Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Dissertation (UNI Access Only)


Special education teachers--United States; Women school superintendents--United States--Attitudes; Career development--United States;


This qualitative study focused on investigating the dual outsider status of being a woman and of being prepared as a special education teacher and how that may have informed the path towards and vision of the public school superintendency. I interviewed six female superintendents of public schools, three times each, over the course of several weeks and months to document their stories of their careers specifically focusing on how, if at all, being a woman and a special education teacher, informed their career path towards the school superintendency. I interpreted my findings into a three-level framework based on the metaphor of a stone splashing into a calm pool as inspired by a Haiku from Basho. The outgoing ripples represented the findings in order of their obviousness. The rings are identified as: Power, The experience of special education, and Sexism, relationships, and seniority. My research suggests the unique experience that women, especially those prepared in special education have had in the field. A key finding shows that special education can be at once a marginalizing and enlarging experience for teachers. Special education has importance as a vehicle for women into school administration and leadership positions. My research recommends that women special education teachers should be considered as prime candidates for administrative recruitment. Moreover, in the ever increasing challenge for schools to truly attend to the needs of all children in a socially and economically diverse society, women prepared as special educators have a base of experience and mindset that is well suited for that task.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Educational Leadership and Postsecondary Education

First Advisor

Nicholas J. Pace

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (ix, 188 pages)



File Format


Off-Campus Download