May 28, 2013: The Niskayuna Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, surprised two Niskayuna High School teachers today by presenting them with the 10th annual Murray Award for Excellence in Education. The awards were presented to Michael Jones, a Spanish teacher, and Margaret Varin, a science teacher. A crowd of students, parents and teachers stunned Mr. Jones and Ms. Varin, as they were in the middle of teaching their classes, by walking in with plaques and balloons. Each teacher will receive $2,500 for use in a professional development activity of their choice.
This annual award was begun in 2004 by Kathy Murray Crowe and Jeanne Murray Veasey, the daughters of Edwards and Sally Murray, to honor their parents’ involvement in the formation of the Niskayuna High School and their belief that educators in the high school would be the foundation of the “uncompromising excellence” that is typical of the education throughout the school district. The award is also given in memory of Jeanne Murray Veasey, who has since passed away.
A committee representing the students, parents, and peers chose 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, but is intended to be an annual opportunity to select educators who represent the overall excellence of the high school staff and educational program.
Students have spoken of how Ms. Varin gives tirelessly for the betterment of her students and truly wants them to succeed. They recognize her as kind and supportive and speak of the ample time and extensive energy she puts into her instruction as well as nurturing the emotional well being of her students. Her dedication to her craft does not go unnoticed. She connects with her students in a variety of ways – most notably in the way she brings her work experience beyond the classroom into the classroom. Students see the value in what they are learning because Ms. Varin helps them to see how concepts and skills learned in the classroom apply to employment opportunities and life in general. She also devotes considerable time to Science Olympiad.
Mr. Jones is described as being greatly respected by both the faculty and student body of Niskayuna High School. He plays an instrumental role in the success of the Foreign Language department, student exchanges and the Niskayuna Teacher’s Association. His sense of caring is heartwarming and sense of humor appreciated. It does not go unnoticed that he connects with each of his students in a profoundly personal way. Students say he takes the time to get to know each and every individual. They describe how he gives of himself in every class, on each and every day. As one student noted, “I may not always be in a good mood when I enter a class, but I always feel good when I leave Mr. Jones’ class. The guy is an amazing teacher!”