Above, Kerrie Egerton coordinates services for special-needs students at Los Angeles High School.

Kerrie Egerton has secured a $25,000 grant to support L.A. High’s transition to full inclusion for students with disabilities.

Teacher and Substitute Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11, and LAUSD Daily is celebrating the classroom heroes who work every day to educate, lead, mentor and inspire the students of L.A. Unified. Each day this week, we are profiling a teacher or substitute teacher selected by their Local District administrators as an example of the highly skilled and dedicated professionals who make up our teaching corps. Today, we feature Kerrie Egerton, a special-education coordinator at Los Angeles High School.

Kerrie Egerton was an 11-year-old student enrolled in Catholic school in the north of England when she set her sights on becoming a teacher.

At the time, she thought she might teach English or religious studies – subjects that sparked her interest, enlivened her imagination and sharpened her critical-thinking skills. And those were the courses she pursued in college, still with a dream of following in her own teachers’ footsteps. Then she took a course in teaching students with disabilities – the only such program offered in her native country – and it changed the direction of her career path and the vision of the educator she wanted to become.

Egerton earned a special credential and for two years taught English to special-needs youngsters in England. She and her late husband moved to Southern California in 2005, when he got an offer to design videogames here. Egerton herself was hired as a special-education teacher at Los Angeles High School, a job she held for seven years. Based on her success in the classroom, she was persuaded by the principal to become the coordinator overseeing services for L.A. High’s 210 special-needs students.

“I think it’s the most rewarding job in terms of education,” she said. “You are dealing with students who are struggling, may be already behind, and you’re taking them to a level they never thought they would be.”

Earlier this year, Egerton secured a $25,000 grant that will allow L.A. High to gradually integrate special-needs students into general education classes. She is also working to improve services for students with moderate to severe disabilities and to expand the supports for their parents, many of whom find their way to L.A. High from schools outside the district.

“We have students who have autism and who are non-verbal, and these are the kids who need the most help,” she said. “It’s just great to help these kids and their parents, to make sure they all get what they need.”

Under Egerton’s leadership, L.A. High has increased the number of students in its alternate curriculum program, in which special-needs students earn a certificate rather than a diploma.

“Seeing my kids graduate,” she said. “There is nothing better than watching them walk across the stage….”