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Bethel Announces New Undergraduate Special Education Programs

Beginning in 2019, the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Special Education program will give students credentials and hands-on experience they can put into practice immediately.

By Monique Kleinhuizen ’08, GS’16, new media strategist

October 03, 2018 | 12:30 p.m.

Education students work together in a classroom

Bethel adds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Special Education to its suite of education programs

The Minnesota Teacher Supply and Demand report for 2017 showed 165 unfilled special education teacher positions. This statistic points at the widening gap between the growing number of positions needed to adequately support Minnesota students and the number of qualified teachers who can do so.

Bethel aims to address the problem by building on its strong Master of Arts (M.A.) in Special Education. Since the program’s launch in 1991, Bethel has consistently set itself apart through excellence in teaching, attracting high-quality, experienced educators to teach and study in the thriving program. The program went fully online in 2016, attracting even more students and furthering Bethel’s reputation in the national special education community. Bethel is proud to announce that, beginning in 2019, a new Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Special Education will allow traditional undergraduate students, paraprofessionals, and non-credentialed educators to gain teaching credentials specific to special education.

Now undergraduate students and adult students can complete their degree and meet classroom learning requirements through a variety of residency options or even through their current jobs. This is a win-win for students who want to gain a faith-based approach to special education—and also for K–12 students with disabilities in the state of Minnesota.

— Katie Bonawitz, program director and associate professor of education

Melissa Hayes is a veteran adjunct instructor in Bethel’s special education program, and she knows firsthand the profound challenges facing districts. As a special education director for elementary schools in Minnesota’s largest district, Anoka-Hennepin, she oversees more than 600 special education teachers. Because of her experience with adult learners in Bethel’s graduate program, she appreciates how students can finish a degree as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible—while maximizing hands-on learning opportunities within a values-centered environment.

“The peer support at Bethel is just incredibleit's encouraging and collaborative, and students really want to achieve together,” says Hayes. “Plus, the one-on-one attention from faculty is really about ensuring students’ success in their careers, beyond just classroom learning. The relationships and rapport between faculty and students—and the investment that faculty make—is really hard to describe. I can’t even quantify the value of that, but as an educator, it’s really exciting to see!”

In the new bachelor’s program, students will complete 120 hours of field experience and 12 weeks of student teaching with established, licensed teachers to meet their learning goals and build their careers. Within the program, two tracks have been developed to support students in different stages of their careers.

“These programs were designed to build on Bethel’s strong reputation in education and capitalize on the incredible student support and coaching we have available to students here,” says Program Director and Associate Professor of Education Katie Bonawitz. “Now undergraduate students and adult students can complete their degree and meet classroom learning requirements through a variety of residency options or even through their current jobs. This is a win-win for students who want to gain a faith-based approach to special education—and also for K–12 students with disabilities in the state of Minnesota.”

College of Arts & Sciences (Traditional Undergraduate Students)

A new major allows students to specialize in special education while taking advantage of the supportive, residential undergraduate community at Bethel. Current students who wish to add a major in special education—or switch majors entirely—should speak with their academic advisor about requirements and course options.

New students will be able to declare a major in special education beginning in fall 2019. Current students who are majoring in something other than special education have the option to continue into the M.A. in Special Education. A graduate of any special education program can choose to add additional licenses.

College of Adult & Professional Studies (Adult Undergraduate Students)

The College of Adult & Professional Studies (CAPS) features flexible online and evening courses that are designed with busy working adults in mind. New adult undergraduate students will be able to enroll in the mostly-online B.A. in Special Education beginning in spring 2019, completing their college degree and obtaining an Academic Behavioral Strategist license. They’ll also be able to add additional licenses.

Graduate School

Students who are already licensed in teaching and have any undergraduate degree will be able to enroll in the M.A. in Special Education, gaining one or more specialty licenses. Students who already have a master’s degree will be able to enroll in Doctor of Education (Ed.D) - Director of Special Education program.

Special Education at Bethel

Bethel University has long been a leader in Christian higher education, but it has recently garnered national attention for the Bethel University Inclusive Learning and Development (BUILD) program, a two-year residential program for students with intellectual disabilities. Bethel also recently became a Special Olympics Unified Champion School.

Bethel’s special education programs are built on pedagogical excellence and industry best practices and flow out of a deep commitment to acknowledging the God-given potential and contributions of exceptional people. By working closely with experienced practitioners and a diverse group of peers in these new programs, students develop innovative approaches to helping exceptional students excel. After completing flexible coursework, they’ll walk away with evidence-based best practices for meeting exceptional students where they’re at and helping them thrive.

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