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Exercise & Sport Science

Adapted Physical Education Teaching License

Boy plays on slide in the pool during the motor development program.
Boy plays baseball with university student.

Welcome! You made an excellent choice to inquire about Adapted Physical Education (APE) teacher preparation program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. We encourage you to explore our website to learn more about our  programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The APE programs are housed within the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, in the College of Science and Health and are affiliated with the School of Education.  Our nationally- and internationally-known APE programs deal with all aspects of physical education and physical activity for individuals with a wide array of disabilities at all age levels.  We hope you become part of this exciting, growing, and rewarding teaching profession.

The UWL APE program includes courses and community outreach programs that contribute to the academic mission of the university and school of education. The APE program includes undergraduate APE Teaching CoursesMasters Emphasis in APE, and the Center on Disability Health and Adapted Physical Activity Programs.

If you would like more information about any of our academic or community service programs, please use the contact information below.

Dr. Brock McMullen

Adapted Physical Education Programs

158 Mitchell Hall


Two Adapted Physical Education Minor students play ball with two girls with disabilities.
Adapted Physical Education Teaching Minor plays with a child with a disability in the gym.
Two Adapted Physical Education Teaching Minors help a boy in the pool.

Adapted Physical Education Teaching 

Students majoring in Physical Education Teaching will also enroll in Adapted Physical Education classes as part of their course of study. Comprehensive evidence-based coursework and practicum/clinical experiences, including APE student teaching, prepare PK-12 teachers to plan, implement, and evaluate specially designed instruction for students with disabilities in physical education. This allows each graduating student to be best prepared for the classroom setting and emphasizes best practice teaching for students with or without disabilities. 

Students are encouraged to regularly visit the Wisconsin Education Career Access Network (WeCan) website to see how many school districts require the 860 add-on license for their teachers.

Coursework includes:

ESS 231  Introduction to Adapted Physical Education (3 cr.)

ESS 232  Adapted Lifetime Recreation and Sport (2 cr.)

ESS 331  Disability and Physical Activity Implications (2 cr.)

ESS 431 Fitness Programming for Persons with Disabilities (1 cr.)

ESS 436  Assessment in Adapted Physical Education (2 cr.)

ESS 437  Teaching and Service Delivery Models in APE (3 cr.)

ESS 439  Teaching and Leadership in APE (3 cr.)

Students who successfully complete these courses are eligible for the Wisconsin add-on license in Adapted Physical Education (WIEC-A #860). Graduates of the program are primarily employed by school districts as adapted and/or general physical education teachers. 


  • Teaching at early childhood, elementary, middle and secondary levels
  • Serving as an itinerant or traveling APE teacher at many buildings within a school district
  • Collaborating with special education and related service personnel in many educational environments
  • Consulting with general physical educators and special education staff
  • Assessing physical fitness and gross motor development for IEP planning
  • Teaching students with disabilities in one-on-one and small or large group classes
  • Teaching in inclusive settings while assisting general physical education teachers
  • Preparing paraprofessionals to assist with physical education instruction
  • Transitioning students from school-based to community instruction leading to healthy and active lifestyles
  • Designing and monitoring measurable IEP goals and objectives
  • Participating as a collaborative IEP team member
  • Using instructional technology in adapted physical education

Graduates of this program teach in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and throughout the nation. Advanced graduate studies in APE is an option after this program.

Two University Students lift weights with a boy with a disability.
Two Adapted Physical Education Teaching Minors help a girl on a tricycle.
Adapted Physical Education Minor smiles with a child.
Adapted Physical Education Teaching Minor works out with girl with a disability.

