How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (2023)

If you love working with children and want to make a real difference, you may be considering a career in special education. Special educators play a very important role; they offer support to help students with disabilities and other special needs access the curriculum.

Special education teachers have a rewarding, but challenging, job. I can certainly attest to that.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (1)

Keeping up with the paperwork and planning was never easy, but it was all worth it in the end when I saw the gains and strides my students made with learning the curriculum.

If you think becoming a special education teacher is right for you, you probably have a lot of questions about what you should do to make it happen! I’m here to help you understand more about what a special educator does and share more about what you’ll need to do to start your career as a special education teacher.

Continue reading, and I’ll share:

  • How to become a special education teacher→
  • What a special education teacher does→
  • The requirements to become a special education teacher→
  • Steps to take to become a special education teacher→

8 Ways How to Become a Special Education Teacher

Once you’ve completed your certification and are ready to get hired for a position as a special education teacher , there are a few things you can do.

Following these suggestions can help ensure you find a position as a special education teacher in a school you will love.

1. Focus on Your Resume

Before talking to any potential employers, you first want to make sure that your resume is in tip-top condition. Make sure it highlights all relevant work experience and your student teaching experience as well.

2. Have a Solid List of References to Share

In addition to having a strong resume prepared, you also want to have a list of references to share with your potential employers. Consider listing your mentor teacher from your student teaching experience, professors from recent college classes, and previous employers, even if in non-education fields.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (2)

(Video) Special Education: Everything You Need to Know

3. Schedule Multiple Interviews

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Even if you have your heart set on working at one specific school, it is still important to schedule additional interviews at other schools. There is no guarantee you’ll get your first choice, and you want to have some back up options available.

4. Write a Cover Letter

Attach a cover letter to your resume for each position you are interview for. You can draft a basic cover letter, but be sure to personalize it for the specific school you’re applying to. This will show that you did some research before your interview and will also help set you apart from other candidates.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (3)

5. Practice for Your Interview

Find a friend to help you practice for your interview. Print out some common interview questions to have them ask you, and rehearse how you’ll answer them during the interview.

6. Showcase Your Achievements

Bring a digital or paper portfolio that highlights your achievements during your student teaching experience. Include sample lessons plans, student work, and other ways you helped your students meet their IEP goals.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (4)

7. Demonstrate Your Passion

During your interview, don’t be afraid to let your passion for the field of special education shine through. This will help your potential employers see that you are the best person for the job.

8. Consider Substitute Teaching for the District or School Where You’d Like to Work

If you don’t get hired after your first round of interviews, consider substitute teaching for a year or so at the schools you’d like to work at. This will help the administrators and other professionals in the building see your dedication and resolve and may make them more likely to consider you when a position opens up in the future.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (5)

What Does a Special Education Teacher Do?

The job of a special education teacher is complex and can vary depending on the position. Some special education teachers support students in the general education classroom and help make the grade-level curriculum and standards more accessible.

Other special education teachers may teach in a self-contained model. These teachers will work with the same students in one classroom all day and may teach a modified version of the curriculum, depending on the specific IEP goals of their students.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (6)

(Video) My Path to Becoming A Special Education Teacher. Was It WORTH IT?\ Alternative Teaching

The list below highlights some of the many tasks a special education teacher may be responsible for. Again, depending on the specific teaching position , you may or may not be responsible for everything on the list.

  1. Work with students with mental or physical disabilities to help them access the curriculum. This can include working with them in their general education classroom and/or pulling them out for additional support.
  2. You’ll need to modify lessons as needed based on the specific needs of each student. For example, you may need to provide addition scaffolding or support to solve a math problem or use a document camera to make smaller items appear larger for a student with a visual impairment.
  3. Write IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) for your students based on their needs. This will include setting goals for the students and listing the strategies and supports they will receive from you, and other teachers that work with them, in order to help them achieve these goals.
  4. Monitoring your students’ progress towards meeting the goals on the IEP.
  5. Share resources and strategies with general education teachers that they can use to differentiate instruction for the special education students in their class.For example, you could share tips on keeping students engaged in a lesson by using the interactive whiteboard in the classroom.
  6. Holding regular meetings with general education teachers to discuss the progress of each of your students towards meeting the goals listed on their IEP.
  7. Scheduling years meetings with parents, administrators, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and any other stakeholders to discuss each child’s progressions towards meeting their goals and revise, add to, or delete the goals on their IEP.
  8. Work with parents to offer resources and strategies they can use to help their children at home.
  9. Helping prepare students to be successful once they graduate from high school.

