Overcoming Barriers to Emerge as a Special Education Teacher

Legrand is a Walden Master of Arts in Teaching alumnus and PhD Education─ Special Education student who sought a full-time position as a special education teacher.  For years, Legrand worked as a substitute teacher at several schools.  Despite his proven success record and experience, he struggled to find full-time employment.  Legrand believed that his physical disability impeded his career success.

When Legrand met with Career Services at the National Harbor Residency, he was directed to specialized career resources to help him address misperceptions of his disability and jump-start his job search.  After the residency, he watched multiple career webinars and videos including Disabilities to Abilities and Interview Strategies.  He scheduled career advising appointments and received individualized coaching on how to communicate his many strengths and abilities to potential employers.

Legrand also prepared for an upcoming K-12 career fair by improving his resume, utilizing program-specific resources on the Career Services Center website, and practicing interviewing skills using OptimalResume’s Interview Prep.  His diligence led to two interviews for full-time special education positions and a job offer!   The following factors contributed to his success:

  • Prior to the interview, Legrand designed sample lesson plans and hosted them on YouTube. During the interview, he launched the video to share samples of his work on the spot and impressed the interviewer.
  • When the interviewer asked Legrand how he would “get up the stairs” since the school did not have an elevator, he briefly addressed the challenge and redirected the conversation back to how he can add value to the school. He stayed positive and focused on his many strengths and commitment to students in special education.
  • He spent substantial time researching the district, school, staff, and student population to formulate in-depth questions for the interview. By asking meaningful questions, he engaged the interviewer and showcased his extensive knowledge of special education.

Legrand stood out from other applicants due to his preparation, knowledge and positive attitude.  He said, “I struggled for three years to find a job.  I watched the [Career Services] webinars over and over again and practiced my skills.  I had determination, and I never gave up.”  He now has a great teaching position one block away from his home and is looking forward to new opportunities ahead.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services