School districts in all states seek to hire teachers who possess a range of skills, knowledge, and dispositions to best educate all learners, including students with special education needs. The more credentials or licenses teachers hold, the more flexibility and opportunities they have for employment in PK-12 schools. The Wisconsin 860 add-on teaching license in adapted physical education (APE) is an example of a credential that prepares future educators to offer school districts expertise and experience beyond a typical or common teaching certification. The Q & A below provides information about the UW-La Crosse APE courses that lead to Wisconsin 860 add-on teaching license in APE. Further questions can be directed to Dr. Brock McMullen ( or Abbie Wagner (


1.  What is Adapted Physical Education?

  • One of the most popular, meaningful, and career-determining teaching courses completed by physical education teacher candidates.
  • Courses and hands-on clinical experiences to prepare physical education teachers to plan, implement, and evaluate instruction for students with disabilities in adapted physical education.
  • Coursework and hands-on clinical experiences to prepare physical education teacher candidates for inclusive classrooms in regular instructional environments.
  • An exciting, rewarding, and fun experience at UWL where you meet many new friends, professors, and important school-based professional contacts for future teaching jobs.
  • Includes experiences in school-based adapted sport programs for future coaching and leadership.
  • A highly regarded teacher preparation program leading to the additional Wisconsin Adapted Physical Education teaching license (refer to question #3 below).

2.  Why is APE included in my coursework?

  • To acquire enhanced teaching knowledge and practical skills necessary for contemporary educational practices.
  • To further develop your teaching and advocacy skills to meet the needs of ALL students in your future physical education classes and extracurricular sport programs. 
  • Successful completion of the APE teaching courses leads to attainment of the important Wisconsin 860 add-on teaching license in adapted physical education. See page 172 at Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction 
  • A majority of the K-12 physical education jobs advertised in Wisconsin include a qualification statement that either requires or prefers the APE add-on teaching license.      
  • To provide quality instruction for all students regardless of ability in commonly used inclusive practices.
  • School districts need and desire physical education teachers with adapted physical education background and state licensure. UWL is notified frequently about these jobs.

3.  What is the Wisconsin 860 APE add-on teaching license?

  • An additional teaching license that signifies "highly qualified" teacher status for competency in adapted physical education for special education students in PK-12 schools.
  • Wisconsin is one of only 14 states with a separate add-on teaching license in adapted physical education.  School districts seek teachers with multiple licenses for qualified and flexible staffing.
  • Minnesota PE teachers can also pursue an APE add-on license.  The WI APE add-on meets most of the MN requirements. We regularly have UWL graduates hired in MN as APE teachers.
  • The Wisconsin 860 APE add-on teaching license is highly regarded throughout the country by other state education agencies and school districts.

4.  Do I need prior experience teaching persons with disabilities?

  • No prior experience teaching or working with persons with disabilities is necessary. 
  • The coursework provides future teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to teach persons with disabilities using a variety of physical education methods and interventions.
  • The courses provide a variety of sport, aquatics, physical fitness, motor development, and other physical activities to prepare future teachers for general and adapted physical education.
  • Hands-on experiences take place on campus, at areas schools, and in other community-based locations.
  • The APE teaching courses rely on hands-on experiences in order to help teacher candidates obtain confidence and mastery of teaching skills.
  • Numerous UWL programs such as the Physical Activity Mentoring Program for Persons with Disabilities are available to gain practical experiences
Two Adapted Physical Education Teaching Minors play with a girl with a disibility.
Two University Students play in the pool with a girl with a disability.

5.  What are the ages and disabilities of students that an APE teacher works with?

  • An exciting aspect of teaching APE is your work with students ranging from preschool to young adults (ages 3-21). State and federal education laws require this age range for services in physical education.
  • Persons with APE teaching assignments may work with students who have all types and severities of disabilities, including physical, cognitive, behavioral, and sensory.
  • APE teaching courses and clinical experiences prepare you to teach ALL students to benefit from and enjoy physical activity.

6.  Will I student teach in adapted physical education as part of the APE coursework?

  • Yes, an exciting culminating experience is the mentoring you will receive during student teaching by a state licensed APE professional.
  • This APE student teaching does NOT add time to your student teaching and is completed at the same time as regular student teaching (for your 530 general physical education teaching license).
  • Approximately 25% of your student teaching, depending on the placement, will be in an adapted physical education setting with mentoring from an APE professional.

