(Posted July 11, 2022)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. –A new graduate program at Juniata College will equip educational professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to support all learners in the classroom, broadening the transformative impact teachers can have on the lives of their students.

Beginning in August 2022, the College will offer a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Special Education. This online program will provide flexible, yet rigorous graduate courses delivered by Juniata’s full-time faculty, experienced adjuncts, and skilled practitioners.

“There is a major shortage of special education teachers nationwide, we need qualified special education teachers,” said Dr. Katie E. Hildebrand Hoffman ’01, assistant professor of education. “In Pennsylvania, teachers are encouraged to earn a master’s degree or the equivalent, and this would allow them to obtain the level two certification they will need, as well as ensuring they are well prepared with content knowledge and skills.”

As a liberal arts college, Juniata is well-positioned to create a unique experience for those desiring a breadth and depth of knowledge related to special education, while cultivating a collaborative community of online learners. Graduate students work one-on-one with their adviser to individualize a plan that will meet their learning needs.

“Juniata is widely known for our excellent undergraduate programs and the partnership between our faculty and students. That is true of our graduate programs as well,” Hoffman said. “Our graduate professors know their students, value those relationships, and create an online community so students can learn from one another.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 920,500 new jobs in the field of education, representing 10 percent growth, are projected by 2030.

Nationwide, 13 percent of children and youth are identified in schools as having a disability. Of this number, approximately 80 percent spend a portion of their day in an inclusive setting. Tremendous strides in the field of special education have been made since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted in 1975.

“Special education is still a relatively young field. At one time, students receiving special education services were primarily educated in a self-contained classroom and a more categorical approach was utilized. Now, we’ve moved to a more inclusive approach where we educate children and youth with needs in the least restrictive environment, which is often the general education classroom,” Hoffman said. “Programs are highly individualized. We want to ensure we capitalize on strengths and attend to the needs of the individual regardless of the specified disability. We need to use the best approach, one that has research to suggest its effectiveness, for our students.”

An M. Ed. in Special Education can greatly benefit general educators, special educators, and other educational professionals who support students with academic, social, emotional, and/or behavioral challenges.

“We rely on evidence-based practices,” Hoffman said. “It’s not just about special education or special education teachers. It’s a collaborative approach among a variety of educational professionals, including general education teachers, special education teachers, mobile therapists, and speech and language pathologists. They are all a part of a collaborative team.”

The addition of the M.Ed. in Special Education builds upon the College’s existing offerings, which include graduate degrees in accounting, business administration (MBA), organizational leadership, data science, and bioinformatics.

To learn more about the Master of Education in Special Education program, contact Hoffman at hoffman@juniata.edu. For more information on graduate programs at Juniata, visit www.juniata.edu/gradprograms.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.