What do you think? Does becoming a special education teacher sound like something you’re interested in?

In the next few sections, I’ll share what you’ll need to do to make your dream of becoming a special educator a reality.

Special Education Teacher Requirements

The requirements to become a special education teacher can vary some depending on the state you plan to teach in. So, be sure to cross-reference the information provided below with the specific information you receive from the district or state you’d like to work for.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (7)

Below are some of the general requirements necessary for becoming a special education teacher:

  1. Bachelor’s degree in education
  2. Master’s degree in special education (in many states)
  3. Passing any state-required assessments
  4. Obtaining certification from the state
  5. Completing continuing education courses throughout your career to maintain your certification

Once you are a special education teacher, some of the requirements of your job will include:

  1. Writing IEP (Individualized Education Programs) for your students.
  2. Instructing students to achieve the goals set forth in their IEP.
  3. Conducting educational testing to assess students and their levels.
  4. Working with general education teachers to differentiate lessons to meet the needs of special education students.
  5. Preparing necessary materials and supports to help students access the curriculum and succeed.
  6. Communicating with parents about the progress of their child.
  7. Holding annual meetings with parents, administrators, and other stakeholders to evaluate and modify each students’ IEP as needed.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (8)

Additionally, there are a few general skills and personality types that often transfer to being successful as a special education teacher. These include:

  1. Patience
  2. Organization
  3. Acceptance
  4. Resourcefulness
  5. Creativity
  6. Flexibility
  7. Enthusiasm
  8. Calming nature
  9. Strong communication skills

6 Steps to Becoming a Special Education Teacher

Ready to learn the steps for how to become a special education teacher ? Remember, as I mentioned above, every state has its own regulations, so be sure to check with those too.

(Video) Advice for teaching pupils with Special Educational Needs - Teach First

Here are the general steps to follow to get hired as a special education teacher :

1. Complete Coursework for Your Bachelor’s Degree

The first thing you’ll need to do is earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Depending on what is offered at the school you choose, some bachelor’s degree options to consider include elementary education, special education, general education, or a specific subject you’d like to specialize in, like science or math.Many states and districts also require individuals to complete a master’s degree before working as a special education teacher. Look into the requirements in your state to confirm whether this will be necessary before applying for jobs.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (9)

2. Complete Student Teaching or Education Internship

In many cases, a student teaching practicum will be part of the required coursework before graduating with your bachelor’s degree. However, in some cases, you may need to complete a separate education internship if one is not included in your studies.During your internship, you’ll gain invaluable practice and support with real students. Be sure to record yourself teaching at the beginning of your internship and at the end so you can see your growth.

3. Obtain Certification from the State

Once you’ve received your bachelor’s degree (and possibly master’s degree), you will need to complete any other requirements set forth by the state before obtaining certification. In many cases, this will require passing specific exams determined by the state.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (10)

4. Decide on Your Desired Position

Evaluate what type of position you are looking to get hired for. Would you like to teach a class of your own with all special education students, or would you prefer to work for a school where you’ll support special education students within a general education classroom?

5. Interview for Positions Until Hired

I’ll go into a bit more detail for this step below, but the next thing you’ll need to do to become a special education teacher is to schedule plenty of interviews until the right position comes along.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: 6 Steps You Should Take (11)

6. Be a Life-Long Learner

In order to keep your license as a special education teacher current, you will need to take continuing education courses. If you were not required to obtain a master’s degree before starting your position as a special education teacher, now may also be the right time to enroll in a master’s program.

