BY REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — As the academic year at Niskayuna High School draws to a close, there’s one particularly exciting day students and teachers look forward to.
Marked by red and black balloons delivered by a grinning crowd of students, teachers, administrators and community representatives, it’s the day the Murray Award for Excellence in Education is presented to two teachers.
At 8 a.m. sharp Friday, a crowd clutching balloons, speeches and cameras began to walk toward the classroom of German teacher Joe Carosella, also known as Herr Carosella, or “Herr Care” for short, to his students.
After speeches, applause and snapshots, they set their sights on the classroom of business teacher Janice Lindsay and started again.
The festive presentation is a tradition established by the Niskayuna Community Foundation, which administers the award in memory of Edwards and Sally Murray, educators who helped shape Niskayuna High School into what it is today. Their daughters, Kathy Murray Crowe and Jeanne Murray Veasey, created the award in 2004. Veasey has since passed away.
Along with the surprise presentation, recipients also receive a plaque and $2,500 to use for the professional development activity of their choice. For teachers and students, though, the unexpected excitement is the most memorable part of giving the award each year. A current or former student gives a speech to each teacher.
“Herr Carosella is something of a diamond in a gold mine,” sophomore Conor Graham said to a classroom of Carosella’s students.
He rattled off inside jokes alongside words of sincere gratitude for the teacher, who is also a soccer coach.
Senior Danielle Rice read a speech to Lindsay, whose business class she took two years ago. But the elapsed time had done nothing to diminish the student’s affection for her teacher.
“You don’t just have Mrs. Lindsay for a teacher for one year,” she said.
Teddy Arcidiacono, also a senior and former student, agreed.
“She remains your teacher,” Arcidiacono said.
The seniors, who were both part of a committee that helps choose award recipients, said the day was as special for them as for the teachers, especially as graduation approaches.
“It’s when things like this happen you realize, ‘Oh, we’re never going to do that again,’ ” Rice said.
But presenting the Murray Award created an opportunity to say thanks in a big way before moving on from Niskayuna High School.
“It’s kind of an honor for me, as well,” Rice said.