Alexandra Reinertsen is a Huntington High School senior, but she will always remember her second grade teacher at Washington Primary School. The teenager was so inspired by Joan Balsari that she is now eyeing a teaching career herself.
Ms. Reinertsen is a member of Huntington’s Class of 2013. She’s been enrolled in the district since kindergarten and has many happy memories of her school years. “I’ve always liked school and the teachers I’ve had all along,” she said. “But, one of my favorites was my second grade teacher, Mrs. Balsari. I remember her class as one that was really fun and that I learned a lot!”
Joan Balsari was herself a Huntington High School graduate. A longtime district resident, the popular elementary school teacher was someone young children were able to relate to in short order. She passed away in October 2011 while still in service after an 18-month battle with breast cancer.
“Mrs. Balsari inspired me to become a teacher,” Ms. Reinertsen said. “I want to major in early childhood education (birth-second grade). Her classroom was always somewhere everyone liked being. Her lessons and projects were fun and she always had a smile on her face.”
This is a busy year for Ms. Reinertsen, who is taking a full class schedule, including AP Literature, honors Spanish, economics, advanced algebra, advanced photography, senior band and concert choir.
“As you can see from my schedule, I love music and art,” Ms. Reinertsen said. “The teachers in the music department that I’ve had the pleasure to get to know through high school, Mr. [Brian] Stellato, Mr. [Jason] Giachetti, and Ms. [Veronica] Mainville are amazing people and teachers.”
The senior is one of those students who look forward to school each day. “I’ve always liked school and I work hard to achieve my dreams and ambitions,” Ms. Reinertsen said. “English is my other favorite subject. This year I’m taking AP Literature with Ms. [Kelly] Quintero. She’s a really great teacher and our class discussions are always interesting, especially because we’ve been reading Hamlet!”
Ms. Reinertsen is closely identified with the district’s fine and performing arts programs. She’s also been an integral member of the Blue Devil marching band and the high school drama club. “These two groups are more like families to me, rather than school clubs,” she said.
The teenager has been in the marching band’s color guard since eighth grade. “It’s something that I absolutely love and don’t know what I would’ve done without it. I changed from being shy to being outgoing and friendly. This year I was co-captain and that was an amazing experience as well.”
Ms. Reinertsen has enjoyed traveling to all of the Blue Devil band’s competitions and teaching its new members how to spin and toss the flags and color guard weapons. “I’ve met so many people that I might have never met and made so many friends that I’ll keep forever,” the senior said about her experience. “I really would like to continue doing marching band in college. It’s one of my favorite things that I do.”
The stage has also drawn Ms. Reinertsen into its orbit. She has worked closely with English teacher-drama club advisor Michael Schwendemann. “Drama club is my other family of people that’s always been there for me,” the teenager said.
Ms. Reinersten has been involved with every show in some aspect since the spring musical during her freshman year. “I was production assistant for my sophomore and junior year musicals,” she said. “I tried out for both shows, but wasn’t cast as a performing role. So I asked Mr. Schwendemann if he needed any help with costuming. I was so happy when he said that my help would be more than welcome. From then on I went to all the rehearsals and helped out with props, costumes and all sorts of other things. It was a lot of fun and I learned so many things about costumes, props, backstage, on stage and so many other things. I love drama club and band. They’re places I’ve always felt I could go and feel at home.”
Ms. Reinertsen is a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, English Honor Society and the Key Club. She recently participated in a holiday shopping initiative with the Key Club that saw its members take more than four dozen local youngsters through Sears to purchase items suggested by their parents and paid for with gift cards supplied by the Rotary Club.
“Helping others and performing community service is something I really enjoy doing,” Ms. Reinertsen said. “Last November I started volunteering at Huntington Hospital. At the hospital I’ve made friends with other people my age from schools all over the Island. I’ve also gotten to know the nurses well. I’m so glad to be helping out in the Huntington community and meeting all sorts of new people.”
The teenager participated in Huntington High School’s first Relay For Life last June. She also volunteered at the Special Olympics’ Long Island Spring Games that was held at Huntington High School.
Three of Ms. Reinertsen’s favorite teachers (other than the music department faculty) have been photography teacher Pam Piffard, social studies teacher Camille Tedeschi and English teacher Kelly Quintero. She has forged bonds with most, if not all of the faculty members she has worked with.
Last year Mr. Reinertsen traveled to Peru with Education First tours and several of her closest friends and Ms. Piffard and Ms. Tedeschi, who were the group leaders. The private trip also included three dozen teenagers in all and several other teacher-chaperones. “It was a great trip and I can’t wait for the trip to Berlin in July!”
As the weeks and months go by and Ms. Reinertsen gets closer to graduation she is intent on having the fullest senior year experience she possibly can. She’s completely engaged academically and in the co-and-extracurricular programs.
“My favorite part of high school has been the adventures I’ve had with all my friends,” Ms. Reinertsen said. “Whether it is in an honor society, drama club or at band, my friends and I always have fun! I know that I’ve taken advantage of all the great things the high school has to offer. I’ve made great memories and still have more to come before the end of high school. And I have friends that will stay my friends much farther than high school. I know that I will definitely miss Huntington when I’m off at college in September.”
A keen observer and analyzer, the senior has grown quite wise about the overall high school experience that local teenagers can expect to encounter in Huntington. “My advice to freshmen is to try all the things that interest you; you never know what you might love,” Ms. Reinertsen said. “Introduce yourself to people and don’t be afraid of the upperclassmen. We’re not scary!”