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Career Story: High School Special Education Director

High School Special Education Director

Job Title: High School Special Education Director

Type of Company: I work for a school district in a suburb of Boston.

Education: BS, Elementary Education, Northeastern University •• M. Ed., Intensive Special Needs, Simmons College (Boston, MA)

Previous Experience: I was a manager of a residence for disabled adults before to becoming a special education teacher. I taught special ed. for 10 years prior to taking my current position.

Job Tasks: As a high school Special Education Director (also known as a Special Education Team Chairperson) I am in charge of the special education department at a mid-sized suburban high school. I run meetings for students who are on Individualized Education Plans or IEPs. I also lead evaluations of struggling students to determine if they require special services and if so what those services should be. I also supervise the special education faculty and staff -- 25 people -- in their day-to-day activities. This supervision ranges from helping them find counseling resources to troubleshooting difficult situations (e.g. a student who's struggling with math or a parent who is disagreeable).

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is working with my peers to help students. It is very rewarding to enter a situation where a student, and often a parent, feels there's hardly any hope and to help them find a way to succeed.

The worst part is the paperwork. I read and edit all reports generated by the department. I also have numerous state and federal requirements to meet and document.

Job Tips: To be an effective special education director I think you should first be the best special education teacher you can be. The broader your teaching experience (range of ages, range of disabilities, types of schools, etc.) the more prepared you will be to meet the dynamic needs of the students you encounter. Next read special education law. The law drives special education, so the more informed you are the better. Lastly, remember that you are helping children; it is worth it.

Additional Thoughts: No matter what you do, find a way to enjoy it. The more you enjoy and care about your work the more this attitude will rub off on the people who surround you. In the end everyone benefits. In this pursuit avoid negative people; if they say "I can't" or "That's not my job," then they are part of the problem. Being the solution is far more satisfying. Good luck.

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