In an effort to combat the state’s severe shortage of special education teachers, Oklahoma State University-Tulsa will begin offering a nontraditional special education certification program beginning in January 2014.

“The state of Oklahoma is in dire need of more trained educators to handle the unique needs that come with teaching special education students,” said OSU-Tulsa President Howard Barnett. “The OSU program is an accelerated program that is designed to quickly train and certify special education teachers who can be placed in Oklahoma classrooms.”

The Nontraditional Special Education Certification Program enables qualified individuals with a bachelor’s degree to enroll in a two-phase program that will prepare them to be a special education instructor.

“Traditional certification for special education teachers typically takes longer than other subject areas, which has resulted in fewer college students entering the special education field,” said Dr. Christine Ormsbee, OSU College of Education assistant provost and director of the Institute for Teaching and Learning Excellence. “More than 100 special education positions went unfilled by certified teachers in Oklahoma school districts last year. OSU is providing an alternate route to certification to attract qualified and dedicated individuals to fill those positions.”

The nontraditional certification program, authorized by the Oklahoma Legislature in May, creates a two-phased process where students will complete a “boot camp” at OSU-Tulsa one night a week and three Saturdays during the semester. The OSU bootcamp consists of three graduate-level courses, two on campus and one online, that provide a foundation for special education teachers.

After students successfully complete the semester-long boot camp, they are eligible for a one-year provisional teaching certificate in mild-moderate special education and can begin teaching in an Oklahoma classroom.

The students are then required to obtain a special education teaching position and complete the rest of the coursework offered at OSU-Tulsa during the following two years. Students are required to complete 27 hours of coursework, nine hours of the boot camp plus 18 additional hours while teaching, to complete their certification. OSU’s program is structured with classes meeting one night per week and three Saturdays for three semesters.

After completing the certification program, students may complete an additional nine credit hours to earn a Master of Science in Teaching, Learning and Leadership with an option in special education.

To be eligible for the program, a student must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, have a 2.75 GPA, pass a background check and be eligible for employment by a school district. Students in the program are committed to their school district for at least three years after earning the Oklahoma Standard Certification in Special Education.

Nontraditional certification program students may be eligible for financial assistance through TEACH Grants and the OSU-Tulsa Educators’ Scholarship.

For more information or to enroll in the program, contact Ormsbee at 405-744-3471 or