Maine Offers Incentives to Encourage More Teachers to Become Certified in Special Education
There are fewer special education teacher candidates in Maine than is required to meet the demand of a growing population of students with special needs. This coupled with the fact that 30% of Maine teachers are projected to retire within the next decade has created a major shortfall of qualified special ed teachers.
Making the situation more challenging is the fact that a new federal rule is taking effect that will raise the standards for special education teachers. The Every Student Succeeds Act will require all special education teachers to be fully certified (currently, Maine allows special education teachers to work in the classroom while completing their certification).
With 28,000 students enrolled in special education programs throughout the state, Maine has a critical need for qualified special education teachers. As of 2016, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) is working on creating incentives for special education teachers, including:
- Financial incentives for working in rural locations
- Loan forgiveness
- Helping pay up front for certification
RISE Program Brings Teachers, Behavioral Analysts and Specialists Together to Ensure Student Success
A 2016 audit by the Maine DOE revealed that schools had some problems keeping Individual Education Programs (IEP) current and goal-focused. According to the audit, IEP goals have not been updated year to year and don’t always show student progress. On the heels of the audit, Maine educators are working on designing dynamic IEPs that help students move toward achieving concrete educational goals.
In order to better serve special needs students, some school districts have employed a new program, called RISE. The program marshals all the resources that the school district can offer, relying on special education teachers, behavioral analysts, specialists such as speech-language pathologists, and an individual education technician for each student.
Through the RISE program, students are able to take advantage of incredibly valuable resources. Students with very limited communication have developed functional communicational skills, students with severe behavioral disorders have learned to function in social environments, and many of the students are able to re-join traditional classrooms, which is the goal.
RISE Program supervisor at Geiger Elementary School, Michelle Winslow, explains that individualized attention is a key component to helping these students succeed. RISE is meant to serve grades kindergarten through 12th.
Dedicated Special Education Teachers Make All the Difference
The secret to student success—any special education teacher will tell you—depends heavily on the teacher’s day-to-day interactions with students in the classroom. Forming strong bonds with students and learning to meet children’s individual needs are tasks that require teachers to be fully engaged.
One incredible special education teacher who has impacted her students greatly is Jennifer Dorman. Dorman works as a special education teacher in Skowhegan Area Middle School. She was awarded the prestigious Maine Teacher of the Year award in 2015 by the Maine DOE and Educate Maine.
Her peers described Dorman as a teacher who values her students above all else. She was praised for checking in on her students in both the classroom and in social situations. Parents of her students praised Dorman for the way she communicated with them and for keeping the families involved in their student’s progress. Parents also explained that Dorman often contacted them after school hours to talk about their child, showing dedication to her students and their success.
Below you'll find a list of all of the Master's in Special Education programs available in Maine.