Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2015


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Educational Studies (General Education)


School of Education

Committee Chair

James Henderson

Committee Member

Laura Davis

Committee Member

Peter Miller


Alternative Education, Resiliency


Teacher shortages exist in the fields of special education and alternative education, particularly for students who suffer from behavioral and emotional disorders. Significant attrition, high stress levels and burnout indicates organizational cultures may not provide support for teachers' resiliency. There are teachers who find a way to survive and even thrive in less desirable environments with limited support (Patterson et al, 2004). Resiliency attributes include a personal sense of competence, belonging and optimism (Bernshausen and Cunningham, 2001). The lack of qualified teachers willing to work in alternative educational settings threatens the quality of education that students with behavioral and emotional disorders receive. There is a genuine need to identify and foster the qualities that successful teachers possess in order to insure quality and consistency in special education and alternative education (Otto and Arnold, 2005).

A collective case study was designed using Ryff and Key's six-dimensional model of well-being as described in van Horn et al, 2004). Four teachers with a minimum of five years experience across three different sites and rated as excellent by their supervisors participated in the study. Also participating in the study was a supporting colleague selected by the supervisor to provide collegial testimony as to the resilience of the teacher. Eighteen questions were asked representing the six domains of well-being. The domains were personal growth, positive relations with others, environmental mastery, self-acceptance, autonomy and purpose in life. The study revealed six internal sources of resiliency. They are a genuine caring and compassion for others, the ability to bounce back from very difficult circumstances, the belief that they make a positive difference in the lives of their students, the ability to de-escalate adverse situations, the ability to forgive and move on and the ability to separate professional from personal life.