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BHSU to launch online Master of Arts in Teaching Special Education degree

Author: BHSU Communications/Wednesday, July 24, 2019/Categories: Students, Students in the News, Academic Affairs, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Community, Faculty, 2019

A new, online master’s program at Black Hills State University will help respond to the national shortage of certified teachers to deliver special education services. The BHSU Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in K-12 Special Education officially launches this fall.

Dr. Louise Yoho, assistant professor of special education at BHSU, said the MAT is a new program in South Dakota leading to full certification of new K-12 special education teachers. The MAT program offers job advancement opportunities and meets a growing need for more special education teachers across the nation.

“This program is for individuals who have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education and who want to teach special education,” said Yoho. “Rather than returning to college to earn another bachelor’s degree, this program offers courses to earn your teaching licensure along with special education graduate courses.”

In South Dakota, 12.4 percent of public school students received special education in 2013-14. That percentage is on par with 12.2 percent of students nationwide, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Yoho said most states, including South Dakota, do not have enough certified special education teachers to respond to this need.

“This degree is perfect for paraprofessionals already working the schools who are looking to become certified teachers, or for those who want to make a career change,” said Yoho, noting the MAT can be completed in two years online with an option to take some courses onsite at BHSU.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected the demand for special education teachers to grow six percent from 2016-2024 due to demand for services (population growth) and the need to replace teachers leaving the occupation due to retirement or career changes.

Peter Chap, a behavioral facilitator in a Structured Teach classroom at Axtell Park School in Sioux Falls, is completing his first two courses for the Black Hill State MAT program this summer. He said the courses are helping him improve his behavioral intervention techniques.

“I will use information gleaned from the Behavior Management of Exceptional Children course every day when school begins this fall. I was given tools to help me better understand the purpose of my students’ behaviors and allow me to implement better interventions,” said Chap. “I’m already benefiting from taking this course.”

Chap said he was also impressed with how faculty members at BHSU keep students engaged with the material in the online learning environment.

“The engagement with peers in my online Foundations of Education and Learning Theory online course has been top notch,” he said.

Dr. Sharman Adams, dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at BHSU, said enrollment for the program began this spring following the Board of Regents approval of the program in April.

“We are enthusiastic about this new program and are pleased to be going through the Higher Learning Commission accreditation process right now,” said Adams.
BHSU has a strong history in preparing qualified teachers for the classroom. The university currently offers 19 undergraduate and 3 graduate degrees, including a bachelor of science degree in K-12 special education, with unique and significant field-based experiences.

To learn more about the MAT in Special Education, contact Yoho at or call University Admissions at 605-642-6343.

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