Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

DaShaunda Patterson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Diane Truscott, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lauren Boden, Ph.D.


Students with severe disabilities started attending public schools when the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 was signed into law by President Gerald Ford. Students with severe disabilities had a place in the public-school settings; however, that place was a separate classroom with separate learning objectives than their general education peers. In the 1980s and 1990s, parents and advocates called for opportunities for students with severe disabilities and their peers to interact in the general education setting to benefit the social development of the students; however, Bach (2017) argues that overall not much has changed with the social acceptance and inclusivity of people with severe disabilities. The purpose of this study was to examine the ways that three special education teachers engaged in educationally inclusive practices and high-quality instruction, as well as how they reflected and perceived these processes. The study used Gloria Anzaldúa’s conceptualization of the nepantlera and nos/otras to frame my inquiry of the special education teachers within their school contexts. The study utilized a narrative inquiry methodology for data collection and analysis (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). From the analysis, I identified three major themes: (1) Special education teachers use high-quality instruction to engage their students in real-world learning experiences; (2) Special education teachers use high-quality instruction to challenge perceptions others have about what their students are capable of achieving; and (3) Special education teachers encounter barriers when attempting to sustain inclusive opportunities. Findings suggest that the self-contained class did not hold the same privilege as the general education class, but the self-contained class was a space where the students with severe disabilities were accommodated. The teachers’ high-quality instruction helped their students access their community and develop the communication and social skills to engage with others, and their messaging outward into the community of their students’ accomplishments helped others consider their students as more than just a disability category.


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