Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

Ingrid Nelson


This study explores teachers’ roles in special education in terms of how they interact with students with disabilities. In the struggle against oppression and disempowerment, teachers can play a crucial role in employing education as the great equalizer, or else not. The question this research seeks to answer is: how do special education teachers interact with their students with disabilities, and how does this teacher role fit within a society that seeks to marginalize these students? I argue that special education teachers reproduce ableism by disciplining, normalizing, and controlling their students, but teachers express a deep sense of caring for and about their students, and understand their work as being their best effort at helping their students. The ableist actions that they perform are, ironically, an effort to help their students create fulfilling lives within an ableist society.