Physical education teacher took love of moving and the outdoors to work in special education with the severely disabled.
Wayne Boudreau has taught physical education off and on since 1969, but he has always kept his love of moving.
He took a long break from full-time teaching and became a self-proclaimed “ski bum” for a while before coming back to teach special education. Now that he’s retired, again, he’s golfing and teaching stretching.
Would you go back to teaching?
“I would do it again. Especially in Palmdale School District. I have a great relationship there. It was full circle for me. My first job as far as teaching was with Palmdale in 1969.”
Why did you become a teacher?
Boudreau grew up in Antelope Valley in Southern California and went to school in Palmdale. While he was working as a recreation leader in 1969, the school district was hiring on an emergency basis without a teaching credential requirement. “All of a sudden, I’m working and got a job. I knew a lot of the teachers who had taught me and even the administrators. They were a part of my growing up and they knew my background.”
He started teaching elementary school physical education and coaching freshman football.
An athlete in college, Boudreau changed majors several times. Back then, kinesiology was budding as a program, and it had a physical education component, so that became his major. “I went to five or six different colleges. I kind of bounced around a lot, and then I went to Azusa Pacific University and finished up with my master’s degree.”
He was asked to teach at his old high school by the vice principal who was also one of Boudreau’s former teachers. Boudreau also worked as ombuds for the D.A.R.E. (Drug and Rehabilitation Education) program, which helped students with drug counseling and awareness. After three years of teaching at Palmdale, he took what turned out to be a long break.
From teaching to skiing
“Growing up in Antelope Valley, I felt that a lot of things were given to me because everyone knew me. I never knew what my survival level was. I quit teaching and started living in resorts to get away from Antelope Valley,” Boudreau said.
He worked as a substitute teacher and in the prison system GED program for a while in Lake Arrowhead. He moved to Mammoth Mountain and liked skiing so much he moved to Lake Tahoe that had even better skiing. “I worked at a hotel up there, so I was able to work in the evenings and skied during the day. I just became a ski bum. I did that for 10 to 12 years.”
Boudreau still kept his hand in teaching, substituting in Nevada and California elementary schools. “It kept my mind stimulated,” Boudreau said.
Why did you go back to teaching?
“I got in a car accident in 1986. It was pretty horrific. I crawled out of the accident. I knew it was time to get serious about life and moved back to Antelope Valley.”
He met a woman working as a secretary in special education who encouraged him to substitute and make steady money. “When I walked into the school to substitute, it was just one of those moments that just captured me. Before that, I had no real desire to work in special education. It just fell into my lap. But I felt in my heart, as soon as I walked into that door, that’s where I should be.”
He became an adapted physical education specialist and co-wrote curriculum still being used throughout California to assess children with disabilities.
While working for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, Boudreau taught in the MOVE program (Mobility Opportunities Via Education) for severely disabled students. The assessment program helped students learn to sit, stand and walk. From that work, he became a MOVE trainer and traveled across the western states to certify and teach others.
In 1999, Palmdale School District took back the administration of its special education programs from Los Angeles County Office of Education. Boudreau, who still knew the programs and teachers there, circled back to working for Palmdale, helping to oversee the transition.
Retiring for the first time
Boudreau made big changes in his life. He went to a class reunion and reconnected with a classmate. They fell in love in 2002, got married in 2004 and retired. Boudreau moved closer to his old school district, so retirement didn’t last that long. “Palmdale had my phone number and knew I was close by.”
For about 12 years, he served as an advocate for parents. He also worked in support programs through California State University Bakersfield. “A lot of parents with children in special education want a lot of things for their kids and I was able to help the parents out and so the school district was happy.”
He eventually went to work for Inspire Charter Schools. “An administrator I had worked with was frustrated because she was not a physical education teacher—she was a special education teacher and working with students who were physically disabled, and she didn’t know what to do. For a while, I volunteered and helped her.” Eventually, he began working for Inspire throughout the state, helping with assessments and Individualized Education Programs for students with physical disabilities.
“I did that for two or three years until the pandemic hit and it was time to back away. I couldn’t do assessments online. I had to do it hands-on, so I went back into retirement,” Boudreau said.
Did you have a favorite teacher?
The late Jim Carmichael. “He was one of my seventh-grade teachers and then he moved up to high school. He was a PE teacher and my high school football coach. He was the one who asked me to come teach at the high school when I first started teaching. By then, he was my vice principal and he was the biggest influence in my life, outside of my parents.”
What’s one thing you’re proud of?
Boudreau said he helped a student who was never expected to walk be able to get up and walk with help from his parents within two years of working with him in the MOVE program. “It was pretty miraculous. I feel really good about that.”
Tell us about your family
In addition to his wife, Sherry, Boudreau has two grown children and his wife has three. “Knowing Sherry from high school and getting together after 40 years, what a surprise that was.”
Tell us about life in retirement
“It’s time to play golf all the time and that’s kind of what I do. We live right on a golf course.”
Besides playing golf, Boudreau is teaching stretching classes in Bear Valley Springs. Starting in the ’70s, he taught stretching instead of calisthenics and even wrote a pamphlet he handed out.
“Everywhere I went, I stayed physically active by stretching and I started introducing it to golfers I played with and the church we were going to.” He conducted classes through the pandemic and still does on YouTube for people who can’t get to the church.
Teacher Talk is a series of profiles on California teachers and other educators. To be considered for a future profile, please email Communications@CalSTRS.com, with Teacher Talk in the subject line.