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Collaborating with experts to support schools and deliver professional development, ensuring the success of all students.

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]

New Initial Licensing Program in Early Childhood

Licensing Opportunities in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education

This summer, the Vermont Higher Education Collaborative (VT-HEC) will launch its newly approved Early Childhood Educator (ECE) initial licensure program. This graduate-level program is designed for professionals working in early childhood or a related field who wish to obtain a Vermont educator license with an endorsement in ECE (birth–3rd grade). In launching this new ECE initial licensure program, VT-HEC seeks to respond to the ever-increasing need in Vermont and across the nation for qualified early childhood educators.

For nearly 20 years, the VT-HEC ECE program has provided courses aligned with Vermont’s ECE competencies and Core Teaching Standards. However, until this new program, students in the VT-HEC ECE program without an initial license still had to apply through Peer Review for their ECE initial license. This new initial licensure program provides students with a different option to obtain their initial license through VT-HEC.

For further information contact Manuela Fonseca, the VT-HEC Early Childhood Programs Director, at [email protected]. or

Early Childhood Licensing Program –

Early Childhood Special Education Licensing Program –

New VT-HEC Opportunities in Special Education & Early Childhood Education

Initial Licensing Programs in Special Education & Early Childhood

VT-HEC is pleased to announce three new pathways for individuals interested in becoming licensed special educators, early childhood educators, or early childhood special educators. 

On January 12, 2022, following extensive review by the Agency of Education, the Vermont Standards Board for Professional Educators voted to approve VT-HEC’s application to offer initial licensure programs in these areas. This will expand pathways to licensure for individuals with bachelor’s degrees in areas other than education. 

Applications are being accepted now. Interested individuals are encouraged to contact Program Director, Joy Wilcox ([email protected]), for information about the Special Education licensure program, and Program Director, Manuela Fonseca ([email protected]), for information about Early Childhood Education and/or Early Childhood Special Education. 

Limited scholarship funds are available for both programs for students who do not have financial support for professional development from their workplace. 

Additional details about all programs will be posted at


VT-HEC Transitions – Farewell Patty

Patty Morgan – Longtime Director of Licensing Programs Retiring  

We all know that some things are inevitable but that does not mean they are all easy or pleasant. With great mixed feelings, I wanted to share that Patty Morgan, our Director of Licensing Programs, is retiring from the VT-HEC as of January 1, 2022.

For the better part of VT-HEC’s existence Patty has been the constant through all of our ups and downs, accomplishments and challenges. She began coordinating our special education endorsement program and soon became the VT-HEC Program Director as we expanded into multiple licensing endorsement areas and other professional development offerings.

Twenty years of graduates from our endorsement programs has had a dramatic impact on education in Vermont – hundreds of special educators, early childhood educators, health educators, etc., are working in our schools and communities as a result of the work of Patty and her team of talented coordinators and instructors.

For the last few years Patty focused on our licensing and certificate programs. She oversaw the development of our Work-Based Learning program and was instrumental in the transition of our Autism Certificate program to our new Neurodiversity and Inclusion program. As if that was not enough, Patty guided us through the state process of ROPA approval for both endorsement and initial licensing in special education, early childhood and early childhood special education – a significant effort and accomplishment.

Patty has been an integral part of the VT-HEC for 20 of our near 22-year existence and it is hard to envision the VT-HEC without Patty being a part. For me, Patty has been partner, colleague, sounding-board, co-conspirator, and friend. I will miss her; we will all miss her, but she is leaving the licensing programs and the VT-HEC as strong as ever and, with ROPA approval on the horizon, putting those programs on a firmer foundation than ever before. The decision to have her join us is one of the best decisions I have ever made and one I would make again without hesitation.

In recognition and appreciation of all that Patty has contributed to the VT-HEC and education in Vermont, the VT-HEC Board of Directors voted on December 1 to establish the Patty Morgan Scholarship which will provide a worthy student a tuition-free experience through our Early Childhood or Early Childhood Special Education program. (details coming soon)

All of the VT-HEC community join in thanking Patty for her dedication, expertise and grace. We wish her the best in turning the page of her next chapter.

