Exceptional Education

The Department of Exceptional Education is committed to the preparation of personnel who teach and serve individuals with disabilities, particularly those in urban settings. Further, we support citizen and professional activities that optimize opportunities for individuals with disabilities that improve educational practices and services.

American Sign Language Undergraduate Degree Programs, Certifications, and Minor

American Sign Language (ASL) Studies

The American Sign Language (ASL) Studies program is offered as an undergraduate major or minor. Most of your advanced coursework will be finished after completion of American Sign Language levels I through IV. Your degree will be a Bachelor of Science in Education with a major/focus in American Sign Language Studies. Completion of this degree will provide an individual with a strong foundation in ASL, as well as knowledge of ASL culture, history and literature.

Interpreter Training Program

The UWM-ITP is a strong program that prepares graduates to work in a variety of exciting jobs in a way that is culturally sensitive to the needs of a diverse group of people. The ITP is offered as an undergraduate degree or post-baccalaureate certificate, both require admission to the program. Both options can be done as a part time or full time student. The undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Science in Education with a focus in interpreting.

American Sign Language Teacher Education
(with Curriculum and Instruction, World Languages Dept.)

The World Languages Program is available for students who plan to teach a world language to children from birth to age 21, in PK through 12th grade. World Language students gain real world experience through an immersion experience and in the classroom by student teaching at area schools.

Special Education Undergraduate Degree Programs, Certifications, and Certificates

Bachelor's Degree

Early Adolescence to Adolescence Special Education (Ages 10-21)

Earn a Bachelor's degree and be eligible for an Initial Educator Teaching License from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in Cross-categorical Special Education for ages 10-21.


Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Certificate

A foundation for the pursuit of potential careers in special education or therapeutic service provision in community based agencies. The course work and field experiences are designed to increase the knowledge and awareness of individuals who live and work with individuals with ASD in different settings.

Post-Baccalaureate Special Education Teacher Certifications

For individuals who hold a Bachelor's Degree and aspire to become special education teachers. Completion of a Post-Baccalaureate certification program leads to eligibility for an Initial Educator Teaching License from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Any of the Post-Baccalaureate Special Education Teacher Certification programs can be combined with the Master's degree in Exceptional Education. Many students begin the certification program at the Post-Baccalaureate level and transition into the Master's Degree in Exceptional Education. Program areas available are:

Early Childhood - Special Education (Birth-Age 8)
Middle Childhood - Early Adolescence (Ages 6-13)
Early Adolescence - Adolescence (Age 10-21)
Deaf and Hard of Hearing - (pre-kindergarten - grade 12)

Post-Baccalaureate Admissions Information & Deadlines

The Post-Baccalaureate Special Education Teacher Certification Programs have the following upcoming Application Deadlines:

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE): Rolling admissions for Spring 2014 or Summer 2014. Submit a complete application at minimum four weeks prior to the semester in which you wish to enroll.

Middle Childhood to Early Adolescence (MCEA), Early Adolescence to Adolescence (EAA), and Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH): Upcoming application deadline of February 24, 2014 for Summer 2014 program entry.

Visit our Post-Baccalaureate Admissions page for the program application packet, information session dates, and additional application information!

Special Education Internship Program

In the UWM/MPS Special Education Internship Program, post-baccalaureate students teach in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) while earning special education certification. Interns are teachers-of-record in MPS schools with full pay and benefits while earning certification at UWM. They receive the support of MPS mentor teachers and are supervised by UWM instructors during the internship program. Interns commit to applying to MPS and teaching in the district for three years once certified.

The Pre-Internship program is designed to provide a paid, year-long guided experience to ensure that special education candidates at UWM who enter the program with limited experience in schools are well prepared to be intern teachers in the second year of their certification program. Pre-interns work as paraprofessionals under the guidance of a lead teacher who models instruction, teaches alongside the pre-intern, and oversees the pre-intern's learning to be a successful special education teacher.

The internship and pre-internship are open to students enrolled in the Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), Middle Childhood to Early Adolescence Special Education (MCEA), or the Early Adolescence to Adolescence Special Education (EAA) programs. Learn more: Internship Eligibility

Graduate Degree Programs and Certificates

Master's Degree

Exceptional Education

Our program seeks to further prepare educators to serve as change agents in their schools and communities by promoting the full participation of individuals with disabilities. Our program intends to help students develop strategies and new ways of thinking in a wide variety of contexts, with particular emphasis on working within a multicultural and urban context. Students can complete the Master's Degree in Exceptional Education as a teaching certification focus or individual focus.

Doctoral Degree

Urban Education Ph.D. with specialization in Exceptional Education

The doctoral specialization in Exceptional Education emphasizes collaborative work between students and faculty toward examining and addressing critical issues in the field within the urban context.

Online and Distance Education Programs

Online Master's and Teacher Certification in Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Students can complete requirements for a graduate degree in Exceptional Education with Wisconsin certification in Deaf/Hard of Hearing through distance education.

