Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Thomas L. Fish

Second Advisor

David W. Peterson

Third Advisor

Shelley Neilson Gatti


This qualitative study examined EBD teacher experiences through phenomenological research. Data was collated through interviews, a focus group, memos, and field notes. Questions focused on how EBD teachers described their work and the factors that contributed to career longevity.

The study was conducted in one self-contained school for students with severe EBD. All but one participant arrived in their position by an indirect route and most had no awareness of self-contained schools. Even those with prior teacher training expressed they lacked information about students with severe EBD. Even though participants did not intentionally seek positions as EBD teachers, they felt it was a good fit and were committed to students with EBD. Participants found the work rewarding and were driven by the possibility to make a difference student’s lives. They expressed that one of the most positive and rewarding parts of their work was the creation of relationships and communicated feelings of kinship with colleagues. These relationships allowed them to flourish in their roles.

Findings also revealed factors contributing to career longevity. Environmental factors found to support participant’s work included both classroom and program resources. Participants indicated that classroom EA’s were critical to their success and mentorship programs provided them support while they built the skills necessary for the position. Finally, teachers exhibited dispositions of empathy, compassion, patience, adaptability, resiliency, and self-efficacy. They met challenges without hesitation, sought to continually grow through self-reflection and had a constant desire to master their work which naturally led them to readily adapt to the always-changing needs of the students and the environment.

Results explain why some teachers remain working with students with severe EBD longer than most and provide evidence for educational leaders regarding how to best support EBD teachers. Pre-service experiences in a similar environment would best inform and prepare potential EBD teachers. Those responsible for hiring EBD teachers must consider teacher dispositions as a factor contributing to success in the role and support new teachers with properly designed mentorship programs. Additionally, supportive and collaborative educational environments which foster the development of relationships are key to improving EBD teacher efficacy and retention.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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