Rep. Smucker presents commendation to PA Teacher of Year Mrs. Raff

Many thanks to U.S. Representative Lloyd Smucker, who visited the Pequea Elementary classroom of Elizabeth Raff, the 2022 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, on January 25 to observe her class and present her with a commendation.

The congressman sat in on part of a lesson in which Mrs. Raff’s classroom was decorated like a spy lab, complete with black lights and “laser beams” made from string. Using flashlights, the students worked in groups to crack codes, identify text structures, and showcase their knowledge of central ideas and nonfiction summarizing to put together the missing pieces of a U.S. spy profile. 

As students worked on the lesson, Rep. Smucker worked his way among the strings to see what the sixth-graders were doing and ask them about their teacher.

The congressman briefly explained his role in government and responded to questions before presenting Mrs. Raff with a copy of a commendation he read on her behalf on the floor of the U.S. Congress. He also gave Mrs. Raff an American flag that flew in her honor at the Capitol.

“We thank our teachers for all they have done to make sure that our students are receiving the best education possible,” Smucker’s commendation reads. “And that’s certainly true of Mrs. Raff, whose classroom is well-decorated and offers students access to a large library of books to pique their interest and a raised stage to provide students the opportunity to present to their classmates.”

“Thank you to Mrs. Raff for all you have done to educate students in our community. We all appreciate your efforts and wish to congratulate you on being named Pennsylvania’s 2022 Teacher of the Year.”

Mrs. Raff was selected for the honor on December 6, 2021, from among 12 finals chosen from the ranks of Pennsylvania’s roughly 128,000 teachers.

As Teacher of the Year, she will represent Pennsylvania teachers at the state level by speaking at conferences, leading workshops and professional development sessions and visiting school districts, colleges and universities across Pennsylvania. She also will be a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

She was nominated for the state award by two previous Teacher of the Year nominees, Jeff Kuntz of Punxsutawney, and Maria Vita, a Penn Manor High School psychology teacher who was a finalist for the 2019 award.

We’d like to thank Rep. Smucker for taking the time to visit Mrs. Raff’s classroom and present her with a commendation.

  • U.S. Representative Lloyd Smucker speaks with students during a spy lab lesson in Mrs. Raff's classroom.
    U.S. Representative Lloyd Smucker speaks with students during a spy lab lesson in Mrs. Raff's classroom.

Search for new Penn Manor superintendent gets under way

The process of hiring a new superintendent for Penn Manor School District is now under way.

Dr. Mike Leichliter announced in October that he will retire from the position no later than August 31, 2022, prompting the Penn Manor Board of School Directors to begin a nationwide search for his replacement.

Candidates interested in learning more about the position and starting the application process can do so here. Applications must be submitted by Friday, February 18. The successful candidate is expected to join the Penn Manor staff on or before June 1, 2022.

District parents, staff and students may participate in the search process by completing a survey regarding the key qualities of a superintendent and the strengths and weaknesses of Penn Manor School District.

Here is the link to the survey. Responses must be submitted by Friday, February 11.

Dr. Leichliter was hired as Penn Manor’s superintendent in 2009. He previously served as high school assistant principal, principal of Manor Middle School and Penn Manor’s assistant superintendent. 

As the search process continues, more information will be shared with the Penn Manor community.

Fullerton elected president of the IU13 board of school directors

   Congratulations to Penn Manor school board member Dr. Joe Fullerton, who was recently elected president of the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 board of school directors.

   IU13 is an education service agency that is governed by a 22-member board of directors that includes school board representatives from each of the 22 districts within IU13, including Penn Manor.

   “We are fortunate to have Dr. Joe Fullerton elected as the new IU13 board president,” said Dr. Brian Barnhart, IU13 executive director. “He has a thorough understanding of our comprehensive work and strategic priorities, and is an outstanding leader in every aspect.”

   Fullerton is vice president of the Penn Manor school board and has served on the board since 2013.    

   He is employed as assistant director of the Career, Technical & Customized Education (CTCE) division of the Chester County Intermediate Unit.

    Many thanks to Dr. Fullerton for taking on this additional responsibility.

