Chris Lougheed, the new principal at Tobinworld in Glendale, didn’t have to learn much about the nonpublic school that serves children with special needs and autism.
He’d already taught there for 23 years, beginning as a high school teacher when he was just 23 years old.
He replaces former principal Chuck Conrad, who announced recently that he was retiring — and who nominated Lougheed for the position.
“Chuck did such a great job,” Lougheed said. “I hope I can build on that.”
Lougheed realized he wanted to be an educator after working as a camp counselor in college at Camp All Nations for developmentally disabled adults in Wrightwood when he was around 20 years old.
When a friend suggested Lougheed serve as a camp counselor, he didn’t anticipate what the experience would be like, but soon found himself living in a cabin with 24 disabled adults.
On the first day, he was in charge of one autistic adult, one with Down syndrome, another with a traumatic brain injury and another who was developmentally disabled.
“I always wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t know I wanted to be special [education] teacher,” he said, adding, “It turned out to be the greatest job.”
He then went on to work as the camp director each summer until he took a teaching position at Tobinworld, which serves nearly 300 children and young adults who are autistic, developmentally disabled or emotionally disturbed.
The students come from more than 20 public school districts in the Southland, and the school strives to provide students with the tools and skills to live a productive and happy adult life.
In the months ahead, Lougheed will be overseeing the school’s transition from its current curriculum to the new Common Core state standards, which promote in-depth critical thinking and problem-solving skills in core subjects, such as English and math.
Lougheed is married to Sylvia Lougheed, principal of Tobinworld’s Brill School for Autism.
“We don’t always agree,” he joked, “But we never talk about work at home.”
The school was founded by Judy Weber in 1976, and she still serves as executive director.
“Chris Lougheed and Chuck Conrad have been instrumental in the growth of our pioneering school,” Weber said in a statement. “We look forward to having Chris’ leadership well into the future.”
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.