Real-World Experience, Career Preparation
Prepare to work in the special education field or teach K-12 students with a broad range of special needs. You’ll work closely with award-winning professors who are leaders in the field of special education, in a nationally-recognized program that prepares more educators than any other university in Colorado. Teacher candidates will also gain real-world classroom experience through extensive field-based learning opportunities, including simulated, faculty-guided classroom experiences earlier in the program, to full-time teaching opportunities in your final semester. Field experiences are directly tied to your course work, connecting classroom and real-world learning.
Graduates receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in Special Education and K-12 teacher emphasis students also receive Colorado licensure as a K-12 Generalist. UNC graduates enjoy a nearly 100 percent placement rate with school districts and other employers. As a student in the Special Education program, you may also be eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs.
Get a career guide
Special education teachers shape the future by providing K-12 students who have a broad range of special needs with an educational foundation for life. Download our Special Education career guide.
Tracy Gershwin Mueller, Ph.D.
Professor of Special Education
Tracy Gershwin Mueller received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is a board-certified Behavior Analyst, Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Instructor, Safety Care Instructor and Colorado Trained Mediator.
Mueller’s research interests include parent-school collaboration, alternative dispute resolution, positive behavior interventions and supports, and special education law. Before joining the UNC faculty in 2004, she worked as a special education teacher and a behavior analyst for families of children and adults with behavior challenges. Among her many accomplishments, Mueller has worked collaboratively with the Colorado Department of Education, the National Center on Dispute Resolution, and she has provided many successful trainings throughout the country.
Mueller has continually sought innovative strategies to enhance her classes, such as cross class projects and providing our undergraduates with Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) Training. Most recently, she and Robin Brewer, Ed.D., another professor in the School of Special Education, worked collaboratively and received grant money to implement Mursion, a computer simulated classroom where our pre-service teachers interact with student “avatars” to practice skills learned within their college classrooms before practicing them in real classrooms. Mueller and her colleagues aim to provide pre-service educators with the most effective and realistic training, including the use of simulated Individualized Education Program meetings and action-based classroom projects. The program was featured on a the KUNC public radio segment.
Mueller and Brewer also co-authored several best-selling publications, Strategies at Hand: Quick and Handy Positive Behavior Support Strategies and Strategies at Hand: Strategies for working with students on the Autism Spectrum, with the former garnering the 2011 Eric Hoffer Honorable mention.
Over 200 undergraduates students major in special education on Greeley's main campus where students follow a traditional college experience.
In addition to the Greeley campus program, you can also earn your Special Education Generalist bachelor’s degree and K-12 licensure at UNC’s Center for Urban Education in Denver. As part of the Denver program, you’ll work in a classroom as a teacher apprentice beginning your first year, with opportunities to receive pay as well as college credit. Classes are available afternoons and evenings for added flexibility.
The Special Education Generalist Bachelor of Arts program at UNC offers two areas of emphasis depending on your interests and career goals: K-12 Teaching and Liberal Arts.
Special Education Generalist K-12 Teaching Emphasis
Gain the skills to work with students across a wide range of needs and abilities. When you successfully complete the K-12 Teaching Emphasis program you will receive institutional recommendation for licensure as a Special Education Generalist Teacher through the Colorado Department of Education.
Special Education Generalist Liberal Arts Emphasis
Not sure if you’re ready to pursue a teaching career? The Liberal Arts emphasis provides a strong background in special education theory and practice, as well as teacher preparation, but does not include student teaching field experiences in the final semester or K-12 teaching licensure upon graduation.
Center for Urban Education Program
Interested in gaining specialized training and experience in urban school districts?
UNC’s Special Education Bachelor of Arts and licensure program combines a liberal arts teacher apprenticeship with courses in special education theory, practice and pedagogy to ensure teachers have the breadth of knowledge needed to be effective special education teachers. As one of three bachelor's degrees with initial licensure offered by the UNC Center for Urban Education, which operates at the UNC Denver Center at Lowry, this program features structured course schedule (you'll focus on one course at a time) and a paid classroom apprenticeship model that allows you to start earning and working in metro area classrooms right away.
