Special Education Resident Teacher Program

Resident teachers (RTs) earn a master's degree in special education through online coursework and on-the-job experience in a school district/special education unit.

  • RT is a two-year program which begins summer session.
  • In most cases, the school placement changes during the two years, providing the RT with two different grade level and school experiences.
  • Each RT assumes full responsibility for a special education caseload.

What makes this program unique?

  • The appointment of the Resident Teachers as Graduate Teaching Assistants, therefore providing them with a tuition waiver or scholarship for most of the master's program.
  • The three layered mentorship: building level mentors, UND mentor and UND academic advisor.
  • The on-the-job training format while taking graduate courses makes for natural connections between research and practice and between the theoretical and real-life.
  • The delivery of the coursework online allows schools across the region to participate in the program.
  • The program meets the needs of schools across the state of North Dakota and western Minnesota in since the RTs are prepared in a cross-categorical program that licenses them as Special Education Strategists who are able to case manage students with learning disabilities, emotional behavioral disorders, and intellectual disabilities.

3-Step Admissions Process

Applicants apply for both the Master's in Special Education and the Special Education Resident Teacher Program (SERTP). Admission to both the master's program and the SERTP must be completed no later than March 15, and it is highly recommended to apply early as the admissions process is lengthy. Admission to both is competitive.

Step 1. Apply to the Special Education Master’s Program

The first step in the admissions process is to apply to the Master's in Special Education with a specialization in Special Education Strategist (SES). Candidates WITH an undergraduate degree in education should apply for the M.S. in Special Education. Candidates WITHOUT an undergraduate degree in education should apply for the M.Ed. in Special Education.

The admissions process for the master's program consists of a transcript/GPA review, recommendations review, and a writing assignment.

Apply to the UND School of Graduate Studies

Step 2. Apply to the Special Education Resident Teacher Program

The SERTP admissions process consists of admissions to the master's program, a face-to-face interview on the UND campus, a thorough reference check, GPA review, and a problem-solving writing activity.

Apply to the Special Education Resident Teacher Program

Please note candidates are encouraged to apply to the SERTP upon completion of the master’s application. Full admission to the master’s program is NOT required to complete the SERTP application. Candidates will be notified of admission into the master’s program prior to the SERTP on-campus interviews.

Step 3. Placement in a Public School

Once candidates have been admitted to both the Master in Special Education and the SERTP, their names are then forwarded to the school districts/special education units. They are then interviewed by administrators (or other school personnel) so schools/SPED units have a role in the final decision regarding the placement of the RT. The program attempts to place RTs in areas they wish to be placed, although this is not always possible and depends on placement availability.

Once all three of these steps have been complete, the candidate becomes an official RT.

Program Components

The Special Education Resident Teacher Program (SERTP) at the University of North Dakota seeks to attract and keep teachers in rural schools in North Dakota and western Minnesota that have had great difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers.

The target population of candidates is individuals considered by UND as "home-grown." In SERTP's case, this means recruits are already living in a rural area and will be trained to become special education teachers in their community. SERTP seeks unemployed or recently graduated general education teachers to participate in its program. SERTP also seeks candidates with other completed baccalaureate degrees.

SERTP's goal is to provide inexperienced teachers with support in entering the special education teaching profession. The purpose is to increase the pool of endorsed and well prepared special educators in the region by enabling University of North Dakota students, who are admitted to a graduate program in special education, to complete a two year internship in a school district or special education unit under the joint supervision of experienced special educators and a University of North Dakota special education faculty member. The focus of the program is in the area of mild/moderate disabilities with an emphasis on working with students in inclusionary settings.

The school district/special education unit provides funding for each resident teacher accepted into the program that will be placed in their district/unit. Administered by the University of North Dakota, these funds are used to underwrite a 10-month half-time Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) appointment for each student. This pays the RT a stipend and also partially supports the UND mentor and program costs. The work assignment for GTAs participating in the program is in the district/special education unit.

RTs earn a stipend and a waiver of UND tuition or a scholarship for a majority of the coursework in the master's degree. RTs are responsible for university fees, books each semester, and any tuition above and beyond the tuition waivers/scholarships awarded. Candidates are expected to complete a two year program.

Resident mentors (certified special education teachers) from the school district/special education unit provide support to the RTs and work with the UND mentor. These mentors offer RTs consultation, demonstration teaching, feedback, and support. Resident mentors receive information prior to the start of the academic year. This occurs on site at each of the school districts and is conducted by the UND mentors. Resident mentors are not paid to participate in the program. They are chosen collaboratively by the school district, special education director, and UND.

In order to participate in the Special Education Resident Teacher Program, a school district forms a team consisting of the principal, special education mentors, and special education director and/or coordinator that must commit to the following:

  • Provide a mentor teacher in each of the disability categories (i.e. LD, EBD, ID).
  • Provide a set/designated time for the RT and resident mentors to meet on a regular basis. Optimally, the resident mentor's time with the RT should be daily for 15-30 minutes. At a minimum, mentoring time should occur for 30-60 minutes once a week.

The University of North Dakota's representative of the Special Education Program Area agrees to the following responsibilities:

  • Provide an orientation for the resident mentors.
  • Be available by email and telephone to answer questions and provide consultation.
  • Arrange for on-site, online, and phone conferences with the RT and school team throughout the school years.
  • Be responsible for clarifying the requirements for internship credits and assigning all grades.
  • Incentives for RTs – The academic year tuition waivers/scholarships, stipends, and mentoring components mentioned above are the greatest incentives for candidates.
  • Incentives for School Districts – Special education teachers in the schools receive support from the RTs with their caseload of students. Schools are frequently able to retain the RT as an employee of the school after the two year "on-site interview." Since the RT is taking University coursework, teachers in the schools benefit from the information RTs learn about best practices and current trends in the field.
  • Incentives for the University – The special education master's program enrollment has more than tripled since the initiation of the SERTP, therefore recruitment is an important benefit to the University. In addition, the partnerships with several K-12 schools established through the SERTP contribute to the University's presence across the region, as well as meeting several aspects of the University's Strategic Plan.
  • Incentives for the State of North Dakota and western Minnesota – Recruitment, preparation, and retention of special education strategists to meet the shortage of special education teachers in rural areas is a priority of the ND State Legislature, thus the SERTP meets an area of critical need in the state of North Dakota. Likewise, there has been a critical shortage of special education teachers in schools in western Minnesota, thus these schools are able to recruit and retain previously hard to find special education teachers.