Manor FFA members earn multiple awards at PA Farm Show

Two dozen Penn Manor High School students, along with three sets of parents, won several awards recently at the Pennsylvania Farm Show representing Manor FFA.

Keystone Degrees

Ten students – Emily Aukamp, Tanner Bauman, Kenny Barley, Jonathon Eshbach, Hannah Gerberich, Clara Hess, Damian Kreider, Isaiah Smith,  Abby Reiff and Elizabeth Broderick – earned Keystone Degrees.

The Keystone is the fourth of five degrees FFA members can earn.  Only 357 members out of 12,771 in the state received the degree.

To earn a Keystone Degree, FFA members must hold the Greenhand and Chapter FFA Degrees; perform at least 25 hours of community service; earn or invest $1,000 or work 300 hours outside of school in their SAE program; participate in 15 FFA Activities, five of them above the chapter level; and demonstrate leadership and advocacy of agriculture and FFA.

Jacket recipients

Five students – Jordan Arms, Rebecca Barley, Jolene Fields, Theodore Ney and Renee Eshbach – earned a blue jacket, the iconic symbol of FFA membership.

The first-year member jacket campaign is sponsored by the Pennsylvania FFA Alumni, which provides the jackets and a scarf or tie free of charge.  To qualify, students must write about what the jacket means to them and what they plan to achieve while wearing it.

Honorary Chapter Degrees

Three Penn Manor couples received Honorary Chapter Degrees for raising three or more children who have earned Keystone Degrees.

The recipients were David and Starla Hess (Clara in 2018, Katie in 2016, and Caleb, 2014); Warren and Kim Reiff (Abby in 2018, Katrina in 2013, and Brandon, 2012); and Jay and Bonnie Bauman (Tanner in 2018, Tyler in 2014, and Jessica, 2012).

Poultry Team Recognition

The Manor FFA poultry team was recognized for its silver medal performance at the National FFA Convention. The team includes Marshall Ebersole, Kylie Kreider, Madeleine Denlinger, Colin Smith, and Lauren Sensenich (alternate).

Junior Market Swine Placement

Abigail Reiff placed fifth in her class, Lauren Sensenich earned a third in her class, and Colin Smith was reserve champion Hampshire. All made a sale.

Lamb Placement

Berklee Perry placed second in her class and was the Reserve Champion Suffolk. She made a sale.

Keystone Star interviews

Kenny Barley and Damian Kreider both interviewed for the State Star Keystone award after being selected Eastern Region stars. Damian interviewed in the agribusiness category for his tomato production and sales business; Kenneth interviewed in the agricultural placement category for his work experience at Walnut Hollow Farms.

Agriscience Fair

Arilyn Oatman exhibited her Agriscience Fair research project entitled “Raw Food Diets in Animal Nutrition” in the state Agriscience Fair.  She earned a second in the Senior Animal Systems Division.

Tractor Restoration Project

Jonathon Eshbach, Kenny Barley and Mike Brumbaugh gave a 15-minute presentation on the Farmall 200 tractor they restored with help from other Manor FFA members.  Lancaster Farming awarded the chapter $800 for completing the restoration.

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PMHS’s Maria Vita named Teacher of Year semifinalist

Penn Manor High School psychology teacher Maria Vita has been named a semifinalist for Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year for 2019.

Vita, who has taught at Penn Manor since 2003, was nominated for the award by Superintendent Mike Leichliter and his wife, Mary Edith, whose three children all had Maria for class.

“We could not have asked for a more caring and capable teacher for our children,” they wrote in their letter. “She is truly extraordinary.”

Vita said she is “both honored and humbled to be considered” for the award.

“When Dr. Leichliter nominated me, I felt very grateful of his praise and the opportunity to apply. He called me the moment he learned I made the semifinals, and I was both surprised and delighted,” she said.

Maria, who teaches Advanced Placement Psychology, recently was named chair of the American Psychological Association Committee of Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools.

She helped establish an Aevidum student club at Penn Manor that seeks to create an atmosphere in which all students feel accepted, appreciated, acknowledged and cared for. Aevidum also works to increase awareness of depression and prevent teen suicides.

