Early Education (PreK-4) and Special Education (PreK-12) Degree

Early Education (PreK-4) and Special Education (PreK-12) Degree

Significantly Enhance the Value of Your Teaching Degree as a Dual Major

Today’s classrooms include students with many different learning styles and educational requirements. That’s why it’s so important for today’s teachers to be prepared to effectively support all their students, including those with special education needs.  

As a dual major in Early Education (PreK-4) and Special Education (PreK-12), you can:

  • Earn your PreK-12 Special Education certification in addition to your Early Education PreK-4 teacher certification
  • Prepare to better respond to the educational needs of all students in your classroom
  • Significantly enhance the value of your degree
  • Complete all required coursework within four years!

Upon completion of this program and the passing of the required Pennsylvania Department of Education tests, you will be eligible to apply for Early Education (PreK-4) certification and Special Education (PreK-12) certification in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and then teach in a public, private, or charter school.  

Certification: This program was designed to meet the certification requirements of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If you reside in a different state, you should carefully review your home state’s certification requirements prior to enrolling in this program.


"During this extraordinary year, teachers faced many obstacles in creating lessons for their students. However, their creativity, flexibility, and willingness to ‘think outside the box’ allowed teachers to engage with students in meaningful ways using the technologies at their disposal. Teachers became energized by this challenge and rose to meet the challenge each and every day." 
—Mary Jo Pierantozzi, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, Education

Program Details

At GMercyU, we have been helping students become the teachers they’re meant to be for more than 60 years. You will have access to expert faculty and resources as you develop your teaching and classroom management skills. Learn more below.


Classroom Experience, Every Semester

You will be placed in a classroom as early as the first week of October of your freshman year!

Our Teacher Apprentice Program (TAP) helps you gain first-hand insight into how the real world of education works before taking your turn at the head of the class.

In all, you will spend 8 semesters in actual classrooms. Your final two semesters will be dedicated to pre-student teaching and student teaching experiences where you can take your turn at the head of the class.

While it is important to be knowledgeable about your curriculum, it is also important to develop your personal teaching style for the classroom. Through GMercyU's hands-on approach in the classroom, you will learn effective classroom management styles, an array of communication methods, and will be able to handle conflicts within the classroom.

Our real-world approach to teaching will prepare you to better understand your students in a dynamic setting.

“I’m proud to say I’ve been teaching in real classrooms since my freshman year. In our coursework, we write lesson plans and execute those lessons for constructive feedback from our professors. This is truly important as a future teacher.” –Samantha Venezia ’22 Early/Special Education
Your Personal Academic Team

No matter your major, all GMercyU classes are taught by full-time or part-time faculty members – no teaching assistants. In fact, the professors in our Education programs have more than 130 years of combined experience as educators!

As an Early Education and Special Education major, your support includes:

  • A personal advisor who will guide you through all four years.
  • Field Placement Coordinator, Dr. Cheryl Malfi, who will help ensure that you have a successful student teaching experience.
  • An Education and Certification Coordinator. Once on the teacher certification track, Mrs. Megan Lawler will ensure you meet all requirements to become a certified teacher in Pennsylvania.


Test Preparation

An essential part of becoming a certified teacher in Pennsylvania is passing the required Pennsylvania Department of Education tests. At GMercyU, we will help you prepare for these tests.

Not only will you work closely with your advisor but our Student Success Center provides many opportunities to help you prepare for these tests, including a series of basic skills workshops, a computer program to practice for the tests, private one-on-one tutoring, and a variety of materials for you to take and prepare on your own.

GMercyU's Autism Institute

Founded by Assistant Dean of the School of Business and Education Deb Schadler, PhD, the Autism Institute focuses on scientifically research-based best practices for supporting students on the Autism spectrum.

GMercyU's Autism Institute provides research-based best practices for students, as well as teachers and administrators, parents of children on the autism spectrum and any interested community members through resources and services such as the annual Autism Conference. You will be able to take the best-practices learned and apply them directly to your own classroom.


Education Clubs & Organizations

Gain leadership skills, grow professionally, and make friends by getting involved!

Education Outreach Club
Its mission is to provide an opportunity for those with a passion for helping the community to come together to learn, collaborate, and share educational experiences. This club offers its members the option to connect with professionals, participate in educational and social events, and volunteer. Being a member of this club will promote understanding, education, and best practices for the GMercyU community.

