ALMA — Students will learn the skills needed to become special education teachers in Alma College’s new Master of Arts in Special Education with Learning Disabilities Endorsement program.

The fully-online, grant-funded program will help fill an important need for Michigan by helping train teachers in needed roles, said Peggy Yates, associate professor and director of the Master of Arts in Special Education program. Classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 28, 2023, with a projected completion timeline of 12 months.

“Every teacher in Michigan is a special education teacher, whether they have the credentials or not,” Yates said. “All teachers need to possess the skills and knowledge of how to teach all students. What this master’s program will do is help those teachers learn to plan instruction to promote access for struggling learners— a vital skill that every teacher can benefit from having.

“It’s a rare and unique opportunity to have such a beneficial program be grant-funded for those students who are able to take part.”

The 30-credit program is designed for any teacher; at an elementary, secondary or special education level, who is already licensed to teach and is employed. Teachers who have this degree will learn how to lead classrooms of students with unique learning needs, as well as how to plan and provide instruction, encompassing evidence-based practices in reading, writing, math and behavior. They will also learn how to supervise support staff in their classrooms.

The Alma College MA in Special Education program is being offered in partnership with Talent Together, a consortium of 50 intermediate school districts (ISDs) and regional educational service areas (RESAs) in the state of Michigan. Talent Together will assist students by connecting them with teachers who are already in the field for coaching and mentorship opportunities. It will also provide students with ongoing supports for their first three years in the classroom.

“This is a program that takes Alma’s brand of experiential learning, from highly qualified faculty in small class settings, and makes it accessible to everyone in the state,” said Provost Sean Burke. “We are very pleased to be able to offer it and grateful for our partnership with Talent Together in administering it.”

The MA in Special Education program, which has been approved by the Higher Learning Commission, is the third graduate degree being offered at Alma College in its 137-year history. The Master of Science in Communication and Information Technology recently wrapped up its first year. The Master of Fine Art in Creative Writing program graduated its first class in April.

“The need for fully-licensed and well-trained teachers, both locally and in the state of Michigan, is well known,” said Alma College President Jeff Abernathy. “We believe this program is a great fit for Alma College, which already leads in the way in undergraduate education instruction, to help meet the needs of our surrounding communities and state.”

Yates has taught in the Alma College Education Department since 2013. Outside of the classroom, Yates serves the field as a member of the Special Education Advisory Committee to the Michigan State Board of Education, a lead facilitator on the Michigan Task Force (OPTIMISE), and as the vice president for the Alma Public Schools Board of Education.

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