The Teacher of the Year finalists for 2019 are expected to be named at the end of March.

Congrats to a deserving teacher!


PMHS students earn academic, writing awards

Two Penn Manor High School students have received recognition for academics and writing.

Senior Kevin Ward has been named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist – one of only 15,000 students (out of 1.5 million) from across the United States to earn the award.

Junior Peyton Cassel has earned three Scholastic Writing Awards in poetry, personal narrative and “flash fiction.”

Kevin qualified as a National Merit Finalist based on his academic record, PSAT and SAT scores, activities, leadership qualities, a personal essay, and a principal’s recommendation.

“It’s pretty amazing to be a semifinalist and then to advance as a finalist,” said Kevin, who hopes to major in robotics, computer science or mechanical engineering in college.

He is hoping the national recognition of being named a finalist “paints a good picture” of him in the eyes of college admissions officials. About half of all finalists go on to receive National Merit college scholarships.

Kevin is the first Penn Manor student to be named a Finalist since 2014.

Peyton won a Scholastic Gold Key, the highest award, in flash fiction (under 1,000 words) for her story “The Apology.” which has now been entered into consideration for a national award.

She also won a Silver Key for a collection of five poems and an Honorable Mention for her personal narrative “The Hatching,” about watching sea turtles hatch along the coast of North Carolina.

“I’m honored and thrilled to have received these awards,” Peyton said. “Scholastic provides young writers with so many incredible opportunities.”

She credits her parents, both elementary school teachers, with instilling in her a love of writing. “In fourth grade, I was introduced to poetry, and it just took off from there,” said Peyton, who received her first writing award in fifth grade.

Peyton plans to major in English or communications in college and pursue a career in broadcast journalism.

Congratulations to both these talented students!

Peyton Cassel and Kevin Ward
Peyton Cassel and Kevin Ward







22 Penn Manor seniors commit to college athletics

Family and friends gathered Thursday in the Penn Manor High School library to honor 22 seniors who will participate in collegiate sports at 19 different colleges and universities next year.

The National Signing Day ceremony featured students who participate in 11 different sports. Four students plan to play field hockey or football, three will play soccer, two will participate in track & field, lacrosse or softball and one each will participate in gymnastics, cross-country, basketball, volleyball and baseball.

Five students will attend Division I schools, five are headed for Division II, and 12 will attend Division III colleges and universities.

According to Penn Manor athletic director Jeff Roth, the student athletes excelled in the classroom as well as on the playing field, earning a median grade-point average of 3.7.

Four of the five Division I athletes participated in two sports at Penn Manor, and the group includes four members of the Comets’ undefeated state and national championship field hockey team. Eleven students were part of a League, District or State Championship team at Penn Manor.

Congratulations and best wishes to these outstanding student athletes:

Division I 

Taraje Whitfield – Princeton University, track & field
Brittany Hook – University of South Florida, softball
Hannah Brown – James Madison University, field hockey
Casey McCollum – Lafayette College, football
Mischa Kolibas – Longwood University, lacrosse

Division II 

Mia Clancy – Kutztown University, field hockey
Autumn Gager – West Chester University, field hockey
Jared Harvey – Millersville University, soccer
Thorean McElheny – Seton Hill University, track & field
Brianna Reitnauer – West Virginia Wesleyan College, gymnastics

Division III 

Brooke Spezialetti – Alvernia University, field hockey
Brianna Ulaky – Eastern University, cross-country
Conlin Groft – Cabrinia College, soccer
Susan Porambo – Stockton University, soccer
Nasheyla Greggs – Alvernia University, basketball
Sydney Duplissey – Salisbury University, softball
Allison Hege – Lebanon Valley College, lacrosse
Ben Wright – Franklin & Marshall College, football
Mikiah Sangrey – Lebanon Valley College, volleyball
Paisun Harris – Delaware Valley University, football
Dylan Crook – Elizabethtown College, baseball
Cole Heckaman – Franklin & Marshall College, football

