Traits of Successful Special Education Teachers

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Traits of Successful Special Education Teachers

special education teachers

Teachers are special people. They hold the future in their hands as they inspire children to build character and pursue learning. Teachers must wear several hats, functioning as entertainers, instructors, communicators, facilitators, coaches, and sometimes even parents. While teaching professionals face many challenges in today’s educational setting, none more than those who teach students in the special education population.

They must wear all the hats of a regular teacher, plus possess a number of important qualifications in order to excel in their chosen career path.


While intelligence is an important characteristic for all teachers, special educators must navigate a complex world of details requiring the ability to not only attain a broad base of knowledge, but to apply it in creative ways. Exceptional education is subject to a number of legal requirements that must be implemented with fidelity, including the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Assistive Technology Act, and the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act (HCPA). These laws provide specific rules for the accommodations that must be afforded to children with disabilities ranging from mental processing disorders to physical handicaps.

Special educators must also obtain a broad knowledge of the standards taught in the regular education curriculum, which is a huge task considering all the subject areas that students study. They must be able to think outside the box to create ways for exceptional children to attend school and learn these standards on an equal footing with their peers.


The world of exceptional education includes creation of Individual Education Plans, or IEP’s, that outline for each student the accommodations that will be provided for them in order to meet legal requirements. To successfully navigate the IEP process, special education teachers must be exceptionally organized, including precise attention to detail, accurate maintenance of records, and proven ability to meet deadlines.

Love of Children

Whether a student has an emotional disorder that impacts their learning ability, or a physical handicap that makes movement difficult, special education students require various levels of intervention to meet their needs. The professionals who work with these students must demonstrate a love of students with patience and the ability to soothe them when needed. They must also be proficient in creating calm spaces for students so they are able to focus on learning.


Special education requires a great deal of teamwork. While the exceptional education teachers spearhead the IEP process, the legal document is created through the collaboration of a team, including parents and teachers. To successfully complete this, special educators must possess exemplary written and spoken communication skills. They must be able to handle irate parents, tactfully confront teachers who are not following the legal requirements of the IEP, conference with administrators regarding special education issues, and always advocate for their students.

As teachers of the most vulnerable population of students requiring the utmost level of care, special education teachers really are special people.

About PGUI

Professional Governmental Underwriters, Inc., is a full-service risk management company dedicated to assisting public, educational and non-profit entities in the management of their professional liability exposures including educators liability insurance. We are dedicated to providing state-of-the-art professional underwriting management and loss control advisory services on behalf of our designated carriers. For more information, call us toll-free at (800) 586-6502.