By People Staff
Updated April 25, 2010 12:00 AM
Credit: Jordan Strauss/WireImage

She didn’t garner the highest scores on Dancing with the Stars this season, but Kate Gosselin did earn the respect of her peers, veteran pro dancer Derek Hough tells PEOPLE.

The mother of eight, who was eliminated last week, embodied what the show is all about, Hough says. “She represented all those mothers at home with their kids that watch the show that think ‘I would love to do that.’ She lived it and they lived through her experience.”

Gosselin, who partnered with Tony Dovolani, received harsh criticism from the show’s judges and was a frequent tabloid target throughout her five-week run. Still, Hough says, she had a good time on the show and everyone enjoyed getting to know her.

“Given the current circumstances she’s in and the press that surrounds her, she had a lot of fun,” Hough assures. “Even though it’s stressful and terrifying, it’s an absurd experience to learn a new skill and rehearse for hours every day and then perform on live television. This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for her. It wasn’t just a dance show. You learn so much about yourself as a person, how far you can push yourself, your work ethic. She was fantastic.” –Monica RizzoJordan Strauss/WireImage