Star pupil cites love of learning as key to success

Kathleen Kearney holds the Governor General
Kathleen Kearney holds the Governor General's Academic Award she won for being Penticton Secondary's top student last year.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

There are good students, and then there is Kathleen Kearney.

After earning an average grade of 96.5 per cent across her academic classes in Grades 11 and 12, she is now Penticton Secondary School’s latest winner of a Governor General’s Academic Award as its top student.

The 18-year-old graduated last June and is now attending Carleton University in Ottawa, but she dropped by her alma mater in Penticton this week to pick up the medal and certificate that went along with the honour.

Governor General’s Academic Awards were created in 1873 and are now “the most prestigious awards that students in Canadian schools can receive,” according to the program’s website.

Kearney said although her parents pushed her to do her best, she is also self-motivated and finds it easy to learn subject matter in which she is interested.

“It’s about doing what you love. I really love science, so it was easier for me to be like, OK, I have to study for three hours for this biology test, because I was very interested in the material I was studying.”

While her grades for tests and course work usually ran in the 90-per-cent range, Kearney said, she did struggle on occasion.

“I think the worst score I got on a test was in my advanced placement physics class last year. I got 60 per cent on the first test we did, but I stuck with it, and with projects and other tests I did well on, (my grade) came up.”

A handful of universities courted her with scholarships, but Kearney settled on Carleton, which offers a highly regarded linguistics program and financial incentives for high achievers. In Kearney’s case, the school agreed to provide her with scholarships worth $21,500 over four years.

She hopes to turn her love of language into a career as a speech pathologist or English-as-a-second-language teacher.

Penticton Secondary teacher Hugh Lines, whom Kearney singled out as one of her favourites, said the honour is “a compliment to the whole school (and) all the teachers she had throughout her educational career.”

Lines taught Kearney in advanced placement English classes during her senior years and said in addition to a quick wit and good sense of humour, she also proved to be insightful and got ahead with her strong work ethic.

“More than anything,” he added, “she just enjoyed learning so much that it was easy for her to do that.”

The long-time educator said Kearney is among the brightest pupils he’s ever had in his classroom.

“I’ve taught approximately 4,500 students in Penticton in my 27 years here at this school,” Lines said. “She would be probably in the top 10.”


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