Dennis Kane

Executive Director

VT-HEC Fall Focus on Special Needs

This fall VT-HEC has lined up a varied and robust schedule of professional development opportunities focused on students with disabilities, struggling learners and learners with various other challenges & needs
  • Curriculum and Instruction for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder – Kathryn Whitaker, M.Ed. -Workshops and/or Course (10/22 & 10/23 – Montpelier) Kids with ASD can be among our most challenging but Kathryn can help you design, implement and evaluate instructional systems utilizing strategies that have worked for students with these issues.
  • Orientation to Special Education – Andrea Wasson, M.Ed. & Joy Wilcox, M.Ed. – Workshop (9/27 & 9/28 – Montpelier). Are you new to special education, new to Vermont, do you have to supervise or evaluate special educators or related service providers, or do you or your staff just need to review the basics to ensure you are all using you time wisely and focusing on the right stuff? If the answer to any of these is yes, this is the offering for you and yours.
  • Addressing Educational Benefit through the Special Education Process Jen Patenaude, M.A.  Workshops (10/17, 11/8, 12/12, 1/10 – Montpelier) This is a series every special educator should be taking to improve student progress by using the special education procedures in the most productive manner. Jen is a Vermont treasure and this offering should be required.
  • Strategies for Sustaining the Student-Centered Classroom – Carol Tomlinson, Ed.D. & Bill Rich, M.A. – Three-part WORKshop series (10/18, 12/6 & 3/20 – Montpelier). Carol literally wrote the books on differentiated instruction and Bill has been working in VT for many years focused on using what we know about the brain and learning to make education work for all kids.
  • Special Education Legal Update – Art Cernosia, Esq. – Workshop (10/25 – Montpelier) Special Education law can be deadly but Art makes it easy to take.  You’ll hear what’s new, what’s coming, what to focus on and what can take a back seat.
  • Advancing and Sustaining Equity Literacy – Paul Gorski, PH.D. – Workshops (11/1 & 11/2 –
    Montpelier). Paul founded EdChange, a coalition of educators and activists providing professional development on educational equity.  This year VT-HEC is working with the VPA and other Vermont organizations to present an array of events and learning opportunities focusing on equity. These two days will focus on the foundations of Equity Literacy and how your schools can put its principals into practice. A follow-up three days is planned of the spring focusing on different equity themes – race, poverty & gender.
  • Building Collaborative Teams/Effective Partnerships: Working with Tough Teams – Alicia Lyford, M.Ed. & Joy Wilcox, M.Ed. – Workshop and/or Course (11/5 & 11/6 – Montpelier) There are few more frustrating things than a dysfunctional team and few things better than an effective one – find out the ways to ensure yours are the latter.
  • Lights, Camera, Action! Use Built-in Tools on Your Smartphone to Create Quick and Effective Learning Opportunities for Your Students – Patty Thomas, OT and Chris Knippenberg, M.S., OTR/L, ATP – WORKshop and/or Course (10/26 – Rutland) Chris and Patty have this offering down and will help you use the tools on your phone or tablet to create a variety of learning activities to meet the specific needs of your students.
  • Tips and Tools for Early Childhood Special Educators – Judith Masson, M.Ed. -Workshops (10/4 & 11/7 – S. Burlington) Judith shares practical tools, charts, forms and practices that can be tailored to your work setting and students to help make you more efficient and effective.


Trauma, Anxiety & Behavior


And there is more on the VT-HEC Drawing Board for the spring; check back often to see the latest news & opportunities. For more information and registration go to

New Pathway to Licensure Cohorts – Special Education & Early Childhhood

Scholarships available to students that have no other financial support for professional development

The VT-HEC announces the start of new course sequences that lead to licensure – Special Educator, Early Childhood/Early Childhood Special Education. All our pathway programs have the goal of providing quality preparation and training to Vermont educators who are committed to working towards the success of every child and student. Courses begin June, 2018.

All VT-HEC Programs:
• Offer coursework that meets the VT requirements for transcript review in the endorsement area sought
• Offer the coursework and guidance to apply for initial licensure through the AOE’s Peer Review program
• Are affiliated with and offer credit through our VT State College partners- Castleton University and Lyndon State College
• Can lead to a master’s degree with partnering institution if eligible
• Are offered in either a face to face or hybrid model to maximize statewide access
• Are taught by qualified experts from field who are committed to using principles and practices of adult learning to ensure practical and relevant learning.

