Samantha Bindrim Wins First Balsari Scholarship
When Washington Primary School teacher Joan Marie Balsari passed away last October, her students and colleagues were devastated. The longtime educator had been battling breast cancer for more than a year, but following surgery and treatment she seemed on the road to a full recovery.
Mrs. Balsari's condition deteriorated rapidly in mid-October, stunning her fellow teachers and friends. After she passed away, the Associated Teachers of Huntington, the professional organization of the district's teachers, announced it would establish a $1,000 scholarship in Mrs. Balsari's memory and present it annually for the next decade.
ATH President James Graber presented the first Balsari scholarship during Huntington High School's senior academic awards night this past spring. "We lost a kind soul known for her dedication, patience and caring," Mr. Graber told the crowd. "Mrs. Joan Balsari passed away, never to teach again."
Samantha Bindrim, a member of Huntington's Class of 2012, was presented with the inaugural Balsari scholarship. The teenager is headed to SUNY Cortland. She plans to major in education and hopes to become a teacher.
"This year's recipient reflects the kindness, diligence and warmth that Mrs. Balsari stood for," said Mr. Graber about Ms. Bindrim. The new alum was a star tennis player for the Blue Devils, going 10-2 in No. 3 singles and winning the Most Valuable Player Award at the senior athletic awards banquet. Mrs. Balsari enjoyed playing tennis and served a short stretch as a Huntington tennis coach.
Ms. Bindrim was known around Huntington High School as a "diligent worker," said Bernadette Walsh, the school's college counselor. "She exudes confidence and charisma. Throughout her high school years, Samantha has made mature decisions, demonstrating a marvelous work ethic. She is a driven, self directed young woman."
Born to a Huntington family on July 16, 1950, Joan Marie Balsari attended elementary and secondary school here and graduated from Huntington High School with her future husband, Dennis in 1968. The couple's only child, Denielle graduated from Huntington in 2003.Today Denielle works as a teacher in Commack.
Prior to coming to Washington School, Mrs. Balsari worked first as a teacher aide and then as a short and long-term substitute teacher in the district from February 1989 through June 1996. She earned an AA degree at SUNY Farmingdale, a Bachelor's degree at SUNY College at Old Westbury and a Master's degree in reading at Dowling College. She obtained teaching certification in ESL through Adelphi University and secured certification as an administrator through Stony Brook University, where she received an advanced graduate certificate.
Ms. Bindrim participated in Huntington's career internship program, working with Woodhull Intermediate School classroom teacher Diane Grassi. The teenager had an opportunity to work with students and even teach classes under Ms. Grassi's supervision.
"I must say that I am thoroughly impressed with Samantha's level of maturity," said Mrs. Walsh, who is one of the internship program's advisors. "I admire Samantha's supportive approach toward her peers and I find her attitude of assistance and role model-like qualities refreshing."
Mrs. Balsari was a gifted teacher and was adored by her students. As Ms. Bindrim prepares to begin her college studies and eyes what she hopes will be a teaching career, her connection to one of Huntington's most popular faculty members is set in history.