2022: Stéphanie Chenard ’19, ’20, ’22: Writing her own story


Stephanie Chenard has walked the UMassD debut scene three times in the past four years. Now she is ready to instruct the next generation of scholars.

After being diagnosed with a permanent physical disability at the age of two, Stephanie Chenard grew up hearing often about all the things she couldn’t do from others. Being told and reminded of your boundaries takes a toll on a child, as Chenard says she allowed that narrative to dictate her life.

“I grew up hearing ‘you can’t do this because A, B, C, you can’t do this because X, Y, Z’, and for a very long time I let that define my life. “says Chenard. . “As an adult, after undergoing several surgeries, including two hip replacements, I began to ask myself: Why am I allowing other people’s stories to shape my story? People should write their own story and follow their own dreams.

Return to school

“I decided to smash other people’s stories in the hardest way possible and go back to school to unlock new opportunities for myself,” says Chenard. “I chose UMass Dartmouth because it offered the proximity, flexibility and reputation I was looking for, but also because it was obvious there was a great community here. It was refreshing to see all the friendly people collaborating in common spaces. It just seemed right.

Now 47, a mother and wife, Chenard was more than 20 years away from her last school experience when she arrived at UMassD in 2015.

“Going back to school was not an easy decision, as I still had to balance managing my family and home life, pursuing my education, and managing my physical health,” says Chenard. “But my determination was stronger than my difficulties.

“I chose to study psychology because I am fascinated by the human brain and love helping and advocating for others. Learning skills and gaining knowledge that I can incorporate into my daughter’s life has been very helpful because she is neurodiverse, but it has also given me a passion to use her to help others. Initially, I intended to go into clinical psychology, but Professor Hartnett steered me toward another passion after believing in me enough to recommend me as a tutor to other students.

A passion for teaching

“While I was tutoring, I discovered that I had a passion for teaching others and helping them take the next step in their lives,” says Chenard. “Making a complex topic accessible and understandable to others is so rewarding; it inspired me to combine my passions for psychology and research with literature and writing so that I can teach the next generation of scholars.

This passion led Chenard to immediately pursue his studies with a master’s degree in pedagogy, allowing him to teach in public schools in Massachusetts. This diploma, combined with its Master in Psychological Researchgave her a better understanding of education, child development and the intricacies of learning.

“I didn’t skip a beat. I continued and got three degrees in seven years. My teachers constantly encouraged me along the way, supporting everything I wanted to try, which was such a contrast to what I was used to hearing. I had a whole cheering team behind me pleading for my success, reminding me of how far I’ve come and how far I’m going to go.

And after?

With a master’s degree in psychological research and teaching with a concentration in middle and high school English language arts, Chenard accepted a position as a seventh-grade writing teacher at Atlantis Charter School in Fall River. , MY. There, Chenard hopes to teach more than traditional book-report style writing.

“I like teaching writing because it’s very broad and can be adapted to everyone’s skills,” says Chenard. “There’s scientific research writing, poetry and songwriting, historical writing, journalistic writing and interviewing, and social media caption writing, which is certainly in growth. There is no bad writer. People just need to find the style that suits them best. I hope to incorporate every content area into this class to inspire every individual to find their passion for writing.

advice to others

“Anyone can go back to school, regardless of age or health. The most intimidating thing is taking the first step onto campus. After that, you’ll be surprised how quickly the next step comes. And the next. And before you know it, you’re going through the scene of the beginning. There may be challenges, but each challenge helps you grow and proves that your determination is stronger than the challenges. Just keep moving forward. Modify your environment according to your needs and write your story as you wish. Only you can write your own story. Make it awesome!”

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