In January of 2014, Florida’s Board of Education enacted new revisions to the Educator Certification Rule, and among the changes was a requirement for teachers seeking recertification to complete either a one-credit course or 20 in-service hours working with special needs students.

Recent research has shown that students with special needs are underperforming on achievement tests, and more so than traditional students in the same grade level. With many exceptional education students being served in blended classroom environments, there is a need for every teacher to be better prepared for engaging, preparing, and evaluating students at all levels. In an effort to help teachers remain certified while continuing their professional development and enhancing their skill in the classroom, UCF professor Dr. Maria Reyes and several faculty within the College of Education and Human Performance are currently creating three key programs to offer the credits and experience that teachers need.

“The first piece is offering online courses in exceptional education for any and all educators seeking recertification,” Dr. Reyes tells us. “Those are open to learners who need only basic credits to be recertified. The next level is a course that’s currently in development; it would offer either one-, two-, or three-credit options depending on the teacher’s needs, and each level would involve more modules, activities, and interaction to qualify for the increased credit. Finally, the most comprehensive effort to provide exceptional education experience to teachers is the Educators Summer Institute, a two-day conference comprised of workshops, group sessions, and pre-conference online modules that is immersive, complete, and a true learning experience for teachers.”

Beyond simply assisting teachers in meeting this new requirement, the courses and the Educators Summer Institute are aimed at enhancing the skills and classroom management abilities of all teachers. Participants also benefit from the technology, research, and experience that UCF’s faculty offer, ensuring that lessons and activities are preparing teachers with the latest available information.

“What we’re hoping to do is provide as much as we can to assist teachers in not only meeting the requirements for recertification, but enhancing their abilities and classroom management,” Dr. Reyes continues. “It’s a real need at this point, particularly because there are not very many options. At UCF we also have a strong emphasis on the use of technology in exceptional education, and we’re trying to include that as a very useful tool for teachers to incorporate.”