As a child, Kylie Letendre had trouble sitting still in school, paying attention to teachers and focusing on her work because she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Even in high school in Hudson, New Hampshire, she was an inconsistent student, she says.
“I didn’t give up, but I didn’t try as hard as I could, because it took me more time (than other students) to do things, and that frustrated me,” she says.
That changed, though, thanks to her passion for figure skating. Letendre began skating when she was 3 years old, and she poured all her determination into the sport. She passed the adult gold moves in the field test and the adult bronze freestyle test while still in high school.
“That made me realize that I could excel if I applied myself,” she says.
After graduation, she worked part-time as a figure skating coach and held a variety of other jobs while she tried to figure out what career to pursue. Her parents kept pushing her to go to college, so after a year and a half, she enrolled at Middlesex Community College for a year and tried a broad range of classes. When she took a teaching class, she “fell in love with it.”
Once she’d figured out that she wanted to be a teacher, she applied to UMass Lowell, which offers dual certification in elementary education and teaching students with mild to moderate disabilities in grades K-8. UMass Lowell awarded her a transfer student scholarship.
“I really like this program because of the dual certification,” she says. “Right now, I’m thinking I want to work in special education.”
With that goal in mind, Letendre’s motivation has soared. She plans to do her junior year pre-practicum – preparation for student teaching – with a special education teacher she knows.
She’s added a minor in English to her teaching degree, too, because “I always excelled at writing and grammar, even when I didn’t excel at anything else.” Although she hated math in high school, she even enjoys taking Elementary Math for Teaching: Algebra and Data Analysis with Asst. Teaching Prof. Katherine Miller.
“Prof. Miller encourages creativity in math,” she says. “It’s about understanding concepts, not memorizing formulas.”
Letendre still coaches skating on the weekends and hopes that she can continue, as it’s another way she can help children find their own passion and motivation. Her dedication and determination recently won her a scholarship from Altrusa International of Merrimack Valley, the local chapter of a women’s service organization.
“I just love helping kids with learning disabilities like me,” she says. “It makes you a better teacher, too – you understand them, and you’re more patient.”