The Virginia Board of Education has approved Randolph-Macon College’s addition of a major in exceptional education, designed to prepare future teachers for immediate licensure in K-12 classrooms when they graduate with a B.A. degree from RMC. This is the final milestone for the new major, which was previously approved by the Virginia Advisory Board on Teacher Education and Licensure.
The new exceptional education major is one of several pathways for future teachers studying at RMC and will replace the previous special education track of the education minor. Students will be prepared to develop and deliver individualized education programs for students with various disabilities in all grade levels and subject areas, and be eligible for a Virginia teaching license in Special Education (General Curriculum, K-12).
A new exceptional education minor will also be available to elementary education majors who want to add the special education endorsement.
RMC students will be able to enroll in associated classes starting in the spring of 2023, and those that were already working towards the special education minor will be able to immediately shift over to the major.
“Students deserve to have qualified, credentialed teachers,” Associate Professor of Education Amber Peacock said of adding the major. “The more qualified teachers we can get in classrooms, the better.”
The new major also addresses a significant need in the field – the Virginia Department of Education identified special education as the top critical teaching shortage every school year from 2006-07 through 2021-22.
“We’re excited to add the exceptional education major to our robust education offerings,“ Provost Alisa Rosenthal said. “Our graduates are already highly sought-after teachers and this major will help address the critical shortage of exceptional education teachers in our schools by continuing to provide outstanding educators whose commitment to supporting all students lies at the heart of what they do.”
While the term “special education” is still used by some school districts and is found in state and federal regulations, “exceptional education” is increasingly favored as being more positive and inclusive.
The first graduates of RMC’s Special Education Teacher Preparation Program completed the program in 2016, with 21 total alumni in the past six years. In that time, several of those Yellow Jackets have earned New Teacher of the Year and Teacher of the Year awards at their schools, ranging from early childhood education to high schools.
Feedback from those outstanding alumni and their experiences in the field have helped shape the coursework for the exceptional education major, which is also aligned with the current Virginia Department of Education regulations and the Council for Exceptional Children’s Initial Preparation Standards.
“Teaching is skilled, professional work that makes a difference in the lives of students; what they’re doing is important,” Peacock said. “One of the things I love about this program is that they are in the field, in K-12 classrooms, from the very first class.”