The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type




Degree Name

Educational Administration and Leadership, K-12: Ed.D.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

John Eller

Second Advisor

Amy Christensen

Third Advisor

Frances Kayona

Fourth Advisor

Jennifer Christensen

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Special Education, teacher, retention, mentorship, effectiveness


Beginning special education teachers each year enter their classrooms with high expectations and best-practice strategies they are eager to employ. Related literature affirmed, however, that they are quickly faced with what Charlotte Danielson (1999) described as a “sink or swim in the deep end of the pool” culture (p. 251-7) as they grapple with the needed sudden transition from theory to practice. Done well, effective mentoring can become the bridge between preservice learning and classroom experience and guide beginning special education teachers toward a deeper and more impactful teaching practice.

This study’s purpose was to explore facets of new special education teacher mentorship supports in Minnesota to better understand what constituted effective mentoring program supports for new special education teachers in the profession. The study also endeavored to explore the influence of these supports on beginning special education teachers’ plans to remain in the field. The results of this study are intended to supplement the gap in the literature related to the influence of effective mentorship on special education teacher retention rates in Minnesota and to provide greater insight into how mentorship was provided, what that mentorship consisted of, and who provided it to beginning special education teachers in our state.

The significance of this study was supported by four primary factors: 1) the growth of induction/mentoring programs across the United States, 2) the continued high attrition rate of special education teachers and the need to retain them in the field, 3) the limited research on the issues to be investigated, and 4) the recommendations from previous research. Therefore, this study researched specific themes of mentorship to better understand what constituted effective mentoring program supports for beginning special education teachers in Minnesota and to explore the influence on beginning special education teachers’ plans to remain in the profession. Mandlawitz, (2003) reported that the first three years of teaching represent a critical time-period for understanding and affecting the attrition rate of special education teachers. As such, this study focused solely on beginning special education teachers in their first three years of teaching.

The findings of the study indicated that there was an apparent disconnect between what beginning special education teachers found helpful and what they were actually being provided in terms of mentorship support delivery. Further, there appeared to be a disconnect between what content beginning teachers found helpful and what they were actually being provided. There also appeared to be a shift from year one to year two in terms of the reported supports that were most beneficial. Ultimately, findings of the study indicated that provision of positive and meaningful mentorship experience in year one, year two, and year three of teaching special education had a positive impact on beginning teacher retention rates on the short- and long-term.


I would like to first thank my committee members, Dr. John Eller, Dr. Amy Christensen, Dr. Frances Kayona, and Dr. Jennifer Christensen for your continued support during this amazing and arduous journey. I have grown and learned so much through your guidance.

I would like to thank my family who encouraged me to keep going even through the tough moments—and there were a few!! Your words of encouragement really meant the world to me. Mutti, Chris, and Heidi, your patience and love over these past several years was more valuable than you can know. Dad, even though you didn’t make it to the end of my journey, I felt you with me every day and I thank you for being the first teacher in my life, the person who inspired my love of learning and teaching. I miss you every day.

To my sons, Nate and Ian. Even from afar, your unwavering support, love, and encouragement, was so appreciated. The quick check-ins and phone calls to touch base kept me grounded in the importance of my research and kept me coming back to my desk every day to continue the work. I love you both to Icarus and back.

To my husband, Christopher. You are my rock. I could not have completed this without your undying support. The late night dinners, the delicious chocolate chip cookies hot from the oven, the neck rubs when needed, and your continued calm and love were appreciated much more than my words or actions ever told you. You are loved immensely.

Finally, I need to thank my writing partners, Dr. Cody Lewis and Dr. Anita Johnson. Spending several hours with you both every week over the past three years was the most precious gift. Your steadfast support no matter what, your guidance through the dark places, and your celebration with me through the light will never be forgotten. Your laughter, your consolation, and your unwavering dedication and commitment to our journey has made all the difference for me, and I know I would not be here if it weren’t for you both. You are appreciated beyond measure.



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