Group photo caption: Back row, from left: Paisun Harris, Ben Wright, Cole HeckamanTheoren McElhenyTaraje Whitfield, Brittany Hook, Mikiah Sangry, Casey McCollumConlin Groft, Dylan Crook and Jared Harvey.
Front row, from left: Susan Porambo, Brianna UlakyNesheyla Griggs, Sydney Duplissey, Allison Hege, Hannah Brown, Brooke Spezialetti, Mia Clancy, Brianne Reitnauer and Autumn Gager. (Missing: Mischa Kolibas)

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PMHS singers qualify for District, Regional honors

Congratulations to Penn Manor High School singers Sierra Echavarria and Diane Imboden, who qualified to participate in the Pennsylvania Music Educators’ District 7 Jazz Festival in April.

In addition, Penn Manor senior Alison Murphy qualified for Region V Chorus after auditioning at the PMEA District 7 Chorus Festival at Susquehannock High School Jan. 25-27.

Sierra, a senior, and Diane, a junior, auditioned along with students from several high schools in Lancaster and surrounding counties earlier this month and qualified as vocal jazz sopranos.

The vocal jazz festival ensemble consists of just 16 students, with four on each voice part. “The fact that we had two sopranos from Penn Manor qualify for two of the four soprano spots is huge,” said the students’ vocal teacher, Lauren Ciemiewicz.

Sierra and Diane will participate and perform at the Pennsylvania Music Educators District 7 Jazz Festival April 6-7 at ELCO High School. Alison is not able to participate in the Region V Chorus Festival due to a conflict with the high school musical.

Nice work, ladies!

Diane Imboden and Sierra Echavarria.
Diane Imboden, left, and Sierra Echavarria.
Alison Murphy
Alison Murphy




Emma DeBerdine, Matt Soto named Player, Coach of Year

Add two more honors to Penn Manor’s outstanding 2017-2018 field hockey team — it boasts the national coach and player of the year!

Max Field Hockey this week named Penn Manor junior Emma DeBerdine the National Player of the Year and the Pennsylvania/New Jersey Region Player of the Year.

It also named Penn Manor coach Matt Soto the National Coach of the Year and the PA/NJ Region and Pennsylvania State Coach of the Year.

Coach Soto led the Comets, the top-ranked team in the nation, to a perfect season in the toughest high school field hockey conference in the country, according to Max Field Hockey.

The Comets finished the season 28-0 as the PIAA AAA State Champions, District 3 Champions and Lancaster-Lebanon League Champions. It was the third state title in program history and the first time the team went undefeated.  The state title win over No. 3 Downingtown West was one of six victories by the Comets over teams that ranked in the Final National Top 25 Rankings.

Emma DeBerdine, a first team All-American and PennLive Player of the Year, contributed 27 goals and 30 assists for Penn Manor this fall.

“I believe Emma is the very best player in the country, and a complete player,” Soto said. “She recovers and plays defense with the same passion and urgency as any player I have ever seen or coached in 33 years.  She also is a great goal scorer.”

“Emma could have easily scored many more goals in our games, but she has such a keen awareness of developing the entire team, she often passed when she could have gone to goal,” Soto said.  “She scored when she needed to, and she distributed when she needed to. This really helped with our overall success.”

Emma’s speed and quickness are “unmatched,” he said. “Her recovery speed helped break down the opposing teams’ best players, which allowed our defenders more time and space to make defensive plays.  Emma is the consummate team player/leader.”

Soto pointed out that the Comets did not give up a goal in the district or state playoffs and allowed only three shots in their last seven games.  “Emma is a key part of that,” he said.

Congratulations to two deserving members of one amazing team!

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Three Penn Manor musicians named to District Orchestra, Band

Congratulations to Penn Manor High School students Madeline Claus, Elise Thyrum and Shannon Peachey, who were named to District 7 Band and Orchestra.

Elise (French horn) and Shannon (trumpet) were named to District Band and will participate in the District 7 Lower Band Festival Jan. 12 and 13 at Kennard-Dale High School and perform in concert at 7 p.m. Jan. 13.