Best Buddies
Our Best Buddies chapter matches GMercyU students with members of the community who have Intellectual and developmental disabilities, hosts monthly events, and participates in fundraisers.

Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society
It is the oldest and largest honor society in education. Invitations to join are based on academic achievement, a commitment to education as a career, and a professional attitude that assures the member’s steady growth in the field of education.


In addition to general education requirements, you will complete the following courses for a bachelor’s degree in early education and special education:

EDU 100  Education in America
EDU 104 Health & Motor Development Pre K-4
EDU 216 Foundations of Teaching & Learning Pre K-4  
EDU 223 Teaching Science Pre K-4
EDU 224 Teaching Social Studies Pre K-4
EDU 226 Reading Sequence I – Foundations of Early Literacy Research
EDU 227 Math Methods for Pre K-4
EDU 228 Art and Humanities
EDU 229  Reading Sequence II – Lang. Dev. & Early Literacy, Instruction & Assessment
EDU 309  Technology Integration in Education Pre K-8
EDU 314   Reading Sequence III – Early Literacy Instruction & Assessment
EDU 316  Reading Sequence IV – Literacy Instruction, Assessment & Intervention
EDU 351 Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners
SPE 205 Exceptional Person
SPE 231  Mild/Moderate Disabilities in the Inclusionary Setting
SPE 331  Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Methods for Mild/Moderate Disabilities
EDU 414   Classroom Management for Pre K-4
EDU 415 Pre-Student Teaching Pre K-8
EDU 498 Student  Teaching Pre K-8 (12 Credits)
EDU 4000 

Capstone Seminar

PreK-12 Special Education
SPE 232 Students with Complex Needs in the Educational Setting
SPE 332  Research-Based Practices in the Assessment and Instruction of Students

Credit Requirements

A minimum of 120 credits is required for a bachelor’s degree in early education.

This program requires a criminal background check, child abuse clearance, and certain immunizations and other health-related clearances in order to participate in all field experiences.

Undergraduate Minors

Increase the value of your degree in Early Education and Special Education by adding an undergraduate minor. GMercyU offers a wide variety of minors so you can choose the one that best meets your personal and professional goals.

Featured Courses

Wondering what your courses will look like? Here are just a couple of the classes you’ll take as a dual major in Early Education and Special Education.

EDU 309 Technology Integration in Education PreK-8
In this course, students will become familiar with the PDE Standards of Science and Technology as well as the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for both teachers and students. Students will design lesson plans and learning activities that integrate technology from Pre K to Grade 8. Students will be introduced to the various tools of technology including assistive technologies for students with special needs. The use of technology for assessment, management and other administrative procedures will also be addressed.

SPE 331 Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Methods for Mild/Moderate Disabilities
Applications of fundamental concepts for teaching students with mild to moderate disabilities are presented. Students will examine norm-referenced, criterion-referenced and curriculum-based instruments and procedures for assessing and diagnosing students who are experiencing learning and behavior problems in school. Students will conduct curriculum-based assessments to identify students' academic strengths and weaknesses. Students will also learn to create an environment conducive to learning through an applied behavior analysis perspective.

EDU 414 Classroom Management for PreK-4
This course is designed to prepare teacher candidates to understand and use provisions and procedures needed to create and maintain an environment in which effective teaching and learning can occur. Various discipline models will be introduced.

For all Early Childhood Education and Special Education course descriptions, please refer to the undergraduate catalog.

Meet the Faculty

Mary Jo Pierantozzi, MS

Position: Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, Education
Did You Know? Professor Pierantozzi has presented nationally on many topics in education including math, social studies, hybrid online courses, and cooperative learning. She is also the advisor for Best Buddies and Kappa Delta Pi.

Learn More

Deb Schadler, PhD, CPCRT, PRSE

Position: Assistant Dean, School of Business and Education
Did You Know? Dr. Schadler is also the Director of GMercyU’s Autism Institute. She has developed and taught GMercyU’s undergraduate special education curriculum.

Learn More

Marianne Boyd, M. Ed.

Position: Professor of Practice, Education
Did You Know? Professor Boyd has extensive experience as a classroom teacher and an elementary principal and brings a wealth of experience to her courses. She is the co-advisor of the Education Outreach Club.

Learn More


Career Opportunities

The Need for Teachers

Pennsylvania is a state in need of educators. According to the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the number of new teacher certificates issued in Pennsylvania dropped by 74 percent between 2012-13 and 2018-19, with the number of college students completing Pennsylvania teacher prep programs dropping by 32 percent between 2013-14 and 2017-18.

