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Special Education Teaching Fellows Grades 1-9

Point of view

Schooling in the 21st century requires that special educators be skilled, effective, creative and persistent.  Special educators need depth of knowledge and a rich repertoire of instructional skills to make crucial differences in the learning of our children.  Working intensively with exceptional students, special educators must also collaborate with parents and other teachers, helping to shape schools into hospitable environments for atypical learners.  Well prepared special educators bring unique perspectives to the educational enterprise – insight into children’s learning, expertise in effective classroom practices, and skill in creating specially designed instruction.  Special education is serious business.  Hunter College provides serious preparation for special education teachers.

----Kate Garnett, Architect of Hunter’s Learning Disabilities Program

Feedback from Program Graduates

“One tough special ed program!”
“Demanding…hard work….valuable…" 
“The faculty is caring.”
“Really practical program.”
“Worthwhile. You come out really knowing something."
“I reached a whole new level!”

Basic Facts

Welcome. You are joining Hunter’s graduate Learning Disabilities Program.

  • New York State certification requires that those being certified to teach special education, also be certified to teach general education.
  • So, the Special Education Teaching Fellows at Hunter take a four-certificate program that includes more coursework than a single-certificate program.  At graduation, Hunter Special Education Teaching Fellows are certified in childhood education, childhood special education, middle childhood generalist, and middle childhood special education.
  • The program can be completed in two years -- that includes two summers, two fall/spring semesters, two January semesters, plus an additional June session. 

    Students may choose to proceed at a slower pace, completing the program in 2 1/2 or 3 years.


Special Feature Of Hunter’s Learning Disabilities Program
The Hunter College Learning Lab

HCLL is the recipient of the 1996 Exemplary Program of the Year Award
from Allyn & Bacon/Division for Learning Disabilities/CEC

“The HC Learning Lab provides a superior public service to children with learning disabilities, as well as intensive/integrated training for its masters-level students in Learning Disabilities.”

The HC Learning Lab is the central integrating experience for graduate students in masters-level program in Learning Disabilities.  The Learning Lab provides a real laboratory for teachers to develop, refine, and elaborate their skills, with weekly coaching from faculty.

The Learning Lab provides after-school tutoring for students with learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD).  This intensive one-on-one remediation addresses those areas most needed by the individual child (e.g., foundation-level reading, spelling, comprehension, writing, math, self-regulation, social learning).

Serving between 50-90 students each year, the Lab has been running for more than 20 years. In all, approximately 600 children have been part of this program, some joining for only one year, many remaining for two, three, four, and more.

For the students, who range from grades 1-9, each year is intensive learning within an intensely personal relationship. The caring and dedication of each tutor is felt in each child’s life, extending often to powerful changes at home and in school.


Powerful Teacher Preparation

Twice a week, all year long, our graduate students provide specially designed instruction to their students.  They also participate in a weekly feedback seminar with their supervisor  – who views their teaching every week – as well as a weekly “methods” course focused on instructional methods across a wide range of areas (phonological awareness, decoding, fluency, reading comprehension, oral vocabulary, spelling, writing, math, organizational skills, social learning, self-regulation). The linking of methods and clinical teaching is intensive, demanding, and valuable in a way that the graduate students often appreciate only after they have put in months of effort. By the end of this intensive year, they have developed real skills and vivid understandings – and they are equipped with an arsenal of teaching methods.

The graduate students who serve as clinical teachers in the Learning Lab are in no way homework helpers. Rather, they develop their students’ foundation skills and craft specially designed instruction, tailored to individual needs. They also write descriptive narratives of each session, to which their faculty supervisors respond each week both in writing and in dialogue, offering suggestions, reinforcement, and redirection, often provoking new perspectives and self-reflection.

Over the years the Lab has evolved, both by attending to feedback and by incorporating current research and best practices. This program evolution has included:

  • Teacher collaborative partnering
    Videotaping of sessions with self-analysis and partner analysis
    Developing specialized assessment and instructional materials
    Action research
    Computer use with the children

The Cauldron: Experiencing a Community of Learners

The kids and tutors, along with faculty supervisors and interns, interact in large open rooms, each couple cuddled up at their own table – alone but in community.  The psychological impact of having the exclusive attention of one caring instructionally focused adult and, at the same time, being together in an open community is striking.  Both students and teachers shed the sense of being isolated with their struggles (and their joys). The teachers exchange ideas, materials, and glances.  They integrate the coaching of their supervisors who sit in, prod, encourage and model.  They learn to teach in front of their supervisor, the video camera and one another.  In collaborative pairs, they read one another’s logs and view each other’s teaching sessions, both live and on videotape, offering feedback and encouragement. The kids come to know one another, forming kinship groups of varying ages, backgrounds, learning difficulties, and talents.


In Sum

Within the experience known as the HC Learning Lab, teacher-kid couplets teach one another, the adults form supportive networks, the kids cohere into cross-age social groups with supervising faculty and interns prodding, modeling and providing feedback.  Collectively, we constitute a community or “program” with a yearly character all its own and evolving continuity from year-to-year.


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