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Meet the Teachers

These individuals work directly with students, some are involved mostly in determining whether a student has a disability, and others offer indirect support. 

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New classroom and teaching technique tested at UH Manoa

New classroom and teaching technique tested at UH Manoa

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Helping students get the education they need to enter the field

Helping students get the education they need to enter the field

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CEC 100 Stories: SPEDucator Project

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Alumni Perspectives - UH Manoa's Department of Special Education

Alumni Perspectives - UH Manoa's Department of Special Education

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Special Education Teachers (SPED Teachers)

A strong background in building relationships with students to aid academic and personal growth.

With patience, resourcefulness and strong communication skills, special education teachers create a positive learning environment for students with special needs. Special education teachers work with students who have learning, mental, emotional, physical abilities. They reading, writing, and math. For students with severe disabilities, they also teach communication and basic life skills.


  • Develop, implement, and track an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student

  • Communicating with parents, counselors, other teachers, and administrators helps ensure they meet students' needs

  • Tailor individualized appropriate materials for lessons by using assistive technology and evidence-based strategies

  • Coordinate with multidisciplinary education groups to improve curriculums and enhance individual and small group instruction

  • Work in general education classrooms or special education settings such as resource rooms, self-contained classrooms, and separate schools


Bilingual Special Educators

Equipped with patience and persistence, and prepared to help students acclimate to the culture, especially for students who have transferred from an education system in another country. With the knowledge of both bilingual education and special education, bilingual special educators can help students with disabilities and students struggling with language, or offer dual service. Bilingual special educators work with students to improve language proficiency.


  • Understanding cultural and linguistic diversity

  • Providing effective delivery of instruction

  • Collaborating with others in the field and meeting with students’ parents

  • Offering personalized instruction

  • Handles all the duties and responsibilities of a regular teacher, including creating lesson plans, leading class activities, and grading assignments

  • Identify students who underperform in English and provide or arrange for additional instruction

  • Working with students to help them achieve their highest capacity for academic knowledge and skill

  • Work in general education classrooms or special education settings such as resource rooms, self-contained classrooms, and separate schools

Early Childhood Special Educators
(Early Interventionists)

Committed to helping young children reach their learning potential and being knowledgeable about the range of disabilities enable early childhood special educators or early interventionists to determine students' specific special needs. Early interventionists work with students who have developmental difficulties, such as speech and vision problems, limited motor skills, sensory-processing difficulties, or special learning challenges.


  • Showing life skills to preschool-aged students with learning, emotional, and physical disabilities

  • Evaluating special-needs students, determining skill levels, and functional capabilities​

  • Modifying lessons and revising the standard curriculum to match the child’s functional capacity and accommodations

  • Co-teaching in integrated learning settings

  • Meeting parents and others to review goals and assess progress

  • Creating materials to assist in teaching

  • Helping children, such as those with cerebral palsy, who need assistance with motor skills and eating/drinking

  • Providing an appropriate learning environment for students, such as those with sensory-processing challenges

  • Instructing students one-on-one in imitation, repetition, and step-by-step problem solving

  • Completing evaluative and accommodation forms such as IEPs

  • Work in general education settings, kindergartens, preschool, elementary schools, special education settings, students' homes

Adapted Physical Educators

With care and mindfulness, adapted physical educators provide individualized physical education instruction or services to children, youth, or adults with exceptional physical needs due to gross motor developmental delays or other impairments. Adapted physical educators help students with physical needs to adapt to exercises, games, and other activities.


  • Receive professional development and assist in providing this service to students with disabilities

  • Completing comprehensive motor assessments of individuals with disabilities and making specific program recommendations

  • Providing direct services to students who are eligible and in need of APE

  • Consult with physical education staff providing physical education instruction for individuals with disabilities

  • Consult with other IEP team members about student needs in the area of APE

  • Serve as an IEP member at IEP meetings

  • Monitor student progress

  • Advocate for the student and parent

  • Work directly with students with disabilities, either during a general physical education class or in a separate special class

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs)

With a strong clinical foundation, speech-language pathologists are inspired to help students with moderate to severe learning disabilities to acquire transition skills.  Speech-language pathologists work with various populations who have speech and language problems, including related cognitive or social communication problems.


  • Work in many different research, education, and health care settings with diverse roles

  • Work as part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary team, which may include teachers, physicians, audiologists, psychologists, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, and rehabilitation counselors

  • Evaluate levels of speech, language, or swallowing difficulty

  • Identify clients' goals for treatment

  • Create and carry out an individualized treatment plan that addresses specific functional needs

  • Teach clients how to make sounds, improve their voices, and maintain fluency

  • Help clients improve vocabulary and sentence structure

  • Work with clients to develop and strengthen the muscles used to swallow

  • Counsel clients and their families on how to cope with communication and swallowing disorders

School Psychologist

Offers a unique perspective to student by applying principles ​of psychology with helping students and families. School psychologists are passionate for understanding behavior and able to apply their knowledge of behavioral principles and problem-solving skills to find solutions for students struggling in the school environment. To help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally, school psychologists are qualified to provide expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior.


  • Partner with families, teachers, school administrators, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that strengthen connections between home, school, and the community

  • Receive specialized advanced graduate preparation that includes coursework and practical experiences relevant to both psychology and education

  • Provide individual and group counseling

  • Promote problem solving, anger management and conflict resolution

  • Conduct psychological and academic assessments

  • Individualize instruction and interventions

  • Promote Positive Behavior and Mental Health

  • Provide culturally responsive services to students and families from diverse backgrounds

  • Plan appropriate Individualized Education Programs for students with disabilities

School Counselors

Attentive to students' difficulties in school and at home. School counselors work with all students who experience personal concerns such as family relationships.


