Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




College of Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Suzanne Horn

Second Advisor

Eugenia Hopper

Third Advisor

Cheryl Morgan


There is little to no research regarding novice elementary special education teachers (SETs) and their emotional well-being while in the school environment. The goal of this work is to illuminate special education teacher’s voices missing in previous research. Additionally, this research examines the impact of work-related stressors on novice elementary SETs' emotional well-being in the school environment. The theoretical perspective of heuristics is used to illuminate a problem or answer a question about the lived experience of the researcher. Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) transactional theory of stress and coping framework guided the research question development, data analysis, and presentation of findings. Data was collected through a one time virtual interview with each participant as well as four weekly digital reflective journals completed by each participant. Data stored in Dedoose was thematically coded and environmentally triangulated. Findings indicated that SETs experience unique work-related stressors that can negatively influence emotional well-being. Work-related stressors identified by participants consisted of administrative tasks, lack of time, supervising colleagues, and managing student behaviors. SETs work-related stressors influenced feelings of stress, frustration, overwhelm, anxiety, exhaustion, and depression. Consistent negative feelings led SETs to engage in coping resources such as communication with school administrators and family, taking time off, and diet and exercise. SETs also recommended additional resources they would like to have in the school environment to foster a positive emotional well-being. Recommendations included reduced work-load, behavior coaching, additional adult support, fostered collaboration, training, physical and mental health support.