Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

David I. Backer, Ph.D

Committee Member

Megan Nolan, Ph.D

Committee Member

Lisa Hess, Ed.D


This mixed methods study specifically answered the questions (1) How much and what kind of emotional labor do special educators do? and (2) What are the lived experiences of special education teachers as they relate to emotional labor, mental health, wellbeing, and retention? I used the Brotheridge and Lee Emotional Labor Scale to survey 55 special education teachers employed in public education in a mid-Atlantic County and conducted semi-structured interviews with four of the survey participants. Prior literature had found that teachers reported engaging in emotional labor with students; while true of survey respondents, through the qualitative interviews, I found that the greatest emotional labor for special education teachers-leading to increased emotional dissonance and stress- was from interactions with administrators and parents. All interview participants indicated that they had considered leaving their classrooms and/or schools due to the emotional strain and stress from their jobs specific to the emotional regulation required by administrators and parents, but not due to their interactions with students. This study adds to the body of literature on emotional labor strategies as well as efforts to retain special education teachers.