New GSEAP Programming Meets Demand in Key Teacher Shortage Areas with Innovative Coursework

New GSEAP Programming Meets Demand in Key Teacher Shortage Areas with Innovative Coursework

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This fall, students and working professionals will have access to two new, low residency certificates: dyslexia intervention and sexual and gender minority mental health. A 5-year program and minor in special education will also be introduced at the undergraduate level.

K-12 classrooms today do not fit one mold. Demand for teachers trained in key areas such as special education and remedial reading is on the rise. Counselors, too, are serving populations that may require specialized competencies not taught in graduate programs. In response to growing demand and strong interest from departments within the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP), the School will introduce a new 5-year program and minor in special education at the undergraduate level and residency certificates in both dyslexia intervention and sexual and gender minority mental health. These program options will serve to meet high demand in key shortage areas and offer teachers and counselors specialized learning to better serve others in their community.

Across the country there is a shortage of special education teachers. Schools are in need of educators who are highly qualified and can manage diverse student populations with a variety of learning needs both in the classroom and in small group settings. With the introduction of the new special education 5-year program and minor, students will declare the minor in their sophomore year. As juniors, they can then determine if they would like to commit to a 5-year year program to earn a master’s degree and initial teaching certification in special education.

“We’ve received many inquiries from incoming undergraduate students and parents requesting a special education track, and it’s something we’ve been developing for a while,” said Special Education Co-Director and Assistant Professor Alyson Martin, EdD. “Our graduates have a very high employment rate, and many are asked to start working before they have completed student teaching. We know the demand is there.”

Dr. Martin co-directs the special education program with Emily Shamash, EdD, assistant professor.

“In the state of Connecticut, special education teachers are certified to teach grades K-12, and there is a versatile range of job placements in the field,” said Dr. Shamash. “With special education, one might, for example, teach grades K-5 and also consult outside of the classroom with regular education teachers. There is a lot of flexibility and room for growth.”

With the passage of four pieces of dyslexia-specific legislation since 2014, Connecticut’s need for remedial reading teachers trained to meet the specialized assessment and intervention needs of at-risk students and students with dyslexia continues to grow.

Individuals interested in pursuing specialized training in dyslexia intervention can now enroll in Fairfield University’s newly launched, fully online, 10-credit Dyslexia Interventionist Certificate program. This certificate is the prerequisite for Wilson Reading System (WRS) Level I Certification.  

I am committed to helping support innovative educator preparatory programs to serve districts, families, and children,” said Jule McCombes-Tolis, PhD, director of the reading and language development program. “I hope this new certificate will be a resource for teachers as well as paraeducators, speech and language therapists, and more.”

The new certificate, which features an exclusive partnership with WRS, prepares individuals to implement WRS and to remediate off-track readers and readers with dyslexia in grades 3 -12. The certificate can also be embedded into a master’s degree or sixth year program.

Also launching as a flexible, low residency certificate this fall is the Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) Mental Health Certificate. SGM individuals often face stigma and discrimination, and as a result, are three times as likely to have mental health concerns. Many mental health professionals report wanting to help SGM persons but don’t have sufficient training, knowledge, and skills to do so. The 12-credit certificate can be completed in 10 months and focuses on intersectional, relational, life cycle, and self-reflective perspectives to foster a holistic view of client and self.

“Many clinicians are serving LGBTQ clients in their practices, but have received very little training in this area in their graduate programs,” said Erica Hartwell, PhD, associate professor of marriage and family therapy and program director of the Certificate in Sexual and Gender Minority Mental Health program. “Most students and professionals I meet are eager to learn more so they can better serve their clients, but do not know where to access additional training. This certificate was created to bridge that gap and provide clinicians with everything they need to work confidently and effectively with clients of all sexual and gender identities.”

To learn more about the new special education 5-year program and minor, or certificates in dyslexia intervention and sexual and gender minority mental health, please contact the Office of Graduate Admission.

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