All Penn Manor schools will be in session February 18 and March 25

Due to weather-related closings, all Penn Manor schools will be in session on February 18 and March 25. February 18 will be an early-dismissal day, with no PM Kindergarten.

Additional snow makeup days on April 14 and 18 are available should schools be closed in the future due to weather. Click here to read how we’ll notify parents/guardians of weather-related schedule changes.

Kindergarten registration for 2022-2023 begins January 17

Registration for incoming kindergarten students for the 2022-2023 school year begins on Monday, January 17. A child is eligible to attend kindergarten if she/he will be five (5) years old on or before September 1, 2022.

 Here is a link that includes information on the online registration process, an introduction to our kindergarten teachers and examples of what your child will learn in kindergarten.

If you are ready to register your student(s) for kindergarten, please visit our Enrollment and Registration Process page.

Registration for all other new students for the 2022-2023 school year will begin on May 16, 2022.

School closing notification procedures for 2021-2022

As we enter the winter season, we want to remind parents/guardians of the procedures Penn Manor will follow in announcing changes to our school schedule.

School closings and delays will be posted on the district website and Twitter feed and reported on LNP and local radio and television stations before 6 a.m., whenever possible. You can also call the inclement weather hotline at (717) 872-9500, ext. 2333, to check on the status of Penn Manor schools.

When inclement weather conditions develop during the day, resulting in an early closing, parents will be notified via automated phone call. Phone calls will NOT be made for closings/delays announced before the school day begins.

During an early dismissal for inclement weather, high school and middle school students will generally be dismissed first, followed by elementary students. 

During two-hour delays with modified kindergarten, all school-related functions, including transportation, will begin two hours later than normal.

Modified kindergarten schedule: AM Kindergarten will start at 11 a.m. and run until 12:45 p.m. PM Kindergarten will run from 1:45 p.m. until the regular dismissal time.

Penn Manor plans to use built-in snow days prior to using flexible instructional days (also known as “cyber snow days”) when school buildings are closed due to inclement weather. On flexible instructional days, students will receive instruction remotely.

Penn Manor uses the Sapphire phone and text communications service for rapid notifications. The system uses contact information from the Sapphire student information system. To assure you are contacted, please make sure your email address and phone information are updated in your Sapphire Community Portal account. For instructions, please see this guide.

Useful links

  • Penn Manor Twitter
  • Hotline: 872-9500 ext. 2333

Happy holidays from Penn Manor

Penn Manor School District would like to wish our students, staff, families and community members a safe and happy holiday season.

All schools have an early dismissal on Thursday, December 23, and will be closed from Friday, December 24, until Monday, January 3, when classes resume for all students.

Please stay safe and enjoy the break. Thank you for helping us do great things for our students in 2021!

Penn Manor students earn awards at PA Thespian Conference

Penn Manor students received several awards for their work during the PA Thespians State Conference, held December 3 and 4 at North Penn High School in Lansdale.

Hannah Fogell received an All-Star Cast Member award for her portrayal of Mrs. Peacock in the recent Penn Manor production of “Clue.”

Three students were named to the 2021 Thespian Hall of Fame, including Emily Witmer, overall award; Colin Rost, performance award; and Max Ponton, technical theater award.

Max also was selected as one of seven State Thespian Officers, and Maggie Eckroat placed first in the theater tech challenge by threading a sewing machine in just 61 seconds.

In addition, Penn Manor Thespian Troupe 274 was named a Gold Honor Troupe for its productions, advocacy, student involvement and community service over the past year.

Congratulations to these students for representing Penn Manor’s theater department so well!

Pequea honors PA Teacher of the Year Elizabeth Raff with schoolwide celebration

Pequea Elementary School gave a rousing welcome on Wednesday to Pennsylvania’s newest Teacher of the Year — Elizabeth Raff — who returned to her classroom for the first time since earning the prestigious honor.

Mrs. Raff, who teachers sixth grade at Pequea, had been in Hershey since Sunday, participating in the 2022 Teacher of the Year conference. On Monday, she was selected for the award from among 12 finalists from across Pennsylvania.