Partial scholarships may be available for VT-HEC’s Pathway to Licensing Programs including Early Childhood, Early Childhood Special Education and Special Education. These scholarships may be available to students that have no other financial support for professional development.

Download flyer here:


VT-HEC 2018 Mission Investment Fund

Funding Program Development & Scholarships

The VT-HEC Board of Directors has established the VT-HEC Mission Investment Fund for the purpose of advancing our goal of providing high quality professional learning opportunities that support the success of every Vermont student. The VT-HEC Mission Investment Fund will be focused on developing new professional learning offerings in high need areas and supporting increased access to current VT-HEC offerings by providing a limited number of scholarships or reduced cost offerings.

For 2017- 2018 the Mission Investment Fund will provide professional development worth over $100,000 and will be supporting:

  • Partial scholarships for VT-HEC’s Pathway to Licensing Programs including Early Childhood, Early Childhood Special Education and Special Education.  These scholarships will be available to students that have no other financial support for professional development.
  • Lowered costs for the Connecting the Dots series of workshops & course focused on Birth to Three and Pre-School children.
  • Lowered costs for Registered Behavior Technician training for paraprofessionals and others desiring this content.
  • Development of new learning opportunities in the area of Trauma & Anxiety.
  • Revision of the VT-HEC Autism Certificate course sequence.
  • Partial scholarships for VT-HEC workshops. These scholarships will be available to participants that have no other support for professional development.
  • Provision of professional development to VT-HEC’s instructors, presenters and staff.

You Can Help….  Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to help us expand the impact of the VT-HEC Mission Investment Fund so that we can offer support for increased participation in our offerings and develop new programs to meet the most critical professional learning needs in education in Vermont.



Spring Preview: Early Childhood – Grade 3

VT-HEC has a full slate of offerings planned for the spring covering topics ranging from the practical use of learning scales to a series of “Make & Take” WORKshops focused on young students with developmental disabilities.  We welcome some of VT-HEC favorites such as Jen Patenaude, Chris Knippenberg and Bill Rich as well as some new folks that we are very excited about including, Heather Lynn on Special Education law, Paul Foxman on anxiety in the classroom and Jayne Singer from Boston Children’s Hospital.  In short, there is something for just about everyone.

Our spring offerings that most relate to young children through grade 3 include:

Connecting the Dots: Using Best Practices to Support Infants, Toddlers, and Their Families in Montpelier, VT ~ Three more workshop dates (2/9, 3/23, 5/3) Supporting young children and their families is one of the most important things we can do for Vermont’s future.  Next up is Jayne Singer from Boston Children’s Hospital and then Dee Smith from UVM. Don’t miss these experts as they explore the most effective practices and research findings.

Getting Ready to Learn Series: Three Make and Take WORKshops with Patty Piotrowski and Chris Knippenberg in So. Burlington, VT (2/2, 3/13, 4/10) – One of our most successful WORKshop series for a reason. It is focused on creating materials to meet the specific needs of young students with learning challenges. You will leave with an arm-load of learning materials tailored to support your toughest kids and tips on how best to use them. This year we have added the option of earning credit focused on implementation of these concepts and materials.

It Came from Outer Space: Integrating Technology and Writing Across the K-3 Curriculum with Arlyn Bruccoli and Jennifer Fitch in Montpelier, VT (3/9) The title says it all…. Arlyn, a library/media specialist, and Jennifer, an accomplished classroom teacher, will show you how. They will have you practicing with the tools they use working together using technology to help younger students express their ideas and reactions about science, social studies, literature, etc.

A Systematic Approach to Teaching Socialization and Play for Young Learners with Chris Knippenberg in Burlington, VT (5/4) Learning to interact with peers is one of the most important skills a child can learn and for some it doesn’t come easily. Chris will help you develop and plan for those students in a way that will benefit all kids.