Have a bachelor’s degree? Interested in becoming a K-12th Special Education Teacher at Las Cruces Public Schools 🏫! Become a Licensed Teacher through the THRIVE Program at NMSU!

— Dr. Miguel Angel Serrano (@MASerrano20) August 14, 2021

(Video) 7 Steps In An IEP Process | Special Education Decoded

Useful Recourses:

Closing Words

Becoming a special education teacher will take some hard work and dedication. However, in the end, it will all be worth it when you get to make such a huge impact in the lives of your students.

Did I answer your questions about how to become a special education teacher? What grade levels do you think you’d like to support once you receive your certification as a special educator?

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Simona Johnes

Simona Johnes is the visionary being the creation of our project. Johnes spent much of her career in the classroom working with students. And, after many years in the classroom, Johnes became a principal.

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What hard skills do you need to be a special education teacher? ›

The Qualities of a Special Ed Teacher – What it Takes to be Great
  • Adaptability. Classrooms can be unpredictable. ...
  • Collaboration. ...
  • Communication skills. ...
  • Compassion. ...
  • Devotion to improvement. ...
  • Assessment skills. ...
  • Knowledge of theory and practice. ...
  • Listening skills.
Aug 17, 2018

What is the key to being a great special education teacher? ›

A good special education teacher needs to be patient and understand her students better to help them learn. Acceptance : Special education teachers work with disabled students with various problems. Irrespective of the issues, these professionals must accept all the children and interact with love and respect.

What are the 3 important components that make up special education? ›

That's three separate, distinct, and critical elements–special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services–and each is worthy of a book on its own. Don't worry!

What are the steps to being a good teacher? ›

Some qualities of a good teacher include skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

What are the 3 most important roles of a special education teacher? ›

Special education teachers typically do the following: Assess students' skills and determine their educational needs. Adapt general lessons to meet students' needs. Develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student.

Is it hard to be a sped teacher? ›

Working as a special education teacher still comes with a unique set of challenges. These educators often face stressful situations with students who live with emotional or behavioral disabilities. They may also work with various grade levels and standards, plus struggle to secure resources.

Why do you want to be a special education teacher answer? ›

It may be because you have a child or other family member who has special needs. It may be because you love working with children and want to take on the challenges that come with ensuring special education students have their educational needs met.

What makes a special education teacher unique? ›

An important quality a special education teacher must possess is creativity. All students have different learning styles. Some are audio learners, while others may be visual or kinesthetic learners. Teachers must have the ability to adapt their lessons in a way that it plays to each child's strengths.

Which skill is most important in teaching inclusive education? ›

The findings of the study showed that the most important skills that should be acquired in inclusive classes are self-acquaintance, communication, and empathy. Keywords: Inclusive education, empathic skill, students with special needs.

What are the six pillars of special education? ›

Key to the legislation are six pillars that ensure a child's education needs and progress are met with:
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP). ...
  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). ...
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). ...
  • Appropriate Evaluation. ...
  • Parent and Teacher Participation. ...
  • Procedural Safeguards.

What are the four goals of special education? ›

The framework regards academic goals as the means for achieving other outcomes, namely the four outcomes that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) declared: equality of opportunity, full par- ticipation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.

What are the 7 special factors that must be considered in the development of any IEP? ›

The special factors are:
  • Behavior (Keep scrolling)
  • Limited English proficiency.
  • Blindness or visual impairment.
  • Communication needs/Deafness.
  • Assistive technology.

What are the 5 qualities of a good teacher? ›

top 5 qualities and characteristics of a good teacher.
  • Patient and approachable. They say that 'patience is a virtue', and this couldn't be more true for teachers. ...
  • Enthusiastic. ...
  • Strong communication skills. ...
  • Strong knowledge and a solid education. ...
  • Disciplined and professional.
Mar 1, 2022

What are the seven key roles for teachers? ›

The primary roles of a teacher are:
  • Providing mentorship. ...
  • Inspiring learners. ...
  • Nurturing healthy curiosity in learners. ...
  • Creating meaningful learning experiences. ...
  • Leveraging technology to support learning. ...
  • Mediating and liaising. ...
  • Researching learning strategies.

