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NNU Responds to Teacher Shortage; Relaunches Exceptional Child Program


NNU Responds to Teacher Shortage; Relaunches Exceptional Child Program


There is a crisis in the United States education system.


As the demand for more qualified Special Education teachers continues to grow, fewer and fewer individuals are qualified to meet the need. In response, Northwest Nazarene University has relaunched its Exceptional Child program.


New program director Dr. Lisa Amundson is bringing her expertise to help support graduate students who can respond to this nationwide problem. Dr. Amundson earned her Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Missouri. She has her B.A. in Special Education and received her Master’s in Education from Greenville University. She comes to NNU from Greenville University in Illinois, where she worked as the Dean for the College of Social Science and Education.


“Special education is a high need role across the country,” Dr. Amundson said. “It takes a really unique individual, who not only has the skills and ability of a teacher in a general education environment but must also be able to individualize that for students with disabilities.”


The M.Ed. Exceptional Child program is designed for classroom teachers who already hold elementary, secondary or special education certification and wish to gain further expertise and/or become certified to teach exceptional children.


Dr. Kelsey Williams, Director of Special Education in three local school districts sees first-hand just how important it is to find qualified individuals to fill these roles and expressed appreciation for the university bringing back the Exceptional Child program.


Having gone through an NNU doctoral program in Educational Leadership and Administration, Dr. Williams knows the value of a program that allows teachers to complete it in a supportive environment while still working full-time.


“Oftentimes making the decision to start a masters program can be a big hurdle. But deciding to choose NNU simplifies that hurdle,” she said.” I knew my professors and my professors knew me. I always felt welcome and had access to them. They never made me feel like a burden or an obligation which, I think, really supports the learner when they are in the midst of this often stressful two-year program.”


Avoiding burnout among teachers is a top priority at NNU and has shaped the way the program prepares students.


“What we found is that the best way to help that burnout rate is great training, great preparation, knowing how to collaborate and ask for help, and how to work through things,” Dr. Amundson said. “That’s a big part of what a good Exceptional Child program [has] — providing some of these tools for getting into this field.”


Dr. Amundson says the NNU program is also unique in that it offers a Christian perspective.


“When you are talking about special education you are talking about a covenant with parents and reaching the students who are in need,” she said. “I think having a Christian perspective can be very instrumental for teachers to see this as missional. Being there for God’s children who have a need and not just doing a job. It gives it a sense of purpose and helps with the ‘why I’m doing this’ and helps with the burnout.”


The fully online program can be completed in 18-22 months, including a nine-month internship. The next cohort begins Oct. 26, 2020.


Learn more: nnu.edu/exceptionalchild