School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Christine Saba


special education attrition, burnout, protective factors, phenomenology, veteran special education teachers, social network theory


Education | Special Education and Teaching


This phenomenological study aimed to examine and describe the experiences of veteran special education (SPED) teachers in rural southwest Georgia school districts regarding their collaborative community network experiences within the field. Granovetter’s (1973) social network theory (SNT) encompasses critical concepts of belongingness and connection about job satisfaction over time and throughout educational contexts and guided this study. A phenomenological approach involving teacher interviews, a focus group, and journal prompts was used to examine the experiences of SPED teachers on their social networks. Eleven veteran SPED teachers were interviewed using open-ended interview scripts developed to target the central research question. Convenience snowball sampling was used to find participants in the southwest Georgia region. Interview transcripts were analyzed using an open-coding approach to identify themes. Triangulation was employed across interviews, focus groups, and journal prompts. Five themes arose: (1) iron-sharpens-iron, (2) interpersonal relationships, (3) cohesion, (4) fight or flight, and (5) anchors. Each theme aligned with the study’s guiding central and subquestions and offered qualitative insight into the condition of SPED community networks in southwest Georgia.