UMES expands special education teaching curriculum

  • New state-approved certificate programs launch this summer

    Friday, June 21, 2019
    Photo courtesy of Worcester County public schools

    The University of Maryland Eastern Shore has expanded its special education course offerings to appeal to a broader group of professionals who work or have contact with children and adults with diverse needs. 

    UMES' new certificate program has two options; one for upperclassman pursuing baccalaureate degrees and a separate graduate-level curriculum. 

    The latter was designed to appeal to social workers, nurses, police and school resource officers, and mental health workers in addition to current teachers in general content areas. 

    “The special education certificates are extremely important to candidates who work in schools, or facilities, or communities that do not possess the skills to work with individuals who have intellectual, physical or emotional disabilities,” said Dr. Patricia Goslee, UMES' special education program director. 

    The upper division and post-baccalaureate curriculums are comprised of six courses covering such topics as behavioral analysis, characteristics of exceptional individuals and honing special communication skills.  Fulltime faculty will teach the courses. 

    “With the courses we've selected,” Goslee said, “we believe a person can increase their skill level and improve their abilities to become more effective with this population of people in the workplace.” 

    “Courses are … being offered in the evening to meet the needs of the working population,” Goslee said. 

    The university has set up a class schedule during the summer and between semesters in the winter so all six courses leading to a certificate can be completed in a little over a year. 

    Goslee said the target audience for the undergraduate courses is students majoring in elementary education, those studying education content areas such as math, biology and English as well as those majoring in health care fields, social work, rehabilitation and criminal justice. 

    “We see the undergraduate courses as being an option for students who are looking for electives that will be of benefit on their transcripts when they graduate,” Goslee said. 

    Rae Ann Record, Worcester County public schools' special education supervisor, played a role in advising Goslee and her faculty colleagues on shaping the certificate program's content. 

    “It will help build the knowledge base for teachers in providing specially designed instruction for students with disabilities,” Record said. 

    The UMES faculty spent nearly two years consulting with professionals in education and other fields as it crafted the series of courses. 

    Record said the university's approach embraces the goal of providing training that emphasizes “access, equity and progress for students with disabilities.” 

    UMES alumna Karen Holland, Worcester County's 2018 Teacher of the Year, is encouraged by the university's commitment to offering an expansion of training. 

    “Sometimes people become fearful, uncertain … unsure when they encounter someone with special needs and want to remove themselves from the situation,” said Holland, who teaches special education. 

    “I'm really excited the university is branching out to people in other professions,” she said.  “The more people who are aware and understanding kids with special needs, we become a stronger community.” 

    UMES needed Maryland Higher Education Commission approval to expand its special education curriculum, Goslee said, because the university saw a “critical shortage” of people with skills to handle the challenge of working with those who have difficulty learning, or learn differently. 

    The state agency has final say what degree and certificate programs are authorized to avoid duplication of niche programs. Salisbury University, which offers a general education teacher-training program to undergraduates, supported UMES' application. 

    “It gives our students the option of getting a special education certificate added to their general education certification,” said Dr. Althea Pennerman, former associate dean of Salisbury's Seidel School of Education. “It makes them more marketable.” 

    Our students and parents are asking all the time about the chances of getting extra training in special ed,” Pennerman said. “We can say to them now this is an opportunity you didn't have in the past.” 

    Goslee notes that “approximately 55 percent of students with disabilities are educated in general education settings where educators are not highly skilled to work with this population.” 

    “We believe this (program) will address those challenges,” she said. 


    The first classes start Monday, July 8.  To sign up, or learn more, contact Dr. Patricia Goslee via e-mail at pagoslee@umes.edu or (410) 651-6195.