Wednesday’s ceremony at Pequea featured the Penn Manor High School Pep Band and Cheerleaders and a video presentation from several of Mrs. Raff’s former students on how she influenced them and continues to inspire them today.

“I had Mrs. Raff in 2016, and I absolutely adored her,” said Blessing Mmugambe, a Penn Manor High School junior. “She shaped me to be the woman that I am today.”

Another former student, Stella Thomas-Wenger, attended the celebration and talked about how Mrs. Raff made her classes engaging, creative and thought-provoking. Two days earlier, Stella had introduced Mrs. Raff in Hershey at the Teacher of the Year ceremony.

State Senator Scott Martin also was on hand to present Mrs. Raff with an official commendation from the Pennsylvania Senate.

Mrs. Raff thanked the audience and said it was great to be back home at Pequea.

“You guys are my home. Penn Manor is my home. Pequea is my home, and I am so proud and thankful for my time here,” she said.

As Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Raff will represent Pennsylvania teachers at the state level by speaking at conferences, leading workshops and professional development sessions and visiting school districts, colleges and universities across Pennsylvania. She also will be a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

She was nominated for the state award by two previous Teacher of the Year nominees, Jeff Kuntz of Punxsutawney, and Maria Vita, a Penn Manor High School psychology teacher who was a finalist for the 2019 award.

Mrs. Raff taught in Philadelphia for two years before joining the Pequea staff. She graduated from Messiah College with a degree in elementary education and completed her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Penn State University. She is currently pursuing her principal certification through Penn State.

Elizabeth lives in Lancaster Township with her husband, Jeremy, and their son, Owen.

Welcome back, Mrs. Raff!

  • Penn Manor cheerleaders perform at the ceremony

New members join Penn Manor school board

Four members of the Penn Manor Board of School Directors were sworn in Monday, December 6, to serve four-year terms on the board.

District Judge Joshua Keller administered the oath of office to Nicki Nafziger, Chris Straub and newcomers Frederick Herr and Loren R. Brown. All were elected last month to serve on the all-volunteer board through 2025.

Herr and Brown were elected to replace David Paitsel and Richard Frerichs, who decided not to seek re-election. Herr is self-employed, and Brown works as an assistant fire chief.

Also Monday, the school board elected Rintz as president and Joe Fullerton as vice president of the nine-member school board. They will serve for two years in those positions.

 “The Penn Manor community is fortunate to have nine dedicated school board directors who are committed to providing a quality education to our students,” said Penn Manor superintendent Mike Leichliter. “Penn Manor continues to be in excellent hands.”

Congratulations to our new members, and thank you to all who serve on the school board for their dedication to our students.

Pequea’s Elizabeth Raff named PA Teacher of Year for 2022

Pequea Elementary sixth-grade teacher Elizabeth Raff has been named the Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year for 2022!

Mrs. Raff, a teacher at Pequea since 2014, was selected from 12 finalists who participated in the Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year Conference, held in Hershey from December 5 through 7.

“We are thrilled that she is being recognized for all of her hard work and dedication,” said Penn Manor superintendent Mike Leichliter. “Elizabeth’s classroom is a dynamic place for her students to learn and grow. She creates a space where students are encouraged to explore ideas in a supportive and respectful environment.”

Mrs. Raff thanked teachers and administrators for persevering over the last two challenging years and credited her students with giving her the opportunity to become a better teacher.

As Teacher of the Year, she will represent Pennsylvania teachers at the state level by speaking at conferences, leading workshops and professional development sessions and visiting school districts, colleges and universities across Pennsylvania. She also will be a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

Mrs. Raff was nominated for the state award by two previous Teacher of the Year nominees, Jeff Kuntz of Punxsutawney, and Maria Vita, a Penn Manor High School psychology teacher who was a finalist for the 2019 award.

Mrs. Raff was introduced at the conference in Hershey by one of her former students, Stella Thomas-Wenger, now a ninth-grader at Penn Manor High School. Stella praised her former teacher for the way she engaged and encouraged students to not only learn, but to respect each other’s perspectives.

In a letter of recommendation to the Teacher of the Year review committee, Stella’s mother, Marlisa Thomas, had high praise for Mrs. Raff.