The Department of Exceptional Education also offers a number of courses in on-line and hybrid (face to face and on-line combined) formats. Please consult the UWM Schedule of Classes for these listings.


Advising in the Department of Exceptional Education is done primarily via email, phone, and in-person appointments. Emailing the advisor for the program you are interested in with a few days and times that work for you is the best way to secure an in-person appointment.

Jen Hayes
Advisor/Sign Language Interpreter
Enderis Hall 697
Phone: 414-229-4663
E-mail: jrhayes@uwm.edu

Advisor for the following undergraduate programs:
American Sign Language (ASL) Studies
Interpreter Training Program

Advisor for the following post-baccalaureate programs:
Interpreter Training Program

Exceptional Education
Phone: 414-229-5251
E-mail: exed@uwm.edu

Advisor for the following undergraduate programs:
Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate
Cross-categorical Early Adolescence - Adolescence

Advisor for the following post-baccalaureate programs:
Early Childhood Special Education
Cross-categorical Middle Childhood - Early Adolescence
Cross-categorical Early Adolescence - Adolescence
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education
Master's Degree in Exceptional Education
UWM/MPS Special Education Internship Program

Faculty and Staff

Click here to access the Exceptional Education Faculty and Staff directory.

About Us

The Exceptional Education Department embraces its responsibility to conduct research, teaching, and service activities in the diverse urban environment in which it resides. Individually and collectively, our goal is to create and disseminate knowledge that advances the educational opportunities available to individuals with disabilities, facilitate inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the community, and to collaborate with parents, professionals, and organizations in order to strengthen the services provided to individuals with disabilities and their families.

The Department of Exception has a rich history, beginning with Deaf Education in 1908. We continue to train educators in Exceptional Education utilizing the latest innovations and technology.

In accordance with our mission statement at the top of the page, we believe our programs must develop professionals who:

• Work to develop and deliver programs that insure the educational, social, personal and vocational competence of students.
• Develop and deliver instructional strategies for individual students and groups of students in a proactive, data-based and ethical manner.
• Respect diversity and support programs that honor differences in students, parents and programs.
• Collaborate with families, supportive service personnel and community agencies in the delivery of services to individuals with disabilities.
• Reflect on their professional practice and participate in opportunities for career-long professional development.
• Serve as change agents and advocates with, and on behalf, of individuals with disabilities and their families.

Department History

Teacher education was the center piece program at Milwaukee State Teachers College, which had as its original purpose as the preparation of teachers for educational programs in Milwaukee County, serving primarily Milwaukee Public Schools. The original programs were extensions of the high school programs. Qualified high school graduates with the addition of one years schooling became elementary school teachers. Secondary teachers were generally expected to have a four year degree. As the needs of the Milwaukee Public Schools grew, the need for specialized teaching staff grew within the district.

Classes for the preparation of teachers for the Mentally Retarded began as early as the turn of the century and programs for training teachers of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students began in 1908 when MPS took over a private school program, the Binner School, and began offering educational programs for children who were deaf and hard of hearinng.

The Milwaukee State Teacher College program for training professionals in Deaf Education began in 1917, and the program for Mental Retardation began in 1919 as an outgrowth of special courses in the elementary education program. These two programs were the first college level special education training programs in the state of Wisconsin.

By the early 1920's, Milwaukee Public Schools developed a three-track system for the delivery of educational programs. Track A served regular education students, Track B served as a program for slow learners, and Track C served special needs students.

This pattern continued through the early 1960's. Commonly special education teachers were called "Special C" teachers. UWM continued to provide the vast majority of teachers for the MPS special needs programs from the 1920's to the late 1950's.

In 1959 the Milwaukee Junior League sponsored a special project with the UWM Lab School for an experimental program in Learning Disabilities. A Master's level teacher training program in Learning Disabilities was developed in 1960 and was soon followed by a Master's degree level program in the area of Emotional Disturbance.

These two new programs brought the total of special education programs at UWM to four and led to the formation of the Department of Exceptional Education in 1963. The Learning Disabilities and Emotional Disturbance programs were the first for these special areas in the State of Wisconsin.

The last two certification programs to be added were the Special Education Administration option, which was added formally in 1974, and the Early Childhood Certification which was approved in 1982. Early leadership in special education at the local and state levels emerged from the UWM programs, and this trend continues to this day with most of the special education administrators in the greater Milwaukee metropolitan area tracing their educational roots to UWM.

Brief History of the Department of Exceptional Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by Professor Paul Haubrich

Contact Us

Office Hours:
Monday through Thursday, 7:30 am -5:30pm
Fridays, 7:30 am - 4:30pm

Mailing Address:
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
School of Education
Department of Exceptional Education
2400 E. Hartford Avenue, Rm 610
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Telephone: 414-229-5251
Fax number: 414-229-5500

Front Office Staff
Cindy Pharm

Gilbert Johnson