Support all individuals with diverse learning abilities and behavioral needs with Northern's online master's degree in special education, with optional specialization in visual impairment.

    About The Program

    Format: Online or On Campus


    Enhance your educator preparation to support people with diverse learning abilities and behavioral needs with Northern's master’s degree in special education, offered online and on campus. This graduate program is designed for:

    • Current special education teachers who wish to advance their knowledge in their field as generalist special education teachers or teachers of students with visual impairments
    • Current K-12 general classroom teachers who'd like to pivot to special education and diversify their skills
    • Teachers responding to the market demand for special education teachers and teachers of students with visual impairments


    Visual Impairment Specialization

    Educators - including special educators - who already have state licensure can select the master’s degree program or the master’s degree with specialization in visual impairments to expand their ability to serve students with disabilities.


    Northern has a longtime partnership with the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which is located in a brand-new building right next to campus in Aberdeen. 


    Northern is one of only three universities in the nation to include a practicum in a school for the blind and visually impaired – and the only university with a school of the blind and visually impaired within the bounds of its campus. The visual impairment specialization will prepare you to become a teacher of the visually impaired. 



    Start your master's degree early! Northern's undergraduate special education majors can start the master’s during their senior or final year through an accelerated program, taking up to 12 credits in the master’s at the 500 level instead of the 400 level. 


    Special Education Handbook


    Students must complete practicum requirements during the program. Students in the Visual Impairment Specialization will have the opportunity to complete their experiences in the new state-of-the-art SDSBVI on the NSU campus. Practicums can be arranged locally or remotely.


    For more information about internship options in this program, email

    Contact Information

    For more information about this program, offered online and on campus, please contact Dr. Cheryl Wold, program graduate coordinator; or call the Graduate Studies Office at 605-626-2558.

    Natasha Opp

    M.S. Ed. Special Education, University of North Dakota, 2023

    B.S. Ed. Special education, Northern State University, 2016

    Natasha Opp joined NSU’s faculty in the fall of 2023 as a special education instructor. Before returning to Northern, she taught special education for seven years in the Watertown and Webster school districts. She has experience in self-contained, resource room, and inclusive settings for pre-K to sixth-grade students.

    Opp is involved in several NSU School of Education-related organizations, including the Council for Exceptional Children, the Association for the Education of Young Children, and the South Dakota Education Association, and is passionate about bringing hands-on experiences into her classrooms.

    Courses Taught

    SPED 100 - Introduction to Persons with Exceptionalities

    SPED 210 - Teaching Students with Exceptionalities

    SPED 431 - Identification and Assessment in Special Education

    Cheryl Wold
    Ph.D., University of North Dakota
    M.S.Ed., Northern Illinois University
    B.S.Ed., Northern State University
    Dr. Cheryl Wold joined NSU's faculty in 2013. She received a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, her M.S.Ed. degree in Special Education/Learning Disabilities from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Ill., and B.S.Ed. degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education from NSU. Dr. Wold was a special education teacher for 17 years; Title I reading and math teacher for seven years; and a director of special education for eight years.
    Dr. Wold is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE), and the Teacher Education Division of CEC (TED). She has served as South Dakota CEC president and past president and is currently the membership chair. At the national level of CEC, she…