“Our family is so grateful that our daughter found a place in Mrs. Raff’s unique sixth-grade classroom. She was nurtured each day and challenged to grow and succeed, not just academically, but in her awareness and maturity.”

Mrs. Raff’s classroom is decorated in an Alice in Wonderland theme and features a large library with books in every genre, as well as a raised stage where students can present poetry, book reports and original music to the entire class. Raff encourages movement among her students and leads them through physical exercises that help them understand parts of speech, literary conventions and other lessons.

Ms. Thomas said her daughter “was consistently engaged in kind and respectful dialogue around important issues and the value of learning from each other” in Ms. Raff’s classroom.

Mrs. Raff taught in Philadelphia for two years before joining the Pequea staff. She graduated from Messiah College with a degree in elementary education and completed her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Penn State University. She is currently pursuing her principal certification through Penn State.

Elizabeth lives in Lancaster Township with her husband, Jeremy, and their son, Owen.

Penn Manor School District could not be more proud of Mrs. Raff!

  • Mrs. Raff
    Elizabeth Raff

Former Conestoga student builds pergola for school

  Anders Nordstrom was considering ideas for his Eagle Scout project earlier this year when his attention turned to his former elementary school.

   Anders wanted to give back to Conestoga Elementary, which he attended from first through sixth grades, so he talked with school officials and decided to build a pergola behind the school.

   After nearly a year of planning and design work, Anders, fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 146 and volunteers completed the massive wooden pergola, which stands over two benches near the school’s community gardens, in mid-November.

   “The finished project looks very nice, and I am incredibly happy with the result,” Anders said. “Seeing it up all in one piece really is amazing, especially after a year of planning.”

  The project was truly a community effort, with friends, family and local businesses assisting the Boy Scouts by contributing labor, funds and/or materials. Among the companies that helped out were Advantage Meter Concrete, Broderick’s Landscape Contracting, Lezzer Lumber and Penn Stone.

   Shortly after work began in October, Anders ran into a glitch when the crew wasn’t able to dig a deep enough hole for one of the support footers. So they relocated the project to a more suitable site.

   “The pergola is a great addition to the garden program and Edible Classroom, which provides lessons to all students at Conestoga,” said Scot Keddie, Conestoga principal.

    The pergola will provide a shade structure for garden education programs during the school year and in the summer.

   “We love that students and staff can enjoy this gathering space all year ‘round,” said Beth Horst, co-founder of Edible Classroom.

    Anders, now a senior at Penn Manor High School, plans to study geology in college and pursue a career as a paleontologist.

   Many thanks to Anders for his contribution to Conestoga Elementary!

  • The work crew that built the pergola
  • Workers complete the top portions of the pergola
  • Anders Nordstrom with Conestoga students under the completed pergola

Penn Manor Ed Foundation awards $40,000 in teacher grants

  Many thanks to the Penn Manor Education Foundation, which has awarded more than $40,000 in teacher Venture Grants to enhance learning in multiple subjects at all grade levels in Penn Manor School District.

   The grants range from $345 for flexible classroom seating for sixth-graders at Central Manor Elementary School to $7,085 for a wind tunnel at Penn Manor High School to teach the principles of aerodynamics, fluid dynamics and aeronautical engineering.

   Two of the grants this year will support efforts to teach more students about local watersheds, which is the focus of a new partnership with Millersville University.

   The grants, totaling $3,842, will fund groundwater simulation stations that will help students understand how the movement of water impacts ecosystems.

   “This grant will provide a unique, hands-on opportunity for students to see and understand groundwater, seepage, infiltration, and pollution,” said Brad Showalter, a fourth-grade teacher at Hambright Elementary who received a $1,988 grant.

   “We are challenging our fourth-graders to become watershed ambassadors who understand how humans impact local and regional water quality and aquatic ecosystems.”

   Several Venture Grants will be used to expand opportunities for music students, including classroom sets of ukuleles at two elementary schools. Grants at the high school and middle schools will fund a gong, snare drum, cymbals, mallets, wind chimes and other percussion accessories to be used in band and music classes.