With specialized training and experiences gained in urban school districts, our graduates
routinely report that their transition to full-time classroom teacher involves no
surprises. They have seen much, done much and are ready to tackle the most demanding
After completing the program, you’ll have the opportunity to become licensed as a K–12 Special Educator (valid for kindergarten through age 21) with a Generalist Endorsement. Special education graduates are eligible for the added K–6 Elementary Education endorsement, after taking and successfully passing an Elementary Content Exam.
Special Education Minor
UNC’s Special Education Minor is for undergraduate students who desire a special education minor to accompany any major or teacher licensure program other than a special education program. Additional requirements in other special education programs must be met before students with a minor are eligible for special education licensure. You’ll complete 18 credits, including required coursework in Culture of Special Education, and the Individualized Education Program and the Collaborative Process, and 12 additional hours in selected courses.
"If you’re coming to UNC to earn a degree in special education, come with a big heart, open mind and hands ready to serve those around you. Your passions and your dreams are appreciated here and will be cultivated to better others. The coursework is challenging, both academically and ethically, and prepares you to work respectfully with students and individuals who have disabilities."
– Brittaney Hudson, K-12 Special Education, Class of 2015
Nationally recognized for excellence in teacher education, and designated as the primary institution for teacher education in the state of Colorado, UNC offers innovative learning experiences and a supportive, collaborative learning environment in which you can thrive. You’ll find a true sense of community among faculty and peers. You’ll also benefit from the direct connection between classroom learning and real-world experiences.
Consider UNC’s B.A. in Special Education Generalist if you:
- Want to teach K-12 students with a variety of special needs
- Want to gain extensive experience in real classroom settings
- Thrive in small classes with close faculty mentorship
- Want to advocate for people with disabilities
- General assessment and teaching methodology
- How to effectively implement professional standards, advocate for children and youth with special needs and collaborate with families and other educators
- Applications of technology in special education
- Culture of Special Education
- Behavioral Dimensions of Students with Exceptionalities (I and II)
- Methods for Teaching Mathematics: Students with Special Needs
- Language Disorders in Children
- Educational Technology Applications for Elementary Teaching
- Social Foundations of Education
Making a Difference in the Lives of People with Special Needs
At UNC, you’ll find many rewarding opportunities to apply your learning while giving back to the community. You can join the longest running Student Council for Exceptional Children Club in Colorado—an international club with more than 300 members that focuses on the unique challenges facing special education students. You can also take part in our Best Buddies program, a national organization that focuses on creating one-on-one friendships between college students and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Our graduates are nationally recognized as master teachers, professors and leaders in state government and school districts. More than 95 percent of our students are hired by school districts upon graduation.
Where can your degree take you?
Graduates of the Special Education Generalist Bachelor of Arts program who gain teacher licensure are qualified to teach students with a variety of disabilities in grades K-12, which is the primary career option for this degree. Almost all of our students are hired by school districts upon graduation. With your bachelor’s degree in special education, you can also pursue additional careers including:
- Postsecondary program service provider
- Advocate for individuals with disabilities
- Transition coordinator
- Disability support services professional
- Parent educator
In addition to being accessible, dedicated teachers, our faculty lead in their fields and actively pursue answers through research while collaborating with local school districts and agencies. Some current UNC special education research includes:
Self Determination Instruction across the Secondary Continuum
Assistant Professor of Special Education
Designed and implemented by Lori Peterson and her Weld RE-4 School District colleagues, the Self Determination Instruction across the Secondary Continuum project provides professional development and coaching for special education teachers—with the goal of providing secondary students with disabilities the opportunity to develop self-determination skills before entering postsecondary life. The project is currently moving through stages of professional development, data collection, coaching and modeling/demonstration with middle and high school teachers and service providers. It is hypothesized that students who participate in the project and receive systematic self-determination instruction over time will develop skills that are not simply introduced and forgotten, but become a part of their innate abilities.
Inclusive Programming for Students with Significant Support Needs
Associate Professor of Special Education
For the past five years, Robin Brewer, Ed.D., in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education, has been developing model inclusive programming for students with significant support needs at Briargate Preschool, Chinook Trail Elementary, Timberview Middle School, and Academy High School, with the goal of improving education for students with significant needs. As a result of their work, general education and special education teachers have improved their skills and worked together to help all students learn the curriculum, and teachers from other schools throughout Colorado now come to observe in these schools so that they can implement similar inclusive programs. Through this project we have also developed quality indicators for students with significant needs to help other schools know what they should be doing.
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