaiting final approval from regional accrediting authority NWCCU. Learn more at eou.edu/special-education.
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