Fostering Resilient Learners: Creating Trauma Sensitive School Communities, with Joelle van Lent, Psy.D, and Gillian Boudreau, Ph.D., in Montpelier, VT ~ Four workshop days (1/18, 2/16, 3/16, 4/12) and an additional date (5/17) for 3-credit graduate course. From the basics on the impact of trauma on kids’ ability to form relationships to utilizing mindfulness and other strategies to build their resilience, these workshops and course will put you and your school on track to support students dealing with or recovering from trauma.  Joelle and Gillian form a dynamic team with complimentary expertise and experience.

Managing Anxiety in the Classroom, with Paul Foxman, Ph.D., in Montpelier, VT (1/26) Daily headlines seem to bring more sources of anxiety that are difficult enough for adults to deal with but are putting more and more kids in the situation of trying to deal with chronic anxiety without the supports or tools to help. Paul will help you recognize the symptoms and develop strategies to help your students cope and succeed.

Special Education: Suggested Approaches to Case Management with an Eye to Recent Cases and Legal Requirements with Heather T. Lynn Esq. in S. Burlington (2/8) Heather will share the practical implications of recent court decisions and current regulations and how you can navigate the often- confusing legal waters of special education to avoid the danger zones, resolve conflict and stay on a safe and productive course.

MTSS Ground Level Systems Planning: What does effective, daily implementation look like? (K-6) with Jen Patenaude in Rutland, VT ~ Two workshop dates (4/4 & 4/5) Do you need to make changes to your MTSS structure and systems in order to more effectively implement multi-tiered programming designed to serve all students? If so, this intensive two-day workshop is the perfect time to plan for the next school year. Strategies and suggestions shared are drawn from the collective experience of schools across Vermont that are well underway with MTSS. Jen is the perfect person to lead your team to assess and design the changes your system needs for next year.

Check out our other series for offerings that may also address your interests and needs including: Special Education; Trauma, Resilience & Anxiety; Gender and where Proficiencies & Personalization are really working in VT.

VT-HEC WORKshops are learning opportunities that are planned to have participants practicing, applying and tailoring the concepts, skills and models that are being shared for much of the day and often include a course option to support implementation in your own setting.

Date Changes for: Tips & Tools and Designing Professional Development

Two Notable VT-HEC Offerings Re-scheduled
Tips & Tools for Early Childhood Special Educators w/Judith Masson:
Originally scheduled on 9/29 and 10/26.  Now scheduled to start on 10/26 (this will be day 1) and 12/11 (this will be day 2). This two-day workshop series will sharpen your skills & add to your toolbox as we walk through the special education process. It will offer organizational tools & strategies related to each step to maximize your time and energy. We will discuss the daily operations and responsibilities of being a preschool case manager/service provider and brainstorm cost-effective, time-smart approaches. Additionally, each day will include a “make & take” session for creating materials that you can start using your next day at work.
Workshop #1 September 29 October 26th Case Management & Service Delivery
During this workshop we will explore tips and tools related to:
• Early childhood special education evaluation, placement, and IEP processes;
• Case management responsibilities, such as facilitating meetings, reporting progress, family communication, etc.
• Service delivery models for special education.

Workshop #2 October 26 December 11th Lesson Planning, Consultation & Transitions
During this workshop we will explore tips and tools related to:
• Lesson plans, data collection & evidence-informed programming decisions;
• Paraprofessional supports and consultation;
• Transitions into early childhood special education, as well as kindergarten.

Designing Professional Development that Brings out the Best in our Colleagues w/ Bill Rich and Wendy Cohen:
First date originally scheduled for 11/7.  Now scheduled for 10/25.
If you are or want to be a provider of professional development, instructional consultant or coach of your colleagues this series and optional course is for you.  This series will cover the principles and practices that seasoned, skilled adult educators use to design and orchestrate learning experiences that bring out the best in your colleagues. Whether you’ve just become an instructional leader/coach, or someone who’s plied these waters for years, we’ll meet you where you are and help you design, implement, and evaluate a plan for bringing out the best in you, your colleagues, and their learners.

WORKshop 1: Getting Clear about What Matters Most (October 25) Note Change in Date
After a compelling and humorous introduction to the principles of adult learning design, we’ll dig into the details of identifying what matters most when designing and orchestrating learning for our colleagues. Participants will use their new learning to draft and tune an action plan tailored to their specific role and learners.


