Erik Winston earned his Education Specialist Credential for Mild/Moderate Disabilities through the LMU School of Education in 2010 and currently serves as an Education Specialist/Full Inclusion Teacher at Community Health Advocates School - Augustus Hawkins High School in LAUSD. Born in Los Angeles to a family of native Angelenos who believed strongly in the importance of education as a tool of social justice, Erik grew up with numerous relatives who attended or worked at the university and even visited campus himself as a participant in several LMU scholastic events. As an experienced educator searching for a Credential program in Special Education years later, the LMU School of Education was at the top of his list. Today, Erik credits the LMU School of Education with making a major impact on his career. In reflecting on his time as a student, Erik says "One word, which comes to mind, is transformative."
Erik admits he was not entirely sure what there was for him to learn upon entering the Special Education program in 2008. He had already spent a decade working in both general education and special education, including work with LAUSD and as an education equity advocate and consultant providing academic support for at-risk youth such as those who are in foster care, homeless, incarcerated, and with identified social & emotional challenges. With so much experience behind him, he wondered what sort of challenge LMU could offer. To his pleasant surprise he discovered he had much more to gain from the program than he initially expected. Erik says "The quality and rigor of the instruction coupled with the ongoing support I received, not only as a student but also now as an alum, truly helped change the way I see myself as an educator and advocate for educational equity in our schools and society."
Since completing the program, Erik has used the learning he gained at LMU to expand his commitment toward supporting those with the greatest educational challenges. After over a decade of teaching for LAUSD, Erik has most recently begun working at one of the district's only full inclusion high school campuses, the Community Health Advocates School at Augustus Hawkins High School in South Los Angeles. At this school, all students, regardless of ability, are completely integrated into the institution's academic and social life. As a full inclusion teacher, Erik works cooperatively with the general education teachers to jointly plan lessons, lead instruction, and assess student growth. In this role, as well as his independent work as an advocate and consultant for educational equity for students, Erik says he has been able to thrive, in large part, because of the training he received from the LMU School of Education. Beyond the instructional methods and theories, however, Erik says his most valuable takeaway has been a strengthened commitment to social justice through education – one that continues to drive him as he works to make more and more educational opportunities available to all of his students.