Special education teachers are in demand nationwide. Over the past year, one local school district’s collaboration with Wilmington University helped it fill this critical need with qualified staff.
“In order to accommodate more learners with disabilities, the Colonial School District needed more teachers with a special education endorsement,” says WilmU assistant professor Dr. Todd Hackett-Slimm, who chairs the College of Education’s special education program.
Instead of conducting a wide-ranging search to hire experienced educators, though, the New Castle, Delaware-based school district looked inward, and up the road to WilmU. With Dr. Hackett-Slimm’s assistance, it developed an academic program that enabled 10 of its own teachers to earn the certifications needed to teach special education classes for the district.
Colonial’s current special education specialists, several of whom had previously taught as WilmU adjuncts, served as instructors for the March 2020 to March 2021 coursework. In addition to providing an on-site certification option, the WilmU-Colonial partnership also allowed the teachers to study toward certification together in a customized curriculum.
“As a cohort of teachers from the same district, they shared the unique learning characteristics of their district,” says Dr. Hackett-Slimm. “They were able to share anecdotal stories and relate them to the course content, making it even more applicable to the needs of the district. Plus, the course instructors could teach specifically to the context of the school district. Colonial-specific components were integrated into the courses.”
WilmU’s mission to expand the skills of working adults has generated numerous educational partnerships with area school districts, businesses, and other organizations while benefiting their employees with career advancement.
“Colonial approached me after they had heard about my work with teachers from the Appoquinimink School District, helping them to obtain autism and severe intellectual disabilities certifications,” says Dr. Hackett-Slimm. “I’ve also been meeting with the Milford School District on another certificate program pertaining to autism and severe intellectual disabilities.”