Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Leadership Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Autumn Dodge

Committee Member

Dr. Stefanie Copp

Committee Member

Dr. Daniel Hall


This study was conducted to give voice to local special education teachers working with students with emotional disabilities, and to allow them to co-create meanings from their lived experiences in the classroom. It utilized a qualitative hermeneutic phenomenological approach through a series of three individual interviews over the course of a six-month period. Five special education teachers from three local school divisions and private day schools participated in the study between July 2021 and December 2021. Over the course of the three interviews, the five special education teachers in the study were situated as co-researchers. In addition to the three interviews, follow up questions allowed the researcher and participants to co-create meanings from the lived experiences that the special education teachers shared during the interviews.

Through the sharing of the voices of the special education teachers in this study, and by allowing their language both spoken and unspoken to illuminate their experiences, four themes and additional sub themes were co-created. The themes that were co-created included: School Culture, Climate, and Community (Environment), Sense of Overwhelming Emotions, Expectations vs. Experience, and Commitment to the Cause. Student and Adult Relationships were subthemes of School Culture, Climate, and Community, while Changing Stress Levels, Systems of Support, and Professional Demands emerged as sub themes for Sense of Overwhelming Emotions. Finally, Positivity Amidst Frustration was co-created as a subtheme of Commitment to the Cause.