Kenzie Burdick-Levang, an education support professional (ESP) at North View Middle School, may be in her first year of employment with Osseo Area Schools, but she’s certainly no stranger to the district. She grew up as the daughter of a district employee, and she attended five different schools within the district during her own school years.
Burdick-Levang has a passion for art, and she harnessed that passion to serve as an impetus for overcoming challenges related to her autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis.
“When people first meet me, they don’t really know I have a disability until I say something,” she said. “I’m like everyone else, but I see the world differently. I think differently than others, and I think out of the box.”
Burdick-Levang works in North View Middle School’s Connect program, which serves students with many different disabilities, including many with ASD.
“I like getting to know them each day and seeing how they improve and learn new skills from what we teach here,” she said.
Not surprisingly, Burdick-Levang’s favorite activity to do with her students is art. She recently earned a degree in art education from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and she hopes to become an art teacher herself. In her role as an ESP, she enjoys finding ways to adapt art projects to fit her students’ unique needs.
As a student in Osseo Area Schools, Burdick-Levang found a sense of community from being part of the swim, cross country, and downhill ski teams, along with being part of Osseo Senior High’s art department. She continues to be involved with alpine skiing to this day as a youth team coach at Wild Mountain.
That support from both in and out of the classroom helped propel her toward her goal of attending college, a goal she once worried she might not achieve. To compensate for challenges her disability added to the academic side of high school, Burdick-Levang said she leaned on her resources to help her succeed, and she officially became a college graduate last spring.
“I was happy I reached that goal of getting a degree, and I’m hoping that I can be an art teacher someday,” she said.
In the meantime, you can find Burdick-Levang hard at work at NVMS, helping her students achieve to their highest potential and prepare for life after middle and high school, no matter what challenges they face.
“Our world would be pretty boring if we were all the same, and it’s ok to be different, even if it’s kind of hard,” she said. “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.”