  “These instruments and accessories will impact our students for many years to come,” said Sara Masten, high school orchestra director and co-director of the middle school orchestra, band and chorus. “Having proper equipment directly impacts the overall quality of students’ experiences and performances.”

   Another grant will enable high school singers to compete at a choral festival next year.

   Students in family and consumer science and health classes at the high school will benefit from a grant to purchase two infant simulators, including one that demonstrates the dangers of shaking a baby.

   On the elementary level, several grants will fund sensory paths for school hallways to encourage active learning. Another grant will fund materials for a sensory room at Hambright Elementary School to help students with auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and visual needs develop coping strategies.

   In all, 29 different teachers received grants for 2021. A second round of Venture Grants will be awarded in the spring. You can see the grants list here.

   In addition to funding teacher Venture Grants, PMEF administers more than $75,000 in scholarships awarded each year to graduating Penn Manor seniors and assists families in need with grants through its Strong & Healthy Families program.

   The foundation is a nonprofit supported by Penn Manor community members and businesses. You can learn more at https://pennmanoredfoundation.org/.

Many thanks to all those who help support the Foundation to make these grants possible!

School board members honored for years of service to Penn Manor

Congratulations to longtime Penn Manor school board member Dr. Richard Frerichs, who was honored by the school district and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association for his 24 years of service during his final school board meeting on November 15.

Also honored during the meeting were school board members Chris Straub for 12 years of service and Joe Fullerton and David Paitsel for eight years of service each.

School board president Herk Rintz estimated that Frerichs has spent about 9,000 hours – roughly equivalent to a full year of time – serving on the all-volunteer school board since he attended his first meeting in December 1997.

“You have truly been an outstanding board member, and you’ve been a mentor to every board member in this room,” Rintz told Frerichs.

Rich served three years as Penn Manor school board president and one year as president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

For years, he played an active role at the PSBA, serving as chair of the Pennsylvania Public Education Foundation and as a member of the EdPAC and Insurance Trust Boards. He received the PSBA Allwein Advocacy Award in 2016 for his efforts on behalf of Pennsylvania’s public schools.    

Nathan Mains, PSBA CEO, attended the November 15 meeting and presented Frerichs with a PSBA Distinguished Service pin – one of only nine people in the field of education to earn the honor. Mains said Frerichs was a mentor to him, as well, when he took over the CEO role at the PSBA.

Also at the meeting, Paitsel, Straub and Fullerton received certificates of appreciation from the PSBA in recognition of their years of service bringing their “energy, talent and values to the guidance of youth and public education in Pennsylvania.”

Paitsel was not at the meeting.

Many thanks to these outstanding community members for all they’ve done for Penn Manor School District!

Joe Fullerton, left, and Chris Straub

Penn Manor school board approves girls’ wrestling program

   The Penn Manor Board of School directors has approved the addition of a school-sponsored girls’ wrestling team for Penn Manor students in grades 7 through 12.

   Penn Manor becomes only the second school district in Lancaster County and the 23rd in Pennsylvania to offer girls’ wrestling, one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States.

   The new Penn Manor girls’ team will compete beginning this winter, mainly at tournaments.

   Penn Manor’s head wrestling coach, Brandon Vernalli, will provide oversight of both the girls’ and boys’ wrestling teams, and practices for both teams can be held in the same facility at the same time, using the same coaching staff.

  There already is strong interest in girls’ wrestling at Penn Manor. The Penn Manor Youth Wrestling Club recently formed a girls-only group that currently has 16 girls signed up.

   National data has shown that girls who wrestle often are not involved in other sports, so a girls’ team will encourage more girls to participate in a co-curricular activity, giving them a stronger connection to the school community.

   In addition, wrestling provides a new opportunity for girls to earn wrestling scholarships to post-secondary institutions, and wrestling ranks second among all sports for producing first-generation college students.

   “The girls’ wrestling program creates an additional avenue for our female students to connect, engage, and feel like they belong,” said Steve Kramer, Penn Manor athletic director. “This program also can help open doors for them to further their athletic and academic careers at the collegiate level.”

   The athletic department is hosting an information meeting on the girls’ wrestling program at 5:15 p.m. today (11/17) on the social stairs next to the high school cafeteria.