Niskayuna High School math teacher Patricia Ryan is so dedicated to her job, she wouldn’t let an unexpected honor get in the way of a classroom quiz.
Ryan was one of two district high school teachers to be surprised on Tuesday with the annual Murray Award for Excellence in Education.
But, despite the short ceremony, she planned to go ahead with the sequences quiz, to the brief dismay of students like junior Evan Szakats. But Szakats, his graphing calculator at the ready, quickly got over his disappointment and heaped praise on his teacher.
“She’s really fun and she gets the point across. She’s always available for help,” he said before taking the quiz, and of course before it was graded. “She’s good at making things make sense. She takes the time to go through it.”
John Sharkey, a social studies teacher, also received the award. Both received a plaque and $2,500 toward professional development.
The award was created in the names of donors Edward and Sally Murray and their daughters Jeanne Murray Veasey and Kathy Murray Crowe. It is presented by the Niskayuna Community Foundation.
Ryan has been a teacher at the school since 1997, Sharkey for eight years.
Ryan was described to the foundation board as a strong teacher and a master in her field, foundation board member Christine Perlee said.
In accepting the award, Ryan said it couldn’t have come at a better time of year.
“We’re always feeling so stressed, thinking ‘Oh my gosh, is this worth it?’ ” she said. “I guess it’s worth it.”
Down the hall in Sharkey’s social studies class, he met the presenters and school officials with surprise.
“Am I red enough now?” he asked.
Sharkey became a teacher at the school after he left a career in law. He was described to the board as focused, passionate and a motivator, Perlee said.
Sharkey called the award humbling. “It really does take everyone to do this,” he said.
The plaques were presented by seniors Matt Rudinski and Carly Lubert.
Lubert said Sharkey makes class interesting, relating topics to current events.
“His students are very informed on what’s going on in the world,” she said.
On the walls of Sharkey’s classroom is a campaign poster for President Kennedy and photos of other presidents, including Thomas Jefferson.
There’s also a small sign by Sharkey’s desk reading “Beware of the Attack Shark.” Near the poster of JFK is also a picture of other ‘60s icons, the Beatles.
“He’s a music fan, too,” Rudinski said about the Beatles poster. “I can’t speak a whole lot about that.”
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