Monique Trottier doesn’t sit in the back row of a Red Deer, Alta. classroom because she wants to hide from her teacher.
It’s because the 76-year-old student uses a walker and it’s the easiest place to sit.
Known as “Nana” to staff and fellow classmates, the senior is trying to achieve a lifelong goal.
“It has been a dream of mine to graduate (high school),” she told Global News.
“I guess you could say it was on my bucket list.”
It was a dream because as a teenager growing up in Montreal, she dropped out of school.
“I just had a hard time learning and I didn’t know why. Back in those days, you were dumb or stupid and the kids made fun of you.”
The mother of five, grandmother of 13, and great-grandmother of seven went to work and later raised a family.
It was only many years later she learned from another teacher why she had struggled so much in class.
“She says, ‘you know what your problem is?’ I said, ‘No.’ She says, ‘you’re dyslexic.’”
“I said, ‘Is it contagious?’ She said, ‘No, it’s not contagious,” Trottier laughed.
Two years ago, she started giving her time at Red Deer Public School District’s Alternative School Centre.
She had a positive impact on the students from the start, and they gave her an idea, too.
“As I was doing the volunteer work, I would sneak a peek at the books and wonder if I could do that.”
She started classes in February and she’ll graduate in June 2017.
To top it off, Trottier won’t be the only one from her family walking the stage: her 17-year-old granddaughter is graduating, too.
Brittny Berekoff says it’s a moment she can’t wait to share with her grandmother.
“Forever we will remember this as something we did together,” Berekoff said.
“It’s made me appreciate my learning more because I know how much she wants this.”
It’s rubbing off on other students, according to principal Rick Ramsfield.
“I have never seen a student like her before.”
Many of her fellow students are doing better with their studies because of Trottier, Ramsfield said.
“It was kind of this competition going on as to who is getting the better mark, so she’s been a great catalyst with kids moving forward with their own learning.”
Now some 60 years after leaving the classroom, Trottier is sometimes surprised by her success.
“I’m doing Grade 12 work and I’m understanding it! I’m not stupid,” she said.
“My message is: don’t give up. Don’t believe what you hear,” she said.
“Go for it! You’ll make it; you can do it.”
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.