In honor of Prep’s 90th anniversary and Alumni Reunion Day (invitations coming soon!) on May 20, we are celebrating by sharing stories about Flintridge Prep's past, present, and future. First up, we have Emily Baines Balliet '03 and her dream come true return to Prep as an English teacher.
“Getting to teach at Flintridge Prep was a pretty big deal for me.” As a student, Emily says, “I loved Prep. I knew I wanted to work here one day, even if I wasn't sure how I would go about it. I have a strong memory of Peter Bachmann [then head of school] telling me I could teach here, and that stuck with me." Most of all, Emily loved the sense of community. "I felt really loved here."
Her post-college path to the classroom was circuitous; she spent time working in music supervision, writing for outlets like “The Onion” and “Jezebel,” and published two pop culture-inspired cookbooks. Along the way she decided to turn her dream of working at Prep into reality. Having witnessed first hand the excellence of Prep teachers, she knew she needed more experience. She went on to earn her master's degree in creative writing from Otis College of Art and Design and then taught at several other private schools before applying to work at Prep.
LEFT: Prep always on her mind: Emily returned to Prep in 2012 for a special presentation for students on how to get writing published. RIGHT: Emily wrote cookbooks inspired by "Hunger Games" and "Downton Abbey."
Emily clinched that coveted teaching position in the fall of 2021! Reflecting on her own approach to teaching Emily says, “Everything I learned about teaching I learned from teachers at Prep." Ms. Sarah Cooper, current Associate Head of School at Prep and Emily’s AP US History teacher when she was a student, is an enduring inspiration. “It was really cool to me that she brought in sources that weren't just the history books. She made it not about memorization, but about understanding the broader themes. I do that all the time in my classes now.”
In one assignment, Emily asks her AP Literature students to craft playlists. They choose songs that personally resonate and describe how they relate to the emotions and situations in classic novels like "Jane Eyre." While digging into the lyrics by artists like Taylor Swift, students develop their understanding of literary terms like diction and imagery. Just as Ms. Cooper modeled for her, Emily believes that engaging student interest deepens learning, and crucially, helps students feel seen and heard. This allows them to experience empathy for life experiences and cultures that may differ from their own.
Emily (center) strikes a pose with the other new faculty and staff who joined Prep in 2021
Emily, too, feels seen and heard, continuing to find community and belonging at Prep. “I get to work with people who appreciate what I do, and I can be the kooky teacher who puts cats on everything." Joining the Prep faculty is a dream come true, and now she hopes to inspire her students to take risks and develop the confidence needed to pursue their own dreams.