Date of Conferral







Elizabeth Clark


The attrition rate among special education teachers is ranked among the highest in the education profession. Retaining teachers early in their careers continues to be a concern due to increased job responsibilities, larger caseloads, challenging student behaviors, minimal support from colleagues, increased paperwork, and diminishing resources. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the meaning of satisfaction special education teachers made of their careers. The transactional model developed by Lazarus and Folkman (1984) can help to explain how the occurrence of stressful events can impact an individual. A purposive sample of 9 tenured, certified special education teachers currently working in the field for at least 10 years were interviewed using individual, in-person, semistructured questions. Emergent themes and patterns were identified following the 6-step data analysis process for interpretive phenomenological analysis. The findings revealed two superordinate themes (a) effective practices and (b) making a difference. The participants in the study described strategies to minimize stress that included exercising, having quiet times, making time for leisure activities, being able to vent to coworkers, laughing and using humor, and spending time with pets. All of the participants in the study indicated a sense of commitment to the field of special education and their students. Participants articulated the importance of student success and acting as a helper for students to achieve their goals. The data from this study may be used to highlight career sustaining behaviors and job satisfaction from veteran teachers contributing to the longevity for teachers in the special education profession and improving retention rates of teachers early in their careers.