Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2010


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Instructional Leadership Excellence (ILEAD)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Launcelot Brown

Committee Member

Rose Mary Mautino

Committee Member

Doris O'Shea


co-teaching, FAPE, inclusion, leadership, LRE, special education


This single-subject study used the art and science of portraiture to illuminate a veteran special education teacher who is meeting the needs of her students with disabilities. This qualitative study was not done for the purposes of generalization but rather to show how this remarkable and effective special educator acts as an inspirational educational leader and inspires both her students and her fellow teachers.

The movement to hold schools accountable for the educational performance of students with disabilities is fairly new in the United States. Since the enactment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142) in 1975, states have been directed to provide a free and appropriate education for all students with disabilities (Gallagher, 2000; Rothstein, 1995). The cornerstone of special education is to provide specialized instruction to meet the unique needs of each child with a disability. Special educators are expected to utilize individualized referenced decision-making and continually plan and adjust curriculum and strategies to educate and motivate their students. Unfortunately, given the current educational climate that is focused on high stakes testing, standards, student achievement, and school accountability, many of today's special education teachers have taken the "special" out of special education and are employing a general education utilitarian approach to service their students (Hardman & Dawson, 2008).

The teacher in this portraiture explored and analyzed norms, patterns, and complexities of her journey as a special educator. She discussed her vision to inspire students to set and reach individual goals. She also divulged how she collaborates and inspires other professionals to do the same. Ultimately, she described how she is implementing the current high stakes testing, data-driven, decision-making assessment model with her students with disabilities. The findings make a compelling case for having tailor-teacher leaders in the field of special education. These teachers, like the one in this study, know how to meet the individual needs of each student and create a vision, shape values, and empower change so that students with disabilities can continue to receive specialized instruction and service delivery models in supportive and caring educational environments in today's standards driven schools.