Stephanie Weinfeld ’19 knew she wanted to become a special education teacher when she learned about the stakes for kids with disabilities who are separated from their typically developing peers.

“I struggled a lot in school as a child and felt there was a lack of resources at school to support me,” Stephanie said. “I then worked at a summer camp where students of all needs and abilities were accepted, and knew that I needed to pursue a special education credential to fight for these families.”

Stephanie is part of the first cohort of students to graduate from Attallah College’s Joint Credential program, in which students earn a special education credential, multiple subject (elementary) credential, and a master’s degree in special education in just two years. Obtaining dual credentials (special education and general teaching credentials) gives students an advantage in the teaching job market, as California is on a progressive path toward inclusive education. Inclusive education entails placing all students, regardless of individual (dis)abilities, in age-appropriate general education classes to receive high-quality instruction and support they need to succeed in core curriculum. California’s Statewide Task Force on Special Education expects general education and special education to gradually begin working seamlessly as single system that caters to the needs of all students, according to its 2015 report.

Stephanie Weinfeld teaching youth in a classroom

Stephanie Weinfeld ’19 student teaching in an inclusive classroom

California’s Future of Inclusive Education

The California Commission on Teaching Credentialing (CTC) has recently been working toward this new model to ensure all prospective teachers are able to teach any student in any setting. Their goal is to initiate a common trunk of preparation, which is defined as a “set of knowledge, skills and abilities in which all teaching candidates — both general education and special education — would have to demonstrate competence.”  

“California is moving in a positive direction in education in terms of inclusive education,” said Meghan Cosier, PhD., Attallah’s Director of Teacher Education. “Attallah College is at the forefront of this movement. Our goal is for our graduates to be prepared to teach all students.”

Zyania Lizarraga ’19, another graduate of Attallah’s Joint Credential program, found the curriculum to be a “perfect fit,” considering the current push for full inclusion in education.

“My dream is to work for a Title 1 school to support students with disabilities and English language needs in an academic, social, and emotional capacity,” Zyania said. “I want to advocate for the educational rights of students with disabilities and their families, while employing ethical standards and best practices.”

Unique Opportunities Provided by Attallah College

Both Zyania and Stephanie said they chose Chapman because it stood out in its prestige and uniqueness that allowed them to pursue a dual credential along with a graduate degree.

Stephanie said the joint credential program especially interested her because she has been passionate about inclusion and helping kids with disabilities within a general education setting.

“It is so important for all teachers to have strategies of differentiation and behavior management, because not all students who need extra support will qualify for special education,” Stephanie said. “On the other hand, it is so important that special education teachers have extensive knowledge about the standards to support their [typically-developing] students to reach grade level goals.”

Zyania’s and Stephanie’s plans for the future include finding more ways to bridge the gap between special and general education as California moves toward a more inclusive vision for its schools, and further prepare themselves to work with students with different types of needs.