Opinion | Establish support systems for special education teachers

Special education teachers should be given the necessary support.


Kyle Tristan Ortega, Opinions Columnist

Specialized teaching provides service to aid and develop independence and promote personal success among students with disabilities. 

While this type of education is a necessity in all schools, a nationwide shortage of teachers educating students with disabilities complicates school districts’ ability to serve each student’s needs. 

These teachers need the support and resources to keep them in this essential field. 

Josh Lyons, associate superintendent of teaching and learning at the Solon Community School District, said specialized teachers give students the support to reach their full potential.

“Special education students are general education students first,” Lyons said. “They just need support to level the playing field for them and ensure that they have the tools, strategies, and opportunities to be as successful as possible and reach their full potential.”

“Our goal as a school district is to ensure all students are successful,” Lyons said. 

With enrollment for this program accounting for 15 percent of all students in 2021, the importance of establishing a robust educational system that meets every student’s needs becomes apparent.

However, Iowa is experiencing a shortage of teachers that specialize in working with students with disabilities. According to the Iowa Department of Education, research shows that these teachers in Iowa have a 69 percent retention rate after 5 years, meaning that a large portion tend to leave the profession.

For this reason, to serve every students’ needs, it is clear that something must be done to improve retention rates for these specialized teachers. 

“I think everyone always goes right to compensation, ensuring that they’re paid well,” Lyons said. “But I think it goes beyond that. Professionals want the opportunity to collaborate with others. They need support to where they feel like they can be as successful as possible as they are working with our students.”

According to a survey that polled the responses of 32,000 teachers, moral support from peers is one of the most significant factors that influence whether a teacher decides to leave or stay in their profession. In addition, studies have found that one out of five teachers leave the profession when they lack collaborative relationships with their peers. 

To improve retention rates, support systems consisting of colleagues and administrators must be made available to them. Doing so will place teachers in an ideal environment where they can thrive and be satisfied with the work that they do.

Retention is influenced by both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Intrinsic rewards can be things like personal satisfaction, and extrinsic rewards are monetary compensation. While finances do help with teacher retention, there is more to it than that. Teachers want to work in a collaborative environment where they receive support from their peers, which cements the idea that support systems must be built.

Support systems may take the form of mentoring programs, work gatherings, or other means that encourage self-reinforcement. 

Regardless of what form it takes, specialized skills should be provided with these because it will give them opportunities to build meaningful relationships in which they will feel valued as professionals, comfortable in the workplace, and satisfied with their work.

As we all know, education is necessary for one’s development. Considering every institution’s goal is to ensure all of its students succeed, it is important to better cater to educators who are able to make that happen.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.