It seems appropriate, somehow, that the first reward Bethany Pennington received upon hearing that she was the valedictorian of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School class of 2009 was extra homework.

“The principal called me into his office and said, ‘You’re the valedictorian. You have to make a speech at graduation and it’s due in three weeks,’” she said, laughing, in an interview at her father’s office yesterday.

Luckily, Ms. Pennington seems to have a special appreciation for the work that goes into every assignment. Perhaps her deep curiosity is the very characteristic which earned her the top ranking in a class of 200. It might have been that her range of extracurricular activities sparked her thirst for knowledge. Either way, valedictorian is not a title she set out to claim.

“I never planned on that. It just kind of happened,” she said. “I’ve never really done anything [just] because it would boost my GPA . . . I could do the minimum and just get by, but I really enjoy some of the things I learn. I wanted to actually take classes that I really enjoyed. And I really loved [high school] because it was a challenge.”

Her areas of interest range from academics to music to athletics. Ms. Pennington enrolled in three AP classes each her junior and senior year, focusing on Spanish and history, two subjects that she plans to pursue at Wheaton College in Illinois 0next year. She played the viola in the school orchestra and quartet, and intends to audition for a spot in Wheaton’s music conservatory. She was also a member of the high school soccer and track teams.

As a high school student, her study of Spanish and a two-week trip to Peru seem to have had the most influence on her plans for the future. She would like to study international relations and foreign languages in college. “I was looking for a school that would offer [those], because not all of them do. I liked some other places enough to apply, but Wheaton was the one that was always in the back of my mind,” she said. “I just felt like I was kind of meant to go there.”

Though she doesn’t consider herself fluent in Spanish — yet — she admits that she could easily make her way around in a Spanish-speaking country. She jumped on an opportunity to do so when she found an advertisement for Big World Ventures in a magazine. Through the Christian organization, she participated in a two-week mission trip to Peru. “We had a drama that we performed in different villages, and we brought hot chocolate mix and made that for the people, and washed the kids’ hair and brought toys and gifts of sorts to give them, so it was really great,” she said. So great, that she’s decided to join them on another trip to Guatemala this summer. She also intends to take advantage of Wheaton’s study abroad program as an undergraduate, but hasn’t yet decided where she’d like to go.

Another Wheaton program she’s excited about is called Dine with the Mind, which encourages students to invite their professors to dinner in the cafeteria. “It just fosters the relationship between the students and professors, and I really liked that,” she said. She holds educators in high regard because she has had such good experiences at the high school.

“It really helps when your teachers are excited about what they are teaching. I’ve had a few teachers who were very excited about the subject matter . . . so that inspired me.”

In one example, while studying a unit on World War I, a teacher hung a sign on the classroom door that said War Zone, set the desks up like trenches, and brought a water gun to class. “That was pretty exciting,” she added.

Ms. Pennington will join her class at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs to deliver a speech to family and friends at graduation, and to bid a final farewell to her high school days. In all her excitement about the future, she admits that the moment will be emotional.

“I moved here in fourth grade,” she explained. “I think on the Island you’re really exposed to a lot of different points of view and to people who come from all over the world. I feel like I’ve met a lot of people and had a lot of different experiences, and I might not have gotten that if I [hadn’t come to the Vineyard] . . . it’s just sort of sinking in now. It’s a little bittersweet, a little sad.”