ATH President James Graber with  Balsari scholarship recipient Ritze Martinez Garcia

Ritze Martinez Garcia Captures Joan Balsari Scholarship

ATH President James Graber with Balsari scholarship recipient Ritze Martinez Garcia

August 1 , 2022

Joan Marie Balsari was a really unique individual. She held unshakeable opinions about everything and she didn’t hesitate to share them with anyone willing to listen. But, she also loved to hear what everyone else had to say. She was a great conversationalist.

A longtime Washington Primary School teacher, Mrs. Balsari passed away in October 2011 after a 17 month long battle with breast cancer. After surgery and follow-up treatment, the veteran educator seemed well on the way to a full recovery. She returned to her classroom and to the school life she so cherished. It appeared that she had beaten a dreaded disease.

When Mrs. Balsari’s condition deteriorated rapidly over a period of less than two weeks, her colleagues were left stunned. 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.

ATH President James Graber stepped up to the microphone in the Huntington High School auditorium at the senior scholarships and awards ceremony to announce that the eleventh Joan M. Balsari scholarship recipient is Ritze Martinez Garcia, one of the most highly regarded members of the Class of 2022. The teenager is headed to Suffolk County Community College’s western campus in Brentwood where she plans to begin studying for a career as a teacher.

A gentle and sweet soul, Ms. Martinez Garcia earned a reputation as hard worker. A caring and considerate young woman, who loves children and takes delight in working with them. The ATH thinks she will make wonderful teacher one day.

Joan Marie Balsari loved Huntington

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. She is currently a teacher in Commack UFSD.

Prior to coming to Washington School, Mrs. Balsari worked 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 Associate of Arts 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.

Mrs. Balsari was a no-nonsense educator who was adored by her students. During quiet reading or writing time in her room, the gifted teacher was known to play classical music to put her students at ease. At the end of the school day she should would often go home for a few hours and then return to her classroom to work on projects or plan lessons late into the evening.

Known for her laughter and overall sense of humor, Mrs. Balsari had a way of cutting through all the fluff and getting to the point. She’d sometimes let her students teach the class, putting them up at the blackboard and encouraging them to explain concepts to one another. She continues to be missed by the colleagues she left behind.

Joan Balsari Memorial Scholarship Recipients

2022 Ritze Martinez Garcia
2021 Angelica Hernandez
2020 Sadie Walters
2019 Katherine Burton
2018 Joel Alfaro
2017 Leanne Daly
2016 Julia Garetano
2015 Darya DeSimone
2014 Evelyn Brandon
2013 Alexandra Reinertsen
2012 Samantha Bindrim

A memorial rock at the Joan Balsari garden
A memorial rock at the Joan Balsari garden
Close friends Joan Marie Balsari and Leslie Pond.
Close friends Joan Marie Balsari and Leslie Pond.