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Addressing the Shortage of Special Educators

What You Can Do

Too many schools are struggling to fill special educator positions and there are few licensed special educators to be had. That leaves districts trying to fill those positions by putting their candidates on provisional licenses. The provisional license requires the individual to be in a special education licensing program but there may be no program available. As of now, our special education licensing programs are full and everyone who applies for the coming year will have to be put on a waiting list with little chance of gaining admission. 

Shortages in special educators are nothing new, it was one of the reasons VT-HEC was formed in 2000. Since then VT-HEC has provided training and support in the field of special education graduating literally hundreds of special educators. These are Vermonters, who stay in Vermont when they finish our program and are working in our schools.

Over the past two years the pandemic has dramatically impacted the need for special educators and it has become a serious issue for too many districts.  To help address this:

  • The VT-HEC applied for and received ROPA approval for our Special Education Endorsement Program and has recommended two cohorts of candidates for licensure. For the last two years VT-HEC endorsement program has accepted 40 students – twice the number of students we normally have.
  • VT-HEC developed and received approval for the VT-HEC Special Education Initial Licensing Program. We will be starting the first cohort of 15 students this summer.
  • VT-HEC is working to improve retention of new special educators. The role of special educator has never been more complex and challenging. New special education teachers describe their first years as overwhelming, stressful, and isolating. Starting in the fall of 2022, we will be initiating the Special Educator Academy in a joint effort with the VCSEA. The Academy will provide opportunities for beginning special education teachers to join a cohort of new special educators as they share ongoing professional development and receive support. It will help create a professional community that will hopefully continue long after the Academy has concluded.


Despite all the efforts noted above, this year there is no space in our licensing programs for new students. It will be a crisis for those people who believe they have a job and a pathway to maintain it and for their school districts who are struggling to fill those positions. In order to expand our capacity further, we will need to identify potential new instructors, and that is where you can help. We need instructors for the courses listed below as well as internship supervisors. Potential instructors must have completed a master’s degree as these are all graduate courses.

  • Special Education History and Law
  • Assessment (Standardized, Interpretation, Comp. Eval.)
  • Emotional Disabilities
  • Moderate to Severe Disabilities
  • LD I (literacy)
  • LD II (math)


For more information:  Note that some courses may be offered on an alternate schedule to accommodate these large cohorts.

For questions or to forward names of potential instructors or internship supervisors contact Joy Wilcox: [email protected]

Dennis has been the Director of the the VT-HEC since it was founded in 2000. He spent 16 years at the VT-DOE as Director of teams with various names that included: special education, Title I, health and wellness and other family and education support services. Prior to that Dennis worked at the Barre Town School (VT) starting as a special educator and serving many years as the Director of Student Support Services. He also spent 6 years as a classroom teacher grades 5-8 in NJ.

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