Missouri State University

Alex Beckman

  • Special Education Teacher, Ozark Middle School
  • Ozark, Missouri
  • BS, special education/cross categorical, 2011
  • MSEd, special education, 2015

How her experiences as a student impacted her classroom

“Anytime I can increase their independence, that's going to help them now and that's going to help them when they graduate.”

Preparing herself for a career

As an undergraduate and graduate student in the Department of Counseling, Leadership and Special Education (CLSE), Alex Beckman wanted to know everything she possibly could about special education.

Beckman conducted research and made presentations at national conferences.

  • International Conference of Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders
  • Applied Behavior Analysis for Autism Conference

She frequently texted classmates and friends about special education news and practices.

Beckman’s journey as a Bear laid the groundwork for her current position: special education teacher at Ozark (Mo.) Middle School.

“I really loved my time at MSU. The former (CLSE) department head reached out to me and asked what they could improve on and I had a hard time thinking of anything,” Beckman said.  “I felt like I was really prepared for my job.”

Communicating and teaching with technology

“(My master’s degree) helps me know that what I'm doing is evidence-based and research-based and best practices in the field.”

Beckman embraces the benefits technology can have on special education students.

For her master’s thesis, she used an app called I-Connect to show its capabilities of improving on-task and work accuracy performances for two students with autism.

“They had huge increases in their on-task behavior but also in their academic work, and I did ask them when it was done, ‘Did you like doing this?’ And they enjoyed it,” Beckman said. “They wanted to continue doing it and thought it was easy, but it wasn't like a test they had to do.”

She’s since ventured into other tech mediums.

  • A class Facebook page. “I can communicate and show (parents) what we're doing in our classroom.”
  • The Seesaw app. “It’s like an online student portfolio. And so for some students, they can go in themselves and make a post, make a video and then share it with their teachers and their parents.”

One of the main challenges for any special education teacher is instilling independence and confidence within their students. Technology offers a possible pathway.

“Using technology correctly can really help teachers because you get more instruction in practice time and you're also able to have the kids increase their independence, especially in my classroom with my students, with moderate to severe disabilities,” Beckman said. 

For her master’s, specific was significant

Beckman earned a bachelor’s degree in special education/cross categorical (2011).

After graduating, she accepted a position as a special education teacher at Ozark Middle School and completed her master’s degree – special education with an emphasis in autism spectrum disorder – in 2015 while teaching full-time. 

Research-based teaching is vital for a special education teacher like Beckman, as it allows her to implement an innovative curriculum backed up by experts in the field.

Her thesis project, which she collaborated with Kansas University, was a replication of a study conducted by KU professors Howard Wills and Benjamin A. Mason, “Use of a Self-monitoring Application to Reduce Stereotypic Behavior in Adolescents with Autism: A Preliminary Investigation of I-Connect (2014).”

Beckman discovered the Wills/Mason study at a conference.

“With my master's, I really liked that I got specific information and specific course work working with students with autism,” Beckman said.