The Niskayuna Community Foundation surprised two Niskayuna High School teachers, prize patrol-style, with the 20th annual Murray Award for Excellence in Education. The awards were presented to Christina Pizzino-Catalano, Choral Teacher in the Music Department, and Michael Sogoian, a Technology and Engineering teacher. Each awardee receives an engraved plaque and $2,500 for their professional development.
“There is no better way to celebrate the 20-year milestone of this award than to recognize these remarkable teachers who represent the true spirit of the Murray Award,” said Kathleen Kemp of the Niskayuna Community Foundation. NCF has proudly presented 40 Niskayuna High School educators with a total of $100,000 since the Murray Award was established in 2004 by Kathy Murray Crowe and Jeanne Murray Veasey to honor their parent’s legacy. Edwards and Sally Murray were instrumental in creating Nikayuna High School. They believed that the most creative, driven, and inspirational teachers provided the finest education. The award is also given in memory of Jeanne Murray Veasey, who has since passed away.
During the pandemic lockdown in the spring of 2020, Christina Pizzino-Catalano drove to every graduating senior’s home with a karaoke machine and gave them a private farewell concert. This is but one example of Pizzino-Catalano’s dedication and commitment to her students. She is recognized as a supportive and caring teacher, who not only elevates their study of music, but also helps them become better people. Outside the classroom, Mrs. Pizzino-Catalano leads music at church, takes her students to perform for senior citizens, and works on the school musical. Mrs. Pizzino-Catalano always goes above and beyond!
Michael Sogoian is known as a hard-working and highly qualified member of the Niskayuna High School community, who is always willing to help out, no matter the need. His involvement and dedication reinvigorated the Science Olympiad club, helping propel the club to states this year. In the classroom, Mr. Sogoian helps students to explore and learn new skills, build on them, and apply them throughout the year. Outside of school, he is actively involved with Niskayuna Boy Scouts and youth sports. Despite all of his commitments, he is always available to help his students and colleagues around the building and beyond!
A committee representing students, parents, and peers chose the recipients and the Niskayuna Community Foundation facilitated the selection process and award presentation. Criteria included outstanding classroom practices as well as growth potential and a school presence that inspires and positively impacts students, colleagues and the community. At the request of the Murray family, this award is not competitive. It is intended to be an annual opportunity to select educators who represent the overall excellence of the high school staff and educational program.
The Niskayuna Community Foundation, founded in 1999, is an affiliate and geographic fund of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region (CFCR). NCF’s mission is to inspire generosity, encourage equity, and invest in local solutions in Niskayuna through grantmaking and awarding of scholarships. NCF has provided $485,000 in grants to more than 110 non-profits since 2000.