New professor passionate about special education training

AUGUSTA, GA. – As the needs of schoolchildren and adolescents change over time, so will the necessary skills and requirements for teachers. Dr. Michael Berg, new professor of education in the Augusta University College of Education, brings his passion for special education to the curriculum at a time when American schools are experiencing dramatic shifts.

“We’re not producing enough teachers to meet the demand to go into schools and work with special education students – especially those trained to work in an inclusive environment,” Berg said. “

The number of students enrolled in special education programs has risen by 30 percent in the last 10 years, according to the National Education Association. And as improvements in screening more accurately identify learning differences in children, the demand is expected to continue to increase. But even as schools lose teachers to retirement, they also lose them to stress.

We’re not only losing special education teachers to retirement, but we’re losing them due to a high turnover rate. Statistics show that they last about five years due to the stress of the job.”

Augusta University is doing to the right things to combat those issues, Berg said which is why he was so excited to join the faculty full-time.

“The relationships we have with partner schools, the professional development school model that we have implemented, and our extended induction period of support for new teachers are crucial differences in how we train our students. They get a variety of experiences, they get to see the whole continuum and they get great support after graduation,” Berg said.

Berg has 24 years in the classroom, and has earned numerous awards and recognitions. He was the 2000 winner of the ReliaStar America’s Unsung Hero of Education Award, the 2001 winner of the Walmart Teacher of the Year for Palm Beach County, Fla., and the Time Magazine Teaching Excellence Regional Award Recipient, the 2002 and 2005 winner of the William Dwyer Award in Special Education and the 2009 Teacher of the Year for Martinez Elementary School.

Bringing his experience in the classroom to his position as a professor, Berg intends to provide practical advice and survival tips to students in the program for an environment that is equal parts stressful and rewarding. He will teach courses entitled Teaching in the Inclusive Classroom, Language Development and Communication Disorders, Educational Assessment in Special Education, Differentiation and Assessment and Characteristics of Children with Mild Disabilities.

“I’m interested in writing on topics that pertain to students getting the services to which they are entitled,” he said, noting that navigating the needs of children and the requirements of the system can be so daunting that the art of writing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for a student with special needs can take several years to perfect. He wants to focus on practical implementation for parents and teachers when it comes to educating students with special needs.

Berg is also passionate about catering to different learning styles, and has translated that into a three-year drive to found the newly approved charter school, SAIL: School for Arts-Infused Learning. The school is open to all students in Georgia and intends to provide arts and foreign language instruction daily.

“So many students cannot sit in a desk all day long and listen and write. They need a kinesthetic environment in which to learn,” he said, and summed up his philosophy of translating evidence-based practices into action: “You can’t just teach. You have to reform. You have to advocate for children and education.”

Berg received his associate’s degree from Palm Beach Community College, his bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University, his master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University, his Education Specialist degree from Augusta University and is doctoral degree from University of West Georgia.

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The mission of the Augusta University College of Education is to educate and prepare prospective professionals to be knowledgeable, highly effective, and ethical practitioners who transform learners into thinking, productive citizens. Visit www.augusta.edu/education.

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