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School of Education Special Education Department

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Special Education Programs

BA in Special Education

Minor in Special Education

Minor in Gifted and Talented Education

BA in Elementary/Special Education- Dual Major


Graduate programs in Special Education and Gifted Education are also offered.

Gateways for Initial Licensure Programs

Initial programs leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree and making candidates eligible for a New Mexico teaching license include early childhood education, elementary education, special education, and secondary education, a program minor which must be combined with a content-area major.
The following describe three gateways that assess and guide students through the School of Education and teacher licensure. This process will initiate an in-school file for students as they matriculate in the School of Education.

Admission Requirements

Requirements for Admission to Teacher Preparation and Licensure Programs Admission to the School of Education is a separate and independent process from admission to the university. Candidates need to purchase a Chalk and Wire license through the university bookstore.

All applications for admission into the School of Education are only accepted through Chalk and Wire. Candidates must complete all requirements listed in Gateway Alpha before they are admitted.

Gateway Alpha (Program Entry into the School of Education)

Students who wish to enter the School of Education must complete the following:

  • Complete the university core curriculum to include:
    • 9 hours in communication
    • 8 hours in science
    • 12 hours in history
    • 9 hours in humanities and fine arts
    • 9 hours in social/behavioral science
    • 6 -9 hours in mathematics (6 for secondary and special education, 9 for elementary education)
    • 2 hours PE
    • 8 hours modern language
    • 3 hours computer science
  • National Evaluation Series (NES) Essential Academic Skills (Subtests, I, II, III) passing score;
  • Overall GPA of at least 2.75 (based on a minimum of 24 credit hours);
  • A C-grade or better in GNED 201 (Introduction to Teaching), GNED 251 (Field Base I), and SPED 214 (Introduction to Special Education) or ECME 300;
  • A score of at least 3 out of 4 on a designated writing assignment in GNED 201 or ECME 300;
  • A C-grade or better in English 112 (Composition)

Once all the above are completed, students must complete an application to the School of Education on Chalk and Wire.

Gateway Beta (Admission to Clinical Practice: Student Teaching)

Students who wish to begin student teaching (Field Base III) must complete the following:

  • National Evaluation Series (NES) Elementary Content Knowledge, Special Education Content Knowledge, Secondary Major Content Knowledge passing score
  • National Evaluation Series (NES) Essential Components of Reading- Elementary Education majors only;
  • Content GPA of at least 3.0;
  • All major course requirements;
  • Criminal records background check and finger prints;
  • Submit verification of liability insurance;

Once all the above are completed, students must complete an application to student teaching on Chalk and Wire.

Gateway Gamma (Program Completion)

Students who wish to complete the program must complete the following:

  • Successful development of a student teaching portfolio during Field III Student Teaching experience;
  • Field Base III university supervisor rating of at least three of four points possible by the final classroom observation;
  • Field Base III rating by cooperating teacher of at least three of four points possible by the final classroom observation; and
  • Field Base III dispositions rating of at least three of four points possible.



Emily Williams, PhD.,  Assistant Professor Special Education, Department Chair Special Education and Teacher Education

Emily Williams (1 of 1)She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Secondary Education (Language Arts) from Ottawa University, a Masters of Arts in Special Education from the University of Florida, an Ed. S. in School Psychology and a Ph. D. in Special Education from New Mexico State University. As a k-12 educator in Florida and New Mexico in General and Special Education and served as a school psychologist for several years. Her research interests include teaching efficacy, parents and families of children with disabilities, online education, and Autism based disorders.

Phone: 505-454-3535
Curriculum Vitae

Paul James (PJ) Sedillo, PhD., Assistant Professor

Paul Sedillo (1 of 1)Dr. Sedillo is a native from Albuquerque, received his BA degree in Elementary Education from Highlands University, Las Vegas NM., Masters in Special Education from UNM (University of New Mexico), and Doctorate from UNM in Special Education with an emphasis on counseling and the gifted and talented. Dr. PJ Sedillo’s dissertation entitled A Retrospective Study of Gay Gifted, Young Adult Males’ Perceptions of Giftedness and Suicide is a qualitative, retrospective study that investigated suicidal ideation among 32 young adult men.  Participants were asked to report their experiences as adolescents. The primary focus of the study was to discover how gay gifted adolescents dealt with issues of suicide and suicidal ideation.  Based on the study’s outcome, a theory of suicidal ideation was proposed, and an assessment was designed for future studies. He taught within the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) for the past twenty-four years as a general/special and gifted education teacher.  He was also a Resource Teacher assisting newly hired teachers of the Gifted to APS.  Currently, Dr. PJ Sedillo is an assistant professor at New Mexico Highlands University in the special education/gifted department.

Phone: 505-891-6907
Curriculum Vitae

Yvonne Moreno, PhD., Term Professor


Job Prospects

Students who graduate from NMHU with degrees in Special Education are prepared to teach children in the P12 school years with special education or gifted education needs. They often take positions as special education teachers working with exceptional students and their families. They may also be employed as case managers who manage Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

Students who graduate from NMHU with degrees in Elementary/Special Education are prepared to teach children in the P12 school years with special education or elementary education needs.

Prominent Graduates

NMHU Special Education Department has many prominently placed graduates in important positons, nationally. Among them are Mr. Daniel Benavidez, Director,  Tierra Encantada, SantaFe, Casey Benavidez, Assistant Director, Tierra Encantada, SantaFe, Anna M. Valdez, Principal Family Partnership, West Las Vegas Schools, and Bob Pasternak, SPED DOE US.

Robert H. Pasternack, Ph.D. is the Senior Vice President of Special Education for Voyager Learning Company. Dr. Pasternack served as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at the U.S. Department of Education from 2001 to 2004. During his tenure, he was responsible for the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In addition, Dr. Pasternack served on two Presidential Commissions, including the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education and the President’s Mental Health Commission. Dr. Pasternack also served as the Chair of the Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee during his appointment as the Assistant Secretary.

Prior to being appointed by President Bush to this position, Dr. Pasternack was the State Director of Special Education for the State of New Mexico. During his distinguished career in New Mexico, Dr. Pasternack was a teacher, a superintendent of schools, the director of the state’s first residential treatment center for children with serious emotional and behavioral problems, and Chief Executive Officer of New Mexico’s first licensed Comprehensive Children’s Community Mental Health Center. His work in New Mexico included improving outcomes and results for children with disabilities, implementing full day Kindergarten with mandatory use of scientifically based reading interventions, training of teachers on the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, parent-professional partnership, resiliency in juvenile delinquents, and a number of innovative efforts to serve ALL students.

Dr. Pasternack is a nationally certified school psychologist, a certified educational diagnostician, a certified school administrator, and a certified teacher (K-12). Recipient of numerous honors and awards, he is a frequent presenter at local, state, regional, national, and international conferences.


Why Prospective Education Majors Choose Highlands?

Among the many strengths inherent within our program that prompt NMHU Special Education students to choose Highlands, students cite the following as foremost as leading factors:

  1. Cost
  2. Safety – Students can park next to the building and not have to walk great distances at night.
  3. Small Class Size
  4. World Class Professors
  5. Access to Advisors

Our program is accredited by NCATE and is leader amongst Special Education preparers in New Mexico, and nationally.