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Facilitator of inclusion

By, Tammy Sutton

Imagine a world where every child, regardless of a disability, is included. Making a difference
in childrens lives became Lori Suttons goal early on in life; 30 years later, she is advocating
inclusion for children with disabilities.
Inclusion is Suttons philosophy, and she strives to create the least restrictive environment for
children every day as the Director of Special Education at Bethel Park School District.
Just because someone has a disability doesnt mean they should be isolated or treated
differently, she says. They should be supported and included.
Sutton is in charge of coordinating student services, applying for grants, and organizing trainings
and other professional development activities. With whatever she is doing, her favorite part of
the job is when she feels successful and is making a positive impact.
She says, When you really feel like youve helped a student and their family, or done a good
training, thats when it all feels worth it. Its all about the kids, and thats why I keep going
All her hard work paid off last spring when she won the Leading Education and Advocacy for
Families Rowan award and a $500 mini grant for outstanding contributions to the field of special
Sutton always knew she wanted to positively impact childrens lives. The mother of two felt a
calling towards becoming a teacher early on in life, so she pursued it.


She graduated from Duquesne University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science in Education and in
1990 with a Masters Degree in Education. She believes the school prepared her to take on a
career in the field.
Duquesne prepared me for my career very well. I had field experiences, student teaching
assignments, and training opportunities, she says.
After graduating, she taught all subjects to children with disabilities for eight years. She
eventually decided to follow different professions, but she stayed true to her original philosophy.
Among the many jobs she took on, one was for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, but
Sutton could not see herself in these jobs long term. This inspired her to go back to school where
she earned a Special Education Supervision Certificate from the University of Pittsburgh.
This certificate allowed her to accept a job as the Assistant Director of Special Education at
Bethel Park School District in 2003. In 2013, she was promoted to Director.
Eleven years after completing the certificate program, Sutton feels as though education is an
ongoing process. She plans to return to the University of Pittsburgh next summer to obtain an
Education Doctorate in applied developmental psychology. She plans on using her doctorate
degree after retirement in 2024.
After I retire, I would have just turned 59, so I could still teach at the college level or consult,
she says.
With whatever she decides to do, Sutton has dedicated her life to advocating inclusion and
putting others first. She is motivated to continue her lifes work even after retirement.


She says, Thinking about a world where everyone really is included, that gives me inspiration to
keep going. And that means not just students with disabilities, but all people, all diversities,
someone who is from another country or speaks another language. One day will we ever have a
truly peaceful world? I hope so.


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