WORKshop 2: Strategies for Targeting Practice & Orchestrating Feedback (December 14)
We’ll spend the morning sharing, modeling, and considering strategies for targeting practice and
orchestrating feedback in ways that bring out the best in our colleagues and support their learning.
Participants will identify the strategies they want to try out and begin designing and refining a plan to apply
these back in their setting.

WORKshop 3: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Collaborative Inquiry (January 19)
How can we inspire and empower educators to begin working together in ways that nourish each other and
their students? Throughout this workshop we’ll model and practice strategies for tapping the collective
wisdom of our colleagues, students, and communities in the age of Act 77 and Education Quality Standards

WORKshop 4: Ending Well: Revisiting and Enhancing What Matters Most (March 15)
After studying a range of specific examples and processes, we’ll devote most of the day to
designing and tuning your approach to ending the year well for your particular learners.

VT-HEC Fall Preview: Focus on Special Education

Special Education, Early Childhood, Autism, Reading, Trauma, Behavior

We hope we can help you get the year off to a great start with offerings in key areas of need that focus on gaining practical knowledge and skills as well as applying them in real ways to benefit students.

The VT-HEC began in 2000 as an effort of the VT Department of Education, VSC & UVM.  Our first program was the Pathway to Special Education Endorsement course series that continues to this day and has had over 350 completers. In addition, we have offered a selection of workshops and single courses for all those who work with struggling learners and students with disabilities.

Registration will open August 10th for these Fall offerings:

  1. Trauma & Resilience– There are many introductions out there on the impact of trauma and the strategies that can help but the VT-HEC is developing an array of learning opportunities that will go much further & deeper in supporting the application of the most effective strategies and creating in-school expertise. Working with the Northeast Family Institute (NFI) and experts like Joelle Van Lent & Gillian Boudreau, we are planning a coordinated workshops series and course sequence for 2017-2018 & beyond.  


Trauma-Informed Schools – September 26 & October 23, Rutland, VT:  David Melnick of NFI will kick things off with a two-workshop series that has an extended course option.

Spring 2018 Workshops & Courses: We have three additional offerings in this series for the spring– a Part II course presented by David Melnick, a workshop series & course by Joelle van Lent and Gillian Boudreau focusing on resilience, compassion fatigue and mindfulness and Paul Foxman on anxiety.

  1. Tips & Tools for Early Childhood Special Education, September 29 & October 26; Montpelier.  Judith Mason shares practical tools that will benefit both the newest and your most veteran staff member and give them an opportunity to tailor these tools to their own settings.
  1. Special Education Orientation, October 5 & 6; Montpelier. If you, your principal or your staff members are new to your position or to VT, this session is one you want to mark on your calendar now. Andrea Wasson, accomplished special education administrator and presenter/instructor, surveys the special education rules, process and best practices to help you and your staff get off to a confident start in this complicated field. 
  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder in Young Children, October 12; Patty Prelock, one of the most knowledgeable and distinguished experts in the field, will present this “can’t miss” presentation focusing on the latest research on ASD in younger children. 
  1. Teaching Reading Comprehension to Students Who Require More Explicit Instruction, October 16 & November 13; Montpelier- with Tina Newman, Ph.D; Heather Flynn, Ph.D; and Kimberly Marshall, MA, BCBA. A very practical review of the specialized instruction needed to teach reading to many students with challenging disabilities delivered by three experts in the field – a necessity for every reading interventionist and special educator.
  1. Special Education Law Update – November 2, Montpelier – Art Cernosia is a fount of knowledge and perspective on what is important to pay attention to and what is coming down the road concerning special education & related law, court decisions and regulations. 
  1. Power Struggles: What to do When a Student Says, “Make Me!”, November 8, 2017 Killington, VT – Jon Udis. Jon shares both what not to do and the strategies that work to de-escalate the situation and get students back on track. 
  1. Connecting the Dots: Using Best Practices to Support Infants, Toddlers, and Their Families, Montpelier ~ Four workshop dates (11/3, 2/9, 3/23, 5/3) with a 3-credit course option. Covering topics important to everyone working with young children.
  • Check out our other series including: Early Childhood; Trauma, Resilience & Anxiety; General Education – Proficiency & Personalization
  • Go to for more information & registration.  Watch for the full year VT-HEC calendar