In the special education field, there’s a growing number of children and adolescents in PreK-12 schools diagnosed with emotional/behavioral disabilities (EBD). According to the IDEA Act, emotional disturbance refers to any condition that negatively impacts a student’s learning due to abnormal moods, feelings, or behaviors. This can include anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders. Emotional support teachers are licensed special educators who focus on helping students with these disabilities achieve their potential in school. It’s their duty to create a safe, positive classroom environment were each pupil’s unique emotional or behavioral needs are met. Emotional support teachers adapt curriculum and instruction strategies to provide individualized learning. In addition to the standard content areas like English and math, emotional support teachers will teach life skills and use behavioral modification.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary for the 220,220 PreK and elementary special education jobs in America is $56,460. Special education jobs at the middle and high school level provide a mean annual wage of $61,350. Emotional support teachers can expect to make around $56,660 in PreK-12 schools, $50,930 in mental health facilities, and $59,170 in family services.
When just starting out, emotional support teachers typically land in the bottom 10th percentile of earnings with a yearly income under $35,170. However, emotional support teachers with years of classroom experience can eventually bring home over $84,320 yearly. Those who advance into special education administration jobs earn an average annual salary of $91,780.
Emotional support teachers have the primary responsibility of employing special educational strategies to improve the cognitive and behavioral development of students with EBD. Teachers will assess students’ functioning to customize an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Emotional support teachers must creatively design and assign activities that modify general curriculum to suit every pupil’s needs. They’ll meet regularly with parents and other school staff like behavior specialists or counselors to monitor students’ progress. Using positive reinforcement, emotional support teachers must enforce rules for classroom behavior. Most lead self-contained classes for one-on-one and small group instruction. Emotional support teachers strive to teach acceptable social skills and improve self-esteem.
Being an emotional support teacher requires having excellent interpersonal skills to work with general teachers, counselors, administrators, and specialists for developing IEPs. Emotional support teachers must be skilled communicators to clearly convey instruction and behavioral cues to students with EBD. Critical thinking skills are essential for teachers to identify emotional disabilities that aren’t readily apparent. Good organizational skills help emotional support teachers keep progress reports and IEP records neat. Emotional support teachers must have problem-solving skills to effectively adapt lessons when students struggle to learn. Patience, compassion, positivity, and empathy are core values teachers must have to work with children living with emotional disturbance.
Degree and Education Requirements
Public schools require emotional support teachers to possess at least a bachelor’s degree from a four-year, accredited teachers’ college. Most emotional support teachers declare a major in special education, but majoring in elementary or secondary education is also acceptable. Those interested in teaching high school may major in a content area like history or biology with a minor in special education. Taking courses in emotional disturbance, child psychology, child development, mental health, behavioral modification, and IEP development is important. Some states will require emotional support teachers to return to school for a master’s degree. A Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Special Education or Applied Behavior Analysis would be wise.
Pros and Cons of the Position
There are both rewards and challenges with becoming an emotional support teacher. On the plus side, emotional support teachers are able to positively touch the lives of several children and build lasting relationships in small groups. Jobs in special education are in high demand due to rising enrollment, so finding an open position shouldn’t be hard. The skills to deal with emotional disabilities is very appreciated in education. Emotional support teachers are able to use their creativity to craft lessons that reach students with EBD. On the other hand, working in special education is tough as evidenced by the high turnover rate. Emotional support teachers must always be on their toes to correct negative behaviors. Parents often don’t understand their children’s emotional development needs, which can cause arguments. Charting progress data and filling out IEP forms means lots of paperwork. Emotional support teachers may work year-round to teach summer school and beyond the school day to meet with parents.
Getting experience with children with emotional/behavioral disabilities is key to starting your teaching career. Complete your field practicum placements and student teaching in a self-contained special education classroom. Working part-time at summer campus, youth mentoring programs, or mental health facilities could also build your resume. Before graduation, take the steps to become licensed in your state. Most require special education teachers to pass several Praxis exams and a criminal background check. Some states may have a license endorsement for emotional or behavior disorders. Your first two years as an emotional support teacher will likely be probationary as you work under the supervision of a mentor educator. You could also consider becoming certified through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Statistics from the Institute on Disability report that one in 10 American youth have an emotional disturbance severe enough to limit school functioning. Nearly three-quarters aren’t receiving the mental health and emotional support they need. Unfortunately, that’s why students with EBD have the lowest graduation rate among their disabled peers at just 40 percent. There’s a high demand for emotional support teachers to help identify and nurture children experiencing emotional or behavioral problems. The BLS predicts that overall employment in special education will grow by 6 percent through 2024, thus creating 31,000 new jobs. Emotional support teachers usually work in public, charter, or private schools, but jobs also exist in childcare centers, residential programs, hospitals, and mental health facilities.
Emotional support teachers are special education paraprofessionals who play a pivotal role in creating behavior intervention plans that optimize the development of youth with EBD. These teachers know how to help students cope with mood, anxiety, and psychotic disorders to improve their functioning in the classroom and greater community. If you decide to become an emotional support teacher, you’ll have the rewarding chance to become a positive role model who nurtures exceptional students’ mental well-being.
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