Catching up with Denielle Balsari
The transition from student to teacher has been a smooth one for Denielle Balsari, who is now a proud member of the Commack school district’s faculty corps. President of Huntington High School’s Class of 2003, Ms. Balsari will always have warm feelings for her alma mater and the people who helped her along the way.
“To be honest, I can't believe it has been close to two years since I graduated from Providence College, let alone close to six years coming up in June that I left Huntington High School,” Ms. Balsari said. “I had such a great experience at Huntington High School. Memories, both good and not so good, that I have kept with me and grown from.”
Influential teachers? Oh, she’s had a few. Ms. Balsari counts among this group Kathy Aufiero, Helen Anderson and Debbie Haskins. Active in the student government since her sophomore year, the Huntington grad worked closely with Mrs. Aufiero in her capacity as a faculty class advisor. “She was absolutely wonderful and a large part of the success for the Class of 2003,” Ms. Balsari said.
A cheery personality and a propensity to get things done made Ms. Balsari a “go-to” person for classmates and teachers during her high school years. Her organizational and leadership skills were recognized by all and her loyalty to friends is the stuff legends are made of.
“Student government was a large part of my life at Huntington High School,” Ms. Balsari said. “Float nights, battle of the classes and my senior prom were some of the best nights I shared with my friends. I also have so many fond memories of teachers throughout my stay at Huntington High School. Mrs. Anderson, who retired after my freshman year, was such an influential and wonderful teacher. I will never forget her kind words and encouragement. I have to give Mrs. Haskins credit, as hard as her class was at times, that woman taught me how to write a darn good essay! She is someone I won't forget.”
Ms. Balsari also singled out teachers Debbie Mellon, Lynda Weinstein and Joe Leavy, stating they “were great because they were so honest! You always knew where they were coming from. There were no surprises. Some of my best teachers were the ones that were clear about what they expected and were supportive and encouraging enough to help you succeed and reach your potential.”
In addition to the student government and club activities around the school, Ms. Balsari was also a four year tennis player for the Blue Devils, holding down one of the singles positions on the varsity squad. It’s a sport that will always be a part of her family’s life.
“A lot about me has changed since those days but I feel a lot has stayed the same,” Ms. Balsari said. “After moving into my new life in Rhode Island, I instantly fell in love with Providence. I was undeclared for the first two years, throwing around the ideas of many majors but settled with the one that I feel is the best fit for me - teaching. I graduated with a degree in special and general education, one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Her college years were filled with activities, but a handful made the biggest impact on Ms. Balsari. “I was one of a select group of students a part of a group called BOP (board of programmers), which was responsible for running most of the campus-wide activities, she said. “They included trips to Boston, Celtics games, Broadway shows, tours around Providence and concerts such as The Roots, Ben Folds and All-American Rejects. I met wonderful people through this club and gained a lot of experience in event planning and promotions.”
She was also an orientation program leader during the summer of 2006, spending six weeks welcoming the Providence Class of 2010. “That summer we welcomed close to 1,000 students to the college and had a great time doing it,” Ms. Balsari said.
After graduating from Providence she returned to Huntington and landed a teaching assistant position in the Commack school district at Burr Intermediate School, working in the reading/academic intervention services department. “I learned so much from the teachers and administrators at Burr,” she said. “I was given the opportunity to be trained in the Wilson Reading Systems program and have received my certification as a Level 1 Teacher.”
A quick smile and a willingness to take on challenges have helped endear Ms. Balsari to the teachers and administrators in Commack, who appreciate her thoughtful and conscientious work with students.
“At the end of last year, my dream came true,” Ms. Balsari said. “I was hired as a full-time probationary special education teacher. I am currently split between two buildings as an inclusion strategies specialist, working in second and third grade inclusion classrooms at Burr Intermediate School and Wood Park Primary School. I’m having a wonderful time, learning and working with my students. I honestly don't think I could be happier doing any job other than teaching. Where else do I get to have as much fun?
As president of the senior class, Ms. Balsari was given an opportunity to speak at the 142nd commencement exercises on June 27, 2003. She wasn’t comfortable offering specific advice to graduates about their futures, but did provide a few personal gems. “Stay true to who you are and have no expectations from anyone other than yourselves,” she said that evening in front of a crowd of more than 2,000. “Keep honesty and trust close to your heart. They are the two things in life that truly represent who you are as an individual.”
“I feel so blessed to have had such great experience at Huntington High School and at Providence College,” Ms. Balsari said. “I feel that the people and friends I have connected with have really shaped the life I lead today. I hope every time people or my classmates enter the high school they see our great gift hanging on the brick wall and remember what great memories we had there!”
As a senior, Ms. Balsari earned the Rotary Club scholarship, Robert K. Toaz Memorial Prize, Alumni Cup and the Orchestra Parents scholarship.
It’s still several years off in the future, but Ms. Balsari is already looking forward to the ten-year reunion of Huntington’s Class of 2003 to catch-up with classmates. “Websites such as Facebook have really been a key for keeping so many of us connected over the years, no matter where we are around the world,” she said. “I have created a Facebook group for the Class of 2003 so that we all can stay connected and keep in contact more easily.”