Kearney ’06 Looks to Expand His Horizons
By Murphy Bonner ’22
“I think I knew that something different needed to happen,” said Kevin Kearney ‘06 when describing what led him to decide to leave the Prep at the end of the 2021- 22 school year.
That desire was born out of a long tenure at the Prep. . “I attended here for four years, then I did ASC [Alumni Service Corps], so that’s five years, and I’ve been teaching here full time for ten years. I’m 34, so that means 15 of my 34 years have been in this place — which has given me a lot. But I’m excited to also expand beyond that.”
Kearney has expanded beyond the Prep before, though. After teaching English as an ASC member, the Haddonfield, NJ native “was playing in a band at the time that was doing pretty well and we went on tour.” That band, Arches, a self described “indie-rock” group, had been doing shows up and down the East Coast during his first year at the Prep in places like New York, Virginia, and Baltimore. “It was a lot of very late nights and then I would come in and teach but it was fun though,” said Kearney.
Following the tour and his departure from the ASC, Kearney joined Project HOME in Philadelphia “working with formerly unhoused men who also had a diagnosis of schizophrenia.” This new, very specific job was something that Kearney felt “mostly unqualified for” yet found that he “fit in pretty well” thanks to his teaching skills that allowed him “to try and just relate to those” whom he worked with.
After that experience, he was led back to the Prep after learning that Jim O’Brien ‘62 was retiring. “I was lucky enough to fill his vacancy,” Kearney said. From there, Kearney would spend the next 10 years leaving his mark on his alma mater through his teaching but also in his involvement in co-curriculars and the community. Kearney established the Writing Lab, co-moderated The Hawkeye, was a part of the Faculty Advisory Committee and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, and moderated Cross Country and Indoor and Outdoor Track.
Despite that list of involvements, Kearney’s lasting impression on most students is what went on in the classroom. “My favorite thing about Mr. Kearney is how passionate he is about what he teaches to us,” said Ryan Oliver ‘22, who had Kearney both junior and senior years. “He is a pivotal member of the Prep community and has been a role model for me because of his strong work ethic and his passion for what he does, which naturally gets passed on to students of his classes.”
That impact is no accident, but rather something amassed after years of experience. ”I think when I first started teaching I was under the impression that I was supposed to be assessing people and that was really my only objective as a teacher,” said Kearney. “It didn’t really click for me for probably a couple of years that no matter where a student is when they enter the classroom, it’s on me to make sure that they are moving forward and that they are having growth which is implied in my job title as ‘teacher’ rather than ‘grader.’”
Along with the dedication Kearney brings to his role, he also brings an abundance of music knowledge from both the technical and historical side of the topic. Nicholas Bedrossian ‘22, who had Kearney for Poetry and Music in the Postmodern Age, said, “I am confident that the class would not work without his knowledge of music. That entirely shifted the way that I view music and certain artists.”
Kearney also gives students opportunities to make music of their own in his classes. Aiden Anderson ‘22 said, “His exit will certainly be felt by the Prep’s musical community. He was always an advocate for those interested in music and making it.”
Allowing students to experiment with art in new ways has been a very rewarding aspect of his time at the Prep. “I love helping students develop creative skills, whether that’s just more straightforward like analytical writing style or seeing through an idea on a creative writing project,” said Kearney. “It’s really, really gratifying to not just create my own thing but plug in to someone else’s and give them tools, or advice, or even just some recommendations to try. That’s something I’m definitely proud of.”
Kearney’s creativity does not end outside the bounds of the Prep but rather the opposite. This fall, Kearney’s debut novel How to Keep Time will be released. Even though he began the novel’s writing in July 2020, its release is the culmination of a choice Kearney made to take writing more seriously. That resulted in him deciding “that I was going to sit down every day and write for x amount of minutes or hours. I think I started taking myself more seriously in that regard rather than saying ‘well I like writing and I’m interested in it and I would love to be able to publish something or write a full manuscript’ and day dream or wait for inspiration to strike.” Kearney has been writing album reviews, interviews, and other publications, but this work represents an elevation of his corpus, something he is open to further pursuing as he leaves the Prep and heads westward.
While the near-future is set in stone for Kearney, what lies beyond that is still rather “nebulous,” as he put it. In August, he and his wife will move to San Diego, California because of a job offer she received. But what happens next for him is still unwritten. This is a change of pace for the characteristically planned, organized, and mapped-out Kearney, but a welcome one. “We’re excited to be out there,” he said. “I’m looking into teaching jobs out there. I’m also open to the possibility of something else, probably related to writing in some capacity. I’m excited to have this next chapter.”
While several states and several hundred miles will now separate Kearney with the place he has spent nearly half of his life, he is happy for those years and the people he has met. He said, “For the students and for faculty that I’ve worked with: thank you. I am immeasurably grateful for everything they have been able to offer me and for their time.”
This article is reprinted from the May 24 issue of The Hawkeye Student Newspaper with the permission of the paper and the author.