  • Conduct lessons for an entire class of students to resolve issues in peer relationships

  • Ensure equitable academic, career and social/emotional development opportunities for all students

  • Assist students with disabilities in accessing appropriate high school courses, in locating the right college or university to attend, or in finding a part-time job

  • Work in nearly all high schools and middle schools; whether they are assigned to elementary schools depends on state and local practices.

School Social Workers

Responsible for emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing of all students. ​Similar to school psychologist, school counselors counsel students, connect at-risk youth with helpful resources and conducting home visits to provide additional support.


  • Promoting the general well-being of students

  • Working with outside agencies to provide support to families

  • Offering mentoring and suggestions for Teachers and other school personnel

  • Developing and providing crisis intervention strategies to improve student success

  • Working to maximize coping skills for students in difficult situations

School Nurses

Responsible for all the students in a school—one whose importance in special education procedures and services often is overlooked. School nurses are part of the team that makes a decision about eligibility for special education services, may be called on to interpret medical information, may serve as a liaison between the family physician and school personnel, may help to generate an emergency plan for addressing a students’ health needs, and may educate staff about students’ medical conditions and requirements.


  • Screens children in the areas of vision and hearing

  • Ensures that all students’ immunization records are on file

  • Provides routine assistance for students who are ill

  • Educates students about health topics

  • Manages the distribution of any medications students may take

  • Work both in schools and other settings such as their home or local health centre, often using digital technology to support their needs

Educational Interpreter

Patient and understanding ​as they come, educational interpreters listen to the words being spoken in school and translate them into sign language for students who are deaf or with significant hard of hearing. Educational interpreters understand the field of deafness and the likely needs of students who are deaf, and are flexible with all aspects of the entire school curriculum.


  • Provide this service to students accurately and unobtrusively within the general or special education setting as well as during activities such as physical education, art, and assemblies

  • Help students who don't speak English learn the language and follow along with classroom lectures

  • Assist communication to deaf, hard of hearing, or foreign-language students

  • Responsible for using sign language and other forms of communication to teach students who are unable to hear properly

  • Interpret teachers' explanations and instructions, and student interactions

  • Typically hired to take on teaching roles in the classroom. The student and his or her family will heavily depend on the interpreter to teach the child. They have to present the school's curriculum to the student using sign language


Occupational Therapists

Examine everyday activities called occupations; dressing, bathing, grooming, leisure, work, driving, fun, sleep, dating.  Students with disabilities may have difficulties in school and occupational therapists will investigate to address the reason.  From assisting the youth on the playground, to listening to their peers and adults around them, to enabling them to sit and listen to their teachers---whatever that help them thrive in school.


  • Helps students gain independence in school and the community by teaching functional and other living skills such as grasping a pencil, cutting with scissors, buttoning and zipping clothes, and tying shoe laces

  • Assist students to learn problem-solving and decision-making skills

  • Often are called upon to determine whether students need adapted equipment (e.g., a spoon with a thick handle; a modified computer keyboard) and to instruct students on how to use such equipment

  • Work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools, and outpatient clinics


Physical Therapists

Gentle hearts assisting students with disabilities in developing muscle strength, flexibility and mobility,  ​posture, and positioning skills. Physical therapists are experts in the realms of child development, orthopedic (bone and body alignment) development and neurological and brain systems that govern motor control, sensory awareness and feedback, and emotional regulation and behavior. Using their strategies and skills on a broader level to help ensure environment conducive to facilitate developmental motor skills.


  • Facilitate gross motor skills, including walking, standing and sitting up by providing exercises and activities to enhance general strength and endurance as well as body and extremity control;

  • Maximize posture, balance and coordination and utilize standing or seated positioning devices to improve student performance and prevent deformities

  • Facilitate specific motor skills necessary for participation in physical education

  • Ensure student’s physical safety and access to their environment and the community

  • Enhance vocational and transitional skills;

  • Support educational teams and staff


General Education Teachers

The role of the general education teacher include differentiated instruction to student at all levels, with or without disabilities will be receiving meaningful education. General eduction teachers in the special education process is to provide students with disabilities access to the general education curriculum.


  • Responsible for being a content expert in core academic curriculum, progress monitor, professional collaborator, multi-disciplinary team member

  • Plans instructional activities that are aligned with content standards

  • During instructional process, collect data on progress toward IEP goals and share progress monitoring data with the Special Education Teacher

  • Collaborate with the special education teacher in devising a plan that attends to the needs of all students

  • Get to know students' strengths and weaknesses as outlined in the IEP and makes instructional decisions accordingly

  • Maximizes student access to the general education curriculum by designing instruction that is universal and flexible

  • Responsible for implementing universal design for learning (UDL) practices that enable their diverse learners to succeed, and who manage the social environment of their classrooms

  • Work in general education setting


(Paraprofessionals, Teaching Assistants, Instructional Assistants, One-to-One Assistants, or Aides)

Equipped with patience and persistence, and prepared to help students acclimate to the culture, especially for students who have transferred from an education system in another country. With the knowledge of both bilingual education and special education, bilingual special educators can help students with disabilities and students struggling with language, or offer dual service. Bilingual special educators work with students to improve language proficiency.


  • Individual and small-group instructional support for students who have physical, behavioral or medical needs

  • Encouraging and helping students working on assignments and projects

  • Helping students develop living and behavioral skills

  • Supervising and assisting students in classrooms, the library, resource rooms, self-contained classrooms, playgrounds, etc.

  • Supporting students’ health care needs

  • Working exclusively or primarily with students with special educationneeds. Working with transitional life agencies, mental health agencies, school districts and early childhood programs to serve learners 

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