Harney enters Westford Academy as a history teacher


Elena Gibbons

Mrs. Harney poses at her desk in room 148.

Elena Gibbons, Author

Denise Harney is a new history teacher at Westford Academy. She teaches freshmen and sophomores in rooms 147 and 148.

Q: What is your name and what do you teach?

A: My full name is Denise Harney and I teach 9th grade World History 2 and 10th grade US History 1.

Q: Do you have a favorite grade or class to teach?

A: Not yet. I have some favorite subjects that I enjoy teaching. I really look forward to getting beyond the American Revolution with my US students and we’re actually diving into the French Revolution with my freshman, and I really like that. It’s not really a particular class it just depends on the unit. 

Q: What are your teaching experiences? 

A: For the last eight years I was teaching seventh and eighth grade social studies in Somerville, Massachusetts. So that’s where I was before here. 

Q: Why did you decide to go into teaching?

A: I took an office job right out of college as an attempt to make money, and move out of my parent’s house. I hated it, and decided I wanted to do something that was going to be different everyday. I like working with young adults and kids a little bit more than working with adults sometimes. I just wanted to do something that I was going to enjoy. I have a lot of teachers in my family and they always talk so positively about it, so I decided to go back to school for education. 

Q: Where did you go college? 

A: I went to Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts and I got my master’s degree at Rivier College in Nashua. 

Q: Where did you grow up? 

A: I grew up here in Westford, I’ve lived here my whole life. Well, almost. After college I moved away and then I lived in Somerville and in Boston, in and around the city and eventually we moved away and back in this direction, and now I live in Chelmsford. 

Q: Why did you decide to move back to the Chelmsford-Westford area?

A: I grew up around here, my husband is from Dunstable, so he’s from the area too and after we got married and were looking for a house, we knew that we wanted to be closer to where our family is. We had been living in Woburn, which isn’t that far away, but we wanted to be really close for when we started a family. My parents live around the corner from us, so we have them to help out. They’re really involved with my daughter, so it worked out perfectly.

Q: Are there any differences from your previous school to WA? 

A: Well, the previous school I taught in was in an urban setting, and it was extremely diverse. We had a lot of students that were immigrants from all over the world, and we had a lot of students who English was not their first language. We definitely had a different socio-economic background. […] Kids here seem to understand the importance of an education and work really hard and it’s just something you can tell that everybody’s been reinforced at home. Unfortunately with some of the former students their parents were working so much and they didn’t have as much of a chance to really the reinforcement at home. The attitude toward school was a little bit different, and it was a little bit more difficult to encourage kids to get out of the work the whole learning process. 

Q: Has teaching at WA been an adjustment? 

A: I’m used to teaching middle school so the adjustment to high school is there, and making things more challenging. But also the speed at which students work, because of the different attitudes towards learning and the age differences, is something to adjust to. But I feel like a couple weeks in, I’m in a good space.

Q: How do you like WA so far? 

A: I love it, I’m actually a [2002] graduate of WA, so it was a return coming back here. Everyone has been very friendly, and all students work really hard, and it’s really nice place to work so I’m very happy!

Q: What are you looking forward to teaching in a new school this year? 

A: Because I live locally, I’m looking forward to being more apart of my school community. I wasn’t able, in my previous job, to go to sports games, or do things that were functions going on on the weekends, and stuff to really be part of the school community because I worked an hour from where I live. So I’m looking forward to being able to be more a part of the whole atmosphere here.

Q: Do you like being involved in extracurriculars?

A: I don’t have a lot of experience in it, actually. I am a sports fan and I would go to games and things like that. I’m not sure you’d want me to coach anything because I’m not the most athletic person. But I’m sure I’ll find my niche here, and maybe do some clubs or things like that in the future. 

Q: What are your hobbies outside of school?

A: I have a two-year old that keeps me really busy, and a dog, and….lots of laundry – don’t put that as a hobby though! – I like to spend time with my family, I like to go to the bike path and go for walks with my daughter and with my dog. I love to shop, a little too much, you can find me at the Marshall’s up at Corner Stone pretty regularly. I like to go to the gym, I’m a really big fan of like, true crime shows and detective murder mystery kind of stuff so that’s where I geek out a little bit. 

Q: What’s your family like? 

A: Well, outside of my immediate family, I have one sister and she lives down in Virginia. She has three kids: twins that are nine and a daughter that’s four. Even though they’re really far away, I talk to her multiple times a day and I’m still really close with my nephews and my niece. My parents living so close, I see them really frequently and they’re both retired so my dad golfs a lot and my mom shops a lot, and sometimes my husband golfs with my dad and I shop with my mom, so it works out!