What are the three types of special education interventions? ›

What Is Intervention in Education?
  • Proactive: Deals with areas of need before they become a larger obstacle to education.
  • Intentional: Specifically addresses an observed weakness.
  • Formal: Uses targeted methods for addressing specific needs and tracks progress.
Oct 15, 2019

What is the role of special education teacher in inclusion? ›

The inclusion teacher focus is on scaffolding activities and differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all students, not just the special education students. Provide direct support to students in a classroom by delivering instruction and ensuring learning through a variety of co-teaching models and strategies.

What state pays sped teachers the most? ›

Highest-Paid Special Education Teachers By State
RankStateAverage Special Education Teacher Salary
4New York$63,837
46 more rows
Apr 17, 2023

What IQ do you need to be sped? ›

An IQ score of 65–75 is the criterion for the diagnosis of an intellectual disability, and further assessments by a clinician are recommended to determine severity level.

What is the hardest year of teaching? ›

The first year of teaching is the hardest. While being an educator is never without its struggles, the first year is by far the most challenging — pieced together with idealism, confusion, good intentions, excitement, fear, and expectations.

What do you say in a special education interview? ›

Describe a time you encountered a major challenge at work, and what you did to overcome that. Tell us about how you include parents and support staff in the educational process. Describe the most difficult student you've ever worked with and why. How did you work with them to succeed?

Why should we hire you? ›

“I should be hired for this role because of my relevant skills, experience, and passion for the industry. I've researched the company and can add value to its growth. My positive attitude, work ethics, and long-term goals align with the job requirements, making me a committed and valuable asset to the company.”

What to ask at the end of a teacher interview? ›

You may ask how the faculty interacts with each other and with the students. Ask about the goals of the school and the challenges it faces. You may also prompt the interviewer to describe a typical day in the school or some special events that are held throughout the year.

What are the disadvantages of being a special education teacher? ›

Special education teachers frequently face exceptionally upsetting days. They often experience more than one issue or struggle a day. Since they work with students with physical and behavioral disabilities, special education teachers might confront students' outbursts, fits of rage, and any other wild way of behaving.

What is another name for a special education teacher? ›

Special education teachers might also be called inclusive education teachers or learning support teachers.

What are the pros and cons of special education teaching? ›

Pros Students receive a specialized approach to their education. Cons There's a potential for students to experience stigma. Pros Students receive access to resources they otherwise wouldn't have. Cons Integration of special education students and general education students may not work for all needs.

How do you create an inclusive classroom in special education? ›

Making Classrooms Inclusive for Special Needs
  1. Review Individual Education Plans. ...
  2. Create a Safe Space. ...
  3. Consider How Students Interact With Their Environment. ...
  4. Differentiate Instruction. ...
  5. Rely on Your Fellow Teachers.

What are the different types of inclusion in special education? ›

Inclusion in education means that all students receive equal access to education. The three main models to include students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms are full inclusion, partial inclusion, and mainstreaming.

What are some teaching strategies that can be used in an inclusive classroom? ›

Provide a safe space (physically and emotionally)
  • Provide a sensitive environment.
  • Provide encouragement and guide learning.
  • Provide a quiet area.
  • Express positive regard and support.
  • Facilitate student voice, autonomy and independence.
  • Set clear classroom expectations.

What are the seven C's of special education? ›

The seven skills are: • Collaboration • Communication • Creativity • Critical Thinking • Character • Citizenship • Computational Thinking If we believe our work as teachers is mainly to prepare students for successful futures, then we should give opportunities for students to strengthen these skills.

