Ann Bancroft’s life is full of firsts: In 1986, she became the first woman to cross the ice of the North Pole, traveling 1,000 miles by dogsled. Five years later, she led an all-woman team to the South Pole, becoming the first woman to have completed expeditions on both poles. In addition, Bancroft also headed the first American women’s team to cross Greenland. Ann’s success and achievements were not expected or easily obtained; she struggled in school and had a hard time balancing her zest for life with her need to do extra work to keep up in the classroom. Bancroft, even with summer school and tutoring every day, was still falling behind in school. Worse yet, the time she dedicated to sports teams and artistic ventures soon was taken so she could spend more time focusing on academics. “Those were the lifeblood things that kept me going, and they were always yanked from me,” she says. “They didn’t know that art is a fantastic environment for kids with learning problems, and if I had an outlet like recess, the shy, sort of insecure person I was could flourish and make friends.”

Although she struggled, Bancroft graduated from high school and was accepted to the University of Oregon, where she studied education. From there, she began her career as a special education teacher and spent a few years in the classroom before beginning her quest to trek across the North Pole. After returning from her trip, she was motivated to give girls like her the opportunity to find their potential and place in the world, so she created the Bancroft Foundation. As a highly sought after speaker, Bancroft uses her platform to discuss her once hidden dyslexia. “I don’t know anyone with dyslexia who would change,” she says. “It’s been a great asset. My dyslexia and my challenges through school were the absolute perfect training for an expedition. Expedition people are all about one step in front of the other and not going very fast, just doing the hard work. What better way to get the work ethic than by having a learning difference?”

To read more about Ann Bancroft, her evolving relationship with dyslexia, and her incredible life, check out her interview on the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity website.