New Education Program Provides Unique Insight into Special Education

For Kelly Prucker, there was never any doubt that her future career lie in the world of special education.

“When I was in high school, I was diagnosed with a math learning disability. Dyscalculia. I have difficulty understanding the value of numbers, the relationship between numbers, understanding directions. Because of my own experiences, I knew I could connect to students going through similar things.”

Prucker is currently in her first semester of SUNY Oswego’s Adolescent Special Education Master’s Program.  She and fellow adolescent education student Bailey Woodard are two of the first candidates to be placed in educational settings to experience the hands-on, complex role of secondary special education.

Instituted in Fall 2016, the Special Education Program has been in development for several years and is one of the only available master’s programs of its type in Central New York. According to Carol Willard, Assistant Professor at SUNY Oswego and former special education teacher, the program addresses a pressing need for special educators in the state.

“We knew, given the passion and expertise of our faculty, that we could create an outstanding program,” Willard says. “Each semester, the candidates engage in meaningful field experience to work with students and professionals in special education.”

Undergraduate Preparation & Co-Teaching Emphasis

One of the key elements of the program is the emphasis on co-teaching in general education settings and encountering the requirements and responsibilities of secondary special education. Woodard has seen the success co-teaching has brought to the process first hand.

“This semester, we’ve had a real focus on co-teaching and what it should and could look like. I think it would be great to improve that system in some schools and develop it.”

Woodard and Prucker are both working within Liverpool High School, a place Prucker is familiar with. She is originally from Liverpool and has relished the opportunity to return to her stomping grounds to make a difference. Both women are also graduates of SUNY Oswego’s education undergraduate program and believe that the core foundations they learned gave them the tools necessary to create inclusive and cohesive classroom settings.

“I felt like when I graduated from my undergrad program in adolescent English, my training (at Oswego) really prepared me for what it would actually be like in the classroom,” Prucker explains.

“The knowledge I brought into special education really taught me that it’s important to teach to every student,” Woodard says.

From Concern to Confidence

Woodard, from Central Square, has been supervised by Liverpool Special Education Teacher Kristin Smith. Initially, Smith had reservations about bringing in a student teacher; the extra work and uncertainty of having a practicum student in her class raised questions. Having Woodard, however, has given her the confidence to continue participating in the program and looks forward to having Bailey student teach with her.

“It’s been a very positive experience for my students. She (Woodard) has great ideas and has been working one-on-one with students who have struggled with vocabulary skills. She’s taken initiative with other teachers in content area. It’s given her different opportunities than a traditional teaching experience.” 

Woodard is unsure of whether she will continue with special education or return to her Social Studies track, but readily acknowledges that the special education program has given her the essentials to be adaptable in an educational setting. She encourages anyone interested in education as a whole to try the special education program.

“I’m so glad I chose (special education). Students in this program need to be open minded with the practicum and with the assignments. They’re designed that way for a reason. Be willing to learn.”

For her part, Prucker has a plan that she is sticking to.

“I’m very invested in the Syracuse School District, so I will be staying in the area to work. And I plan to pursue my PhD in educational policy. We’re gonna fix some things. There’s a place for everyone in education.”

Interested in Special Education? Visit SUNY Oswego’s Special Education Master’s Program page for more information.