What are the 6 principles of learning in education? ›

Principles of learning include readiness, exercise, effect, primacy, recency, intensity and freedom. Readiness implies a degree of willingness and eagerness of an individual to learn something new. Exercise states that those things most often repeated are best remembered.

What is one difference between the IFSP and the IEP? ›

The major difference between an IFSP and an IEP is that an IFSP focuses on the child and family and the services that a family needs to help them enhance the development of their child. The IEP focuses on the educational needs of the child.

What are the 4 main parts of an IEP? ›

According to the IDEA, an IEP must contain:
  • 1 – The Student's Current Educational Status. ...
  • 2 – Measurable Annual Goals. ...
  • 3- A Description of How the Child's Progress on Annual Goals Will Be Measured. ...
  • 4 – A Statement of the Special Education and Related Services and Supplementary Aids and Services.
Jun 24, 2022

What are IEP special Ed goals? ›

IEP goals should enable the child to learn the basic skills that are necessary for thechild to be independent and self-sufficient. These basic skills include: Communication skills. Social skills and the ability to interact with others.

What are smart goals for IEP? ›

For kids to get the most out of an IEP, the goals shouldn't be vague or general. Instead, they should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound.

What are the 5 components of the IEP in order? ›

The Components of an Individualized Education Program
  • Current Performance. In IEP terms, your child's current performance is called the “Present Level of Performance” or PLOP. ...
  • Goals. ...
  • Assessment. ...
  • Services. ...
  • Transition. ...
  • Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) and Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) ...
  • Placement.
Jul 1, 2020

What are the 5 key elements of learning to read and implement an IEP? ›

Here are five key things to be on the lookout for when you read an IEP and how they apply to your classroom.
  • Present level of performance. ...
  • Annual goals. ...
  • Special education and related services. ...
  • Supplementary aids, services, modifications, and/or supports. ...
  • Notes and considerations — including special factors.

What are the 6 qualities of a good teacher? ›

These six qualities are pervasive in teachers who have not only stuck it out, but who continue to thrive year after year.
  • Sense of Humor. ...
  • Intrinsic Motivation. ...
  • Flexibility. ...
  • Gratitude. ...
  • Persistent and Consistent. ...
  • Belief in All Children.

How do you motivate students? ›

Tips On How To Motivate Your Students
  1. Become a role model for student interest. ...
  2. Get to know your students. ...
  3. Use examples freely. ...
  4. Use a variety of student-active teaching activities. ...
  5. Set realistic performance goals. ...
  6. Place appropriate emphasis on testing and grading. ...
  7. Be free with praise and constructive in criticism.

What is most important for a teacher? ›

One of the most important parts of teaching is having dedication. Teachers not only listen, but also coach and mentor their students. They are able to help shape academic goals and are dedicated to getting their students to achieve them.

What are the 4 C's of teachers? ›

Long heralded as key competencies for 21st-century learners, the ”Four Cs” (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration) are often embraced in theory yet stump educators in practice.

What are the 4 C's teachers must possess? ›

The 4Cs: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration in Schools.

What are the three 3 characteristics of effective teachers? ›

The three characteristics discussed include nonverbal communication, teacher self-efficacy, and servant leadership.

What is the 7 step teaching process? ›

The seven steps are: (1) Reading and/or listening to a story; (2) Defining and visualizing words; (3) Identifying parts of speech; (4) Categorizing words; (5) Completing cloze activities; (6) Producing a skit or creating a visual; and (7) Playing a word game with new words.

What are 3 steps in becoming a teacher? ›

Here are the general steps (in most states) to get a teaching certification or license: Obtain a relevant bachelor's degree. Complete a district- or state-approved teacher preparation program. Pass required exams in the school district and/or state (like the Praxis).

What are the basic steps of teaching? ›

Teaching involves a basic three step process: preparation, delivery, and evaluation.
  • Preparation. Preparation involves activities associated with determining learning outcomes (objectives), researching the topic, lesson planning, and selection of delivery methodologies. ...
  • Delivery. ...
  • Evaluation.

