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Judy (Pinataro) Castrogiovanni ’97, G’01, P’25: Key to the Future

Judy (Pinataro) Castrogiovanni ’97, G’01, P’25: Key to the Future
Castrogiovanni celebrates with students during Jefferson Elementary Center’s Blue Ribbon announcement in 2019. (Photo Courtesy of The Times-Tribune/Jason Farmer)

An alumna relies on her experience as an RA to create an invaluable community as a principal during the pandemic and beyond.

Judy (Pinataro) Castrogiovanni ’97, G’01, P’25 who was named Pennsylvania’s 2021 Distinguished Principal by the Pennsylvania Principal’s Association, believes that the classroom is the key to the future.

“If you want to make a positive impact on the world, there is no better place for you than in the world of education,” said Castrogiovanni, who is currently serving as principal of Jefferson Elementary Center in the North Pocono School District.

As a first-year student at the University, the Springbrook Township native initially wanted to pursue a career as an attorney. When she took a job coaching North Pocono High School’s mock trial team, however, she had an epiphany that would one day benefit countless students and families.

“I realized what I really loved was working with students,” she said.

Becoming Family

That realization was reinforced by her work as a Resident Advisor (RA), where she was encouraged to make her residents feel as if Driscoll Hall was their home away from home.

“Being an RA was one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “We kind of made a little family there. I think it influenced how I lead at school because it’s very much the same way now that I’m a principal.”

After graduating, Castrogiovanni became an English teacher. She earned her master’s in educational administration at the University and eventually began teaching seventh grade at North Pocono. About a year and a half later, after a sudden departure within the district, she was asked to fill in as Jefferson Elementary’s principal for the remainder of the year. The following school year, Castrogiovanni was asked to stay in the position permanently.

"If you get to steer the ship, you make it a place people believe in, want to be, and are proud to represent. I learned that at Scranton."

Since then, she has focused on shepherding the “Jefferson Family” and cultivating a “shared vision of excellence” where “every single child deserves a great education” and every family member contributes to its success. As a result, in 2019, Jefferson earned a National Blue Ribbon for Exemplary High Performance from the U.S. Department of Education, the first in the district’s history. Castrogiovanni attributes this accolade to a system-wide embrace of something that sounds an awful lot like the magis.

“Every stakeholder is always asking themselves, ‘What more can I contribute?’” she said. “If you have that as your driving force, then any school can rise to the National Blue Ribbon School distinction.”

When the pandemic hit in 2020 and North Pocono went into lockdown, Castrogiovanni created a school YouTube channel and posted daily videos so the whole community could enjoy a common experience. And, although COVID-19 continues to raise many new challenges for her students, she hopes the example set by her faculty and staff during these difficult months will make a positive impact on their lives.

“They watched the grown-ups around them put a smile on their faces,” she said. “I feel like that lesson is not lost on five-year-olds, the lesson of when you face a hard time, you can choose either to be defeated by that and downtrodden, or you can choose to say, ‘How can I make this less negative? How can I make this more positive for people?’”

“A Place People Believe in”

When Castrogiovanni was named Pennsylvania’s 2021 Distinguished Principal, she attributed her success to the Jefferson Family.

“I’m very proud and humbled by it, but I’m mostly just glad it’s one more thing for my team to be proud of,” she said. “I look at it as an opportunity to shine a light on … the great things that our families are doing, that our teachers are doing, that our kids are doing, because that is what made being considered for this award possible.”

As a person who radiates positivity, Castrogiovanni, or “Mrs. C.,” as her students would lovingly say, remains excited by all the future holds. In August, she was weeks away from welcoming the Jefferson Family back to in-person learning. “If you get to steer the ship, you make it a place people believe in, want to be, and are proud to represent,” she said. “I learned that at Scranton.”

Castrogiovanni and her husband, Joe, have two sons, Jason, a high school sophomore, and Brian, who just began his own Scranton journey as a member of the University’s Class of 2025. Now officially a “legacy” parent, Castrogiovanni said she looks forward to “living that Scranton experience as a mom.” She said she would recommend a career in education to her son’s classmates who are looking to make a difference.

“You will be able to put your head on the pillow every night and feel like you did something great for the world,” she said.

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