7.  Will the APE Teaching License make me more marketable in the profession?

  • Absolutely.  We find that a majority of the physical education teaching jobs advertised in Wisconsin include a qualification statement that either requires or prefers the APE add-on teaching license. 
Two Physical Education Teaching Minors raise their hands to celebrate with a child with a disability.
Two Adapted Physical Education Teaching Minors and a child with a disability hold their balls above their heads and smile.

8.  What types of teaching situations or jobs do persons attain?

  • A wide variety of jobs are possible in schools based on student enrollment, number of schools in the district, size of the special education program, staffing needs, and other factors.
  • Many districts employ professionals who teach APE full-time (100% of their job).
  • Full-time APE teachers will work with children and assist general physical education teachers as consultants for students with disabilities who may be included in general education classes.
  • Full-time employment will often include part-time teaching responsibilities in APE (could be percentages ranging from 20-75% depending on school building or district needs).
  • Percentages of APE teaching load will vary from district to district based on student populations, needs in the district, numbers and qualifications of teachers, and other factors.

9.  Will WI 860 APE add-on teaching license from UWL transfer to other states?

  • We regularly have students accept APE teaching jobs in Minnesota and other states (Utah, Illinois, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, North Carolina, Florida, Alaska, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, New York etc.).
  • Some states may request additional materials to meet unique state requirements.

10.  Can I attain the WI 860 APE add-on teaching license after I complete my undergraduate degree with general physical education license (530?)?

  • Yes, a student who already has a bachelor's degree and physical education teaching license (530) may earn the WI 860 APE add-on teaching license in either one of two graduate options at UWL.
  • A teacher with a 530 general PE license may earn the WI 860 license through the summer-only graduate APE certification program.
  • A teacher with a 530 general PE license may also earn the WI 860 license through the full- or part-time master's degree program in Physical Education Teaching.

11.  Are there graduate school opportunities in adapted physical education at the master's and doctoral degrees levels?

  • Yes, many students pursue graduate level work in APE after graduation from UW-La Crosse.
  • UWL serves as a feeder school to many federally funded graduate programs in APE throughout the country (these programs have scholarships and financial assistance for qualified students).
  • Past UWL students have pursued master's level work at:  SUNY Brockport, University of Virginia, Oregon State University, University of Utah, etc.
  • Our graduates have pursued doctoral level study at:  The Ohio State University, Texas Woman's University, Oregon State University, California State University at Chico, University of Alabama, Arizona State University, the University of Utah, etc.
  • UWL faculty personally and professionally know directors of these programs and can facilitate important connections and admissions process conversations for qualified UWL graduates.

12.  What makes the UWL APE program unique?

  • We are part of Center of Excellence designated for the Department of Exercise and Sport Science by the Universities of Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin is 1 of 14 states that possesses a separate teaching license in APE.
  • UWL has two faculty members contributing to this comprehensive APE teacher preparation program.
  • APE teacher preparation is closely affiliated with the Center on Disability Health and Adapted Physical Activity. The Center provides numerous opportunities for professional development, community service, research, and networking connections for future endeavors.
  • Excellent state, national, and international reputations for APE teacher preparation.
  • Comprehensive program based on theory and best practices, and accompanied by numerous supervised service-learning experiences in the real-world.
  • Relationships with numerous disability related organizations and community agencies that provide future teacher candidates with relevant professional experiences.
  • Network of experienced APE teachers and special education related service professionals that work with our students (i.e., physical and occupational therapists).
  • Supported by interdisciplinary faculty and staff from the Departments of Exercise and Sport Science, Special Education, Therapeutic Recreation, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, and other disability related programs.

13.  Are there other types of non-teaching jobs for APE teaching minors?

  • Students completing the APE teaching minor find employment in positions besides school districts.
  • Sport organizations such as the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (, Lakeshore Foundation (, and many others hire APE graduates.
  • Inclusion Specialists at YMCAs, community centers, and Parks/Recreation agencies.
  • U.S. Paralympics (
  • American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (
  • Adaptive Adventure Programs ( ).
  • Residential, summer, and other types of camps and treatment facilities.


A group of Adapted Physical Education Teaching Minors and children with disabilities pose for a picture in the pool.