What are hard skills vs soft skills for teachers? ›

Soft skills are those skills that come naturally and uniquely to everyone. Soft skills include leadership, effective communication, teamwork, time management, motivation and adaptability. On the other hand, hard skills are those that are gained through hands-on experience, training, or education.

What are hard skills and soft skills in teaching? ›

Hard skills are technical knowledge or training that you have gained through any life experience, including in your career or education. Soft skills are personal habits and traits that shape how you work, on your own and with others.

What is the most difficult skill to teach? ›

With listening skills usually requiring a considerably long period of time to acquire, normally involving the student experiencing a variety of emotions ranging from depression and frustration through to exhilaration and pride, teaching listening skills is one of the most difficult tasks that a teacher faces.

What are hard education skills? ›

Hard skills are objective, quantifiable skills gained through training, school, or work experiences. Hard skills are often usually something that can be taught or learned. For that reason, hard skills can typically be easily proven — you either know how to write code, or you don't.

What are 3 types of hard skills? ›

Types of Hard Skills
  • Computer software knowledge.
  • Graphic design.
  • Data analysis.
  • Project management.
  • Marketing.
  • Copywriting.
  • Computer programming.
  • Foreign languages.

What are 3 hard skills and 3 soft skills? ›

List of hard and soft skills
Hard skillsSoft skills
Programming skillsCritical thinking
Social Media MarketingCreative thinking
BookkeepingWork ethic
Spoken languagesCollaboration
49 more rows
Nov 27, 2021

What are 7 soft skills? ›

Soft skills are just as essential as hard skills for tech professionals. The right personality traits can help you excel at work. Highly valued soft skills include communication, time management, network building, empathy, critical thinking, being proactive and self-awareness.

What are the top three soft skills? ›

Companies have identified the following competencies as key to the success of young workers in the 21st century workplace.
  • Networking. ...
  • Enthusiasm. ...
  • Professionalism. ...
  • Communication Skills. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking. ...
  • Resources.

What are some hard skills that teachers need? ›

10 teacher skills to add to your resume
  • Critical thinking. With strong critical thinking skills, teachers are able to consider the best interests of the students while also working within their institution's goals and standards. ...
  • Patience. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Organization. ...
  • Imaginative thinking. ...
  • Leadership. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Time management.
Mar 30, 2023

What is the easiest class to teach? ›

10 Easiest Subjects to Teach
  • Physical Education. ...
  • Art. ...
  • Music. ...
  • Science. ...
  • Health. ...
  • Spelling. ...
  • History. There are several reasons why history is the easiest subject to teach to students. ...
  • Cooking. Cooking is an easy subject to teach to students for a number of reasons.

What is the most difficult task for a teacher? ›

10 Challenges Of Teaching & How To Overcome Them
  1. Understanding the different learning challenges amongst students. ...
  2. Student family problems & bullying. ...
  3. Lack of funding. ...
  4. Lack of effective communication. ...
  5. Being encouraging and motivating under challenging times. ...
  6. Disciplining students. ...
  7. Endless paperwork & extended working hours.

What is the most easiest skill to learn? ›

Below, a few easy-to-learn skills that are sure to impress everyone.
  • Moonwalk. MihranTV. ...
  • Twirl A Pen. SAMTIME. ...
  • Tell Great Stories. Some folks tell stories that captivate the entire room, regardless of the topic. ...
  • Tie A Tie. ...
  • Juggle. ...
  • Play The Piano.
Jan 25, 2022

What are the 4 skills in education? ›

What are learning skills? The 21st century learning skills are often called the 4 C's: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and so they are vital to success in school and beyond.

How can I improve my soft skills? ›

How to improve your soft skills
  1. Be open to feedback. ...
  2. Communicate often. ...
  3. Emphasize teamwork. ...
  4. Build positive relationships. ...
  5. Get outside of your comfort zone. ...
  6. Get ready to learn. ...
  7. Adapt to workplace changes. ...
  8. Observe others.
Feb 3, 2023


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