Spring Convocation: President’s Medal Winner Heads to Teacher’s College with New Ideas

By Susan Hickman

Virginia Daria Song Penner was shocked to learn she had won the President’s Medal. The 23-year-old science graduate has completed her bachelor’s degree in Biology, with a minor in Psychology, and has earned an award she says is “something to show for my hard work.” The President’s Medal is awarded annually to the student with the highest standing in a general degree program of studies.

Penner, who is proud of her mixed Cambodian-Caucasian ethnicity, also says she is thankful for the support of her family, her friends and her church family throughout her studies.

While she prepares for the teacher education program at the University of Ottawa and contemplates her longer-term plans, Penner likes to quote from the Bible: “I hope to teach in Canada, or wherever God takes me. ‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’ Proverbs 19:21.”

She credits her desire to become an educator to her kindergarten teacher, Bonnie Boyd.

Originally accepted into Carleton’s mathematics program, Penner soon realized biology was more appealing. “I enjoyed learning about the complexities of different organisms, especially in terms of genetics. I am amazed at how complex the human body is, and just how much remains unknown.”

Mostly, Penner believes she learned not only “how to learn’” while pursuing her degree, but also how to teach. “Watching how the professors gave their lectures and how they interact with their students, I learned what kind of teacher I want to become.”

Penner particularly commends professors Myron Smith, Bruce McKay, Patrice Smith and Andrew Robinson for showing her what makes a good instructor.

Carleton University will graduate about 3,580 students and confer 13 honorary degrees during ceremonies taking place from June 13 to June 16, 2017.  Carleton, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, has grown from a small college in 1942 to a leading post-secondary institution today, one that has provided a unique educational experience to 140,000 graduates.