There is opportunity beyond Pennsylvania, as well. Assistant Dean of the School of Business and Education Deb Schadler, PhD, reports that these states have been aggressive in recruiting GMercyU students:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
Where GMercyU Education Graduates Work

Recently, GMercyU students have completed student teaching and landed teaching positions after graduation in these districts and more:

  • Abington School District
  • Bensalem School District
  • Central Bucks School District
  • Colonial School District
  • Council Rock School District
  • Hatboro-Horsham School District
  • Lower Moreland School District
  • MAST Charter School
  • Methacton School District
  • Neshaminy School District
  • North Penn School District
  • Perkiomen Valley School District
  • Philadelphia School District
  • Phoenixville School District
  • Springfield School District
  • St. Malachy School
  • Upper Dublin School District
  • Upper Moreland School District
  • Wissahickon School District
What Teachers Make

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2020, the median annual wage for elementary school teachers was $60,940, with the top 10% earning more than $100,480.

The median annual wage for special education teachers was $61,420 with the top 10% earning more than $100,160.

Pennlive.com reported Pennsylvania's 50 top paying school districts, including average salaries for teachers.

Griffin Success Stories

Alexis Howard ’20

Current position: 3rd grade teacher in the Abington School District

Due to the pandemic, Alexis spent her last semester student teaching 100% remotely. It was not an ideal experience, but it led to an early job offer due to the need for teachers in Spring 2020. That position led to her current job, which she began in December 2020.

“Throughout my TAP experience, I learned several strategies, programs, and best practices that I use in my classroom today. I was fortunate to be placed in several general education and special education classrooms across the Montgomery County area ranging from kindergarten through 6th grade. I was able to learn new skills with each grade as they differ tremendously. My cooperating teachers and supervisors were a valuable resource. I still contact them today with questions and to share ideas.”

Read more about Alexis’ GMercyU experience.


Jacqlyn Gallagher ’16

Current position: 5th grade teacher at Blue Bell Elementary school

In 2020, Jacqlyn was recognized as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, an honor reserved for self-driven and passionate teachers who inspire students and the world with creative thinking and collaborative spirit. As a GMercyU student, Jacqlyn traveled to Ireland for the International Young Mercy Leaders Conference, and she served as a Mercy Advocate and as president of the Special Education Club. When she graduated, she was chosen for the Outstanding Leadership Away and the Outstanding Student Teacher Award.

“GMercyU’s professors are true professionals in their fields with an extensive knowledge base. They were helpful and caring, but also genuinely concerned for us both as students (future teachers) and as people. Moreover, they were well-connected and continued to be involved in the field which always helped to provide us with the most current information, ‘lingo,’ research, and best practices.”

Read more about Jacqlyn’s GMercyU experience.

Meet more Griffin Success Stories.


Next Steps

Transfer Opportunities

If you’ve already earned college-level credits at other accredited institutions or early education colleges, you can transfer them to Gwynedd Mercy University in order to achieve your dual degree in early education and special education. All you need to do is submit your transcript and course description to the Registrar, who will determine whether the course counts towards the credits required for graduation. Read more on our Transfer Credits page.

In addition, Gwynedd Mercy University has articulation agreements with Bucks County and Delaware County Community Colleges, Harcum College, and Manor College to speed your path to become a teacher with teacher certification.

Bucks County Community College
AA in PreK-4 Education to BS Early Education PreK-4 Certification 
AA PreK-4 Education to BS PreK-12 Special Education Certification 

Delaware Community College
AS Early Education to BS Early Education PreK-4 Certification 

Harcum College
AS Early Childhood Education to BS Early Education PreK-4 Certification  
AS Early Childhood Education to BS PreK-12 Special Education Certification 

Manor College 
AS Early Education to BS Early Education PreK-4 Certification  
AS Early Education to BS PreK-12 Special Education Certification 

Admission Requirements

Have questions about GMercyU's admission requirements? Contact us! Our Admissions staff is ready to walk you through the process of applying.

Email: admissions@gmercyu.edu
Phone: 215-641-5510


Financial Aid, Tuition & Fees

At GMercyU, we strive to make a quality education accessible to all through financial aid, scholarships, and grants. As a military-friendly university, we welcome service members and participate in all VA educational benefits programs. 

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Achieve your dream of becoming the kind of teacher who can help change the lives of your students. Earn your Early Education and Special Education dual degree at GMercyU!