Perseverance pays off for single mom

Woman says life turned around once she went back to school at 35

Danette Dooley
Published on August 9, 2010
Krista Koerner with her 10-year-old daugther, Keara Burns. Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

Krista (Meadus) Koerner speaks German fluently and has visited or lived in 122 cities in 18 countries. But all her life experience didn’t make it any easier to go back to school at age 35 to earn her high school diploma.

“It was helpful in that I was a little more confident because of my knowledge about the world, but it didn’t make doing math or algebra any easier,” Koerner said during a recent interview at her St. John’s home.

The single mother has not only finished high school, she also recently graduated from the College of the North Atlantic’s (CNA) three-year business management accounting program.

Born and bred in St. John’s, “the lure of money” saw her drop out of school as a teenager.

After living in other countries for much of her adult life, she moved back to St. John’s in 2005 with her daughter, Keara.

Koerner knew the first step towards a comfortable life was to finish high school.


“You can do anything if you put your mind to it. And if one person reading this story decides to go back to school, then that will be excellent." Krista Koerner

She succeeded in 2007, and then she continued her studies, helping others along the way.

She was elected president of the Prince Philip Drive student council  and then became president of the council representing all of the college campuses in the province.

Koerner is also the women’s representative for this province with the Canadian Federation of Students.

While she’s excelled as a student, she admitted raising a child, working part-time and going to school full-time hasn’t been a picnic. Time management has become her No. 1 talent, she said.

“I’m in school all day; I come home and run a household. Your child needs help with her homework, so my homework wouldn’t start until about 10. I don’t know how many nights I’d be up studying until 2 or 3, and three nights a week, I’d work at a bar and then get up and go to class for 8:30.”

Koerner credits the Single Parents Association of Newfoundland (SPAN) for encouraging her to head back to school.

Having supportive parents and good friends also made the road a little less bumpy. 

However, she said it’s 10-year-old Keara who has inspired her to achieve her goals.

“There were a lot of sacrifices on her part. I missed a lot of things with her ... Christmas concerts and basketball games, because I had other commitments.”

“You can do anything if you put your mind to it. And if one person reading this story decides to go back to school, then that will be excellent." Krista Koerner

Keara has her mom’s complexion and thick dark hair.

Mature for her age, she prefers to talk about the things her mother has taught her rather than what they’ve missed out on.

“My mom helps me with my homework and with my papers,” she says glancing towards a pile of Telegrams waiting to be delivered.

“And she showed me how to cook and bake things like cookies and salmon steak with mango chutney.”

A French immersion student at Bishop Feild, Keara already knows the importance of a good education.

“I want to go to Quebec to learn how to cook,” she says of her plans after high school.

If she follows in her mother’s academic footsteps, she’ll do well.

Koerner won four scholarships during her four years at CNA.

She was also the valedictorian, representing more than 300 graduating students at the college’s Prince Philip Drive campus.

During her address to the graduates at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on June 17, she spoke about the tremendous support she received as a student.

“In this school, every instructor knows his or her students by name and treats every member of the class as an individual. I know that many students have benefited from this kind of personalized approach to higher education,” she said.

Koerner now works as an accountant for Belanger, Clarke, Follett and McGettigan and earns extra money tending bar two nights a week at Christian’s Pub.

She’s excited about continuing her education and has enrolled in the certified management accountant program.

She hopes her story will serve as a reminder that it’s never too late to pick up a textbook.

“You can do anything if you put your mind to it. And if one person reading this story decides to go back to school, then that will be excellent,” she said.