Patricia Cegelka was a pioneer in the preparation of special education teachers in California and the nation. She was dedicated to the improvement of programs and services for students with disabilities and worked tirelessly to secure funding to advance research in best practices and standards for special education.
Cegelka, a professor and chair of the department of Special Education at San Diego State University, was a gifted writer. She published numerous professional publications, but her most extraordinary talent was as a grant writer. She was the project director and principal investigator on more than 24 federal or state funded grants totaling in the millions of dollars. Cegelka was an evaluator on grant programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs and other agencies.
The grants secured by Cegelka focused specifically on special education teacher training, including research in retention and attrition and minority teacher recruitment and preparation. Her work facilitated the development of internship credential programs that have served more than 23 school districts in Southern California. Other grants addressed the development of a master’s degree program in special education for general education teachers. These programs were based on partnerships Cegelka developed with San Diego Unified School District, Sweetwater Union School District and the Imperial Valley County Department of Education.
Cegelka developed a bilingual special education partnership with San Diego Unified School District that supported more than 40 bilingual professionals in the 1990s. Several versions of a literacy development grant she wrote supported more than 200 Education Specialists for more than ten years. In Imperial County, her grants directly contributed to full certification in special education for more than 60 percent of all special education teachers.
As a member of several state and national commissions and task forces, Cegelka had a direct impact on policy and practice in teacher education. She was a member of the State Improvement Grant leadership team for special education in higher education. As a member of the California Department of Education Commission on Teacher Credentialing task force, she helped develop the interface between the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program and special education. Her work on these committees included creating the Program Standards for Special Education Teacher Preparation Programs and structuring a five year plan for preparation and recruitment of Special Educators in California. Cegelka served as president and member of the executive committee of the California Association of Private Special Education Schools. She was a member of the California Commission on Teacher Policy Forum on Teacher Preparation, Induction and Development for the 21st Century.
Cegelka earned a doctorate in special education at the University of Kansas. At San Diego State University she served as department chair three times, for a total of 13 years. Cegelka also served as associate dean for the College of Education from 1986-1988. As emeritus professor after her 2004 retirement, Cegelka continued to work as a principal investigator and project director of grant-funded projects until her death in 2010. She was the force behind the preparation of more than 1,000 special education teachers in San Diego and Imperial counties, in turn positively impacting thousands of individuals with disabilities and their families throughout the area.