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MWCS co-valedictorian follows in sister’s footsteps

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MADRID - Kathleen Elizabeth Tiernan has long anticipated being named the Madrid Waddington Central School class of 2013 valedictorian, as she will be in her upcoming graduation, alongside co-valedictoria, Austin Scott.

Last week, she received a letter from her seventh-grade self, meant to be opened prior to graduation. It read, “I hope I’m valedictorian or salutatorian!”

Her strong dedication to accomplishing this goal first sprouted when her older sister, Meghan, graduated as salutatorian of her class.

“I was the younger sister. I wanted to follow in those footsteps,” Ms. Tiernan explained.

From that moment on, she remained extremely focused on her goal to “give that speech,” acknowledging that although status may not be everything, the term valedictorian was “pretty big for m.”

“When I felt tired, when I felt like giving up, I’d remember that studying a little harder would affect my GPA, and that kept me focused,” she said.

Ms. Tiernan attributes her organization as the key to her success.

“I make to-do lists, schedules, check things off and stay focused,” she said.

She also notes that the support of her parents, Terry and Vivian Tiernan, and older sister, Meghan, has always kept her motivated.

“They never pressured me, but they always kept my goals in my mind for me. They’d say, ‘We don’t necessarily want this for you, but we know you want it, so you should work hard to get it.’” she said.

Ms. Tiernan also credited the several of her teachers for keeping her on track. Her English teacher, David Bailey, led her in several of her favorite extra-curriculars, including mock trial, and taught her to accomplish her goals.

Although Ms. Tiernan did not enjoy math, she found her math teacher Troy Creurer especially influential because he taught more than math by providing a unique perspective.

Ms. Tiernan’s favorite elementary school teacher, Tina Kowalchuk has played an important role in uncovering her desire to one day work with children. Ms. Kowalchuk approached Ms. Tiernan with the opportunity to volunteer in her first grade classroom, and this experience proved extremely influential as she reflected upon Ms. Kowalchuk’s passion.

She also emphasized the impact of her Spanish teacher, Bonnie Chichester, who instilled a passion for foreign languages in Ms. Tiernan, sharing a mutual love for the language.

In return, Ms. Chichester found Ms. Tiernan “ a true joy to teach. She soaks up everything and comes back for more. She demonstrates a true curiosity and passion for learning. She added so much for me in the classroom as a teacher, but she also added so much for the other students to take away from because she was always asking for more.”

Ms. Chichester continued, “She’s disciplined, she has her priorities straight and she knows how to balance her life. She’s figured it out – being disciplined and balanced.”

After graduation, Ms. Tiernan will be studying at Carlton University in Ottawa, Ont., with a major in public affairs and policy.

“This gives me many career choices, and my ideas have changed recently. Right now I want to work in UNICEF. I want to work with children. I want to make a change, and I have a passion for foreign language,” she explained.

Ms. Kowalchuk, Ms. Tiernan’s first-grade teacher, gave her the opportunity to volunteer in her classroom this year. “I was fortunate enough to be her first-grade teacher, and at the end of her second-grade year I gave her a notebook. When I gave it to her, I told her, ‘If I ever have a little girl, I’d want her to be just like you.’ When she wrote an essay for her entrance application to college, she indicated in it how special that had made her feel,” she said.

“Ten years later, she returned to my classroom and helped students with everything from learning spelling words to simply tying their shoes. I think she knew how special that comment made her feel, and in return, Katie made each and every one of them feel special each and every day. The kids loved her. They’d ask, ‘Is Katie coming today?’ ‘Can we go with Katie?’ She’s so responsible, so positive, so upbeat—so in tune with what they are doing,” she explained.

“Katie has grown up into quite the young lady, and I still would have wanted to have a girl like her. She has the innate quality to make everyone feel special,” Ms. Kowalchuck added.

Ms. Tiernan has remained an extremely active member of her community during her time at Madrid Waddington. She has played soccer, basketball and softball and is a member of the Varsity Club. She was co-captain of the girls varsity soccer team and received a Captain’s award her senior year.

Ms. Tiernan also received two Academic All-Northern awards, two Section 10 Outstanding Sportsmanship awards and the Physical Education Student Leadership award her senior year.

She is also editor of the 2013 yearbook, president of the Whiz Quiz team, member of high school chorus, Stardust and select choir, and president of the Kathryn E. Fay Chapter of the National Honor Society.

Ms. Tiernan is member and past secretary of Key Club, has been a member of Mock Trial team for three years, participating as a lawyer and witness and helping the team achieve the county championship in 2012.

Ms. Tiernan strongly emphasizes following one’s passion, leaving the following advice to incoming high school freshmen hoping to one day land a spot at the top of their class: “Don’t let anything distract you. Do everything to attain it. Put it the work and the effort, and you will get the pay off in the end. And do what you enjoy!”

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