Schenectady County

Foundation honors two Niskayuna teachers as ‘excellent educators’

A gaggle of people, including the superintendent, high school principal, students and media came wit

Niskayuna High School teachers John Furey and Carol White had their classes interrupted Friday.

A gaggle of people, including the superintendent, high school principal, students and media came with plaques and balloons to present them with the Niskayuna Community Foundation’s eighth annual Murray Award for Excellence in Education.

Furey, a physical education teacher, was in the weight room for his fitness class. He was honored for his work to support students and boost school spirit. His catchphrase — “It’s a great day to be a Warrior!” — has proved so popular it is now on the back of a Niskayuna school sweatshirt.

“It’s a great day to be a Warrior! Where’s that million dollars from Publisher’s Clearinghouse?” he said when informed of the award, referring to the sweepstakes’ “Prize Patrol.”

Eighteen-year-old Ryan Burke, a Niskayuna student who is on the foundation’s awards committee, said Furey makes physical fitness fun and encourages everybody — regardless of their skill level.

“It’s because of you coach Furey that Niskayuna High School has been a healthier and happier place,” Burke said.

Furey, 54, said he was grateful for the honor. “The faculty here at Niskayuna is outstanding. To be recognized among such an elite faculty is truly humbling,” he said.

Furey has been with Niskayuna for 17 years and teaching for 32. In addition to teaching physical education, he also serves as the varsity football and baseball coach.

“I love my work. I think people can see that. It’s kind of infectious,” he said.

Haylie Gerner-Dott, 16, said Furey is pretty cool. “He just encourages you. You feel more motivated. He’s really nice to you and gives you pointers,” she said.

English teacher White, 43, was at a loss for words when she was surprised in her classroom. Among her accomplishments were starting the Shakespeare Club, Java Jive and the underclassmen Creative Writing Club, and being responsible for placing poetry around the school.

“I’m blown away,” she said.

Senior Emily Neaton, 18, said White was a teacher and mother figure to her. She particularly enjoyed taking the Shakespeare class.

“I walked in hating Shakespeare and came out loving Shakespeare,” she said. White took the playwright’s works and brought them down to a level that made them understandable, according to Neaton.

White said she was flattered. “I feel like I’m doing my job and enjoying what I do,” she said.

Furey and White will receive $2,500 each to be used for professional development.

Foundation awards committee member Kathleen Kemp said the award was created by Jeanne Murray Veasey and Kathy Murray Crowe to honor the memory of their parents, Edwards B. Murray and Sally Murray, who were instrumental in the formation of the Niskayuna Central School District. It aims to recognize educators who demonstrate outstanding classroom practices, show growth potential and inspire students, staff and the community.

A committee of foundation members, students, staff and parents made the nominations.

“It’s really embracing continuing the tradition of excellence in education in Niskayuna,” White said.

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