Elise and Shannon also were named to District Orchestra, along with Madeline (violin). They will participate in the District 7 Orchestra Festival Feb. 9 and 10 at Cedar Cliff High School and perform in concert at 7 p.m. Feb. 13.

The students were selected to participate based on auditions that included other students from Lancaster, Lebanon, Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Perry and York County schools.

Best wishes to these three outstanding musicians!


District Band and Orchestra musicians
From left, Shannon Peachey, Elise Thyrum and Madeline Claus, who were named to District Band and Orchestra.

Nominate an outstanding Penn Manor teacher, employee for recognition

Do you know of a Penn Manor teacher or staff member who goes above and beyond in performing his or her duties? If so, please consider submitting a nomination to the Outstanding Educator/Employee Awards program.

The school district will present the awards later this year to two teachers and two staff members.  Nominations are being accepted until February 23, 2018, from parents/guardians, students and colleagues of Penn Manor staff members.

Last year’s honorees were Alex Lagunas, technology support analyst; Erik Polaski, Pequea Elementary second-grade teacher; and Karen Hallett, Penn Manor High School English teacher.

The Outstanding Educator Awards should be based on a teacher’s ability to promote academic growth in his/her students and for outstanding pupil-teacher relationships.  A person may nominate one elementary teacher, one secondary teacher or one teacher on each level.  The nominee must currently be employed by Penn Manor School District.

Nominations for the Outstanding Employee Awards should be based on the staff member’s ability to support the educational program and the quality of his/her relationships with staff and students.  A person may nominate one elementary staff member, one secondary staff member or one employee on each level.  The nominee must currently be employed by Penn Manor.

Please click here to submit a nomination. Use one form for each nominee.

Below are an explanation of the awards, guidelines and a list of previous recipients.

Letter from Superintendent
Guidelines for Outstanding Educator, Employee Awards
Previous award recipients

Field hockey team ends year ranked No. 1 in the nation

First it was the league championship, then the district crown and the state title.

Now Penn Manor’s field hockey team has been ranked National Champions, earning the top spot in the final national rankings of the 2017 season!

Penn Manor compiled a perfect 28-0 record, outscoring opponents by 148-5 and posting 23 shutouts. The team was the first in Penn Manor history to earn Lancaster-Lebanon League, District Three and state titles in a single season.

The Comets ended the season on Nov. 18 with a 2-0 win over Downingtown West to earn the PIAA Class 3A state championship.

Congrats, ladies, on yet another accolade on your amazing season!

Check out the rankings here

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Penn Manor students earn state theater honors

Penn Manor students received several awards for their work during the PA Thespians State Conference over the weekend in York.

Brianna Clow received a Superior rating in scenic design for her rotating stage design for this year’s fall play, “And Then There Were None,” during the conference, held Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 at Central York High School.

She also was named to the Pennsylvania Thespians Technical Hall of Fame.

Brianna is now eligible to compete in scenic design at the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska in June.

Also at the conference, Max Minnick received an All-Star Cast Member award for his portrayal of Captain Lombard in “And Then There Were None,” and Alex Patterson was named to the Pennsylvania Thespians Performance Hall of Fame for his body of work.

Alex, a senior, has performed in every Penn Manor theater production since his freshman year.

The fall play also was honored for being selected as one of only five productions performed during the conference, and the Penn Manor theater troupe was recognized as a Gold Honor Troupe.

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

The five award-winning Penn Manor theatre students
From left, actors Alex Patterson and Max Minnich; Charlotte Molitoris and Ashley Seiger, co-presidents of Penn Manor’s theater troupe; and set designer Brianna Clow.

Manor FFA members earn honors at National Convention

Congratulations to the team of five Manor FFA members who earned a silver medal in poultry judging at the National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis on October 26.

During the National Poultry Judging Career Development Event, the students took a written exam on poultry management, evaluated live hens and broilers, graded and evaluated processed poultry products and eggs, and identified carcass parts.

They also worked together to problem solve a chicken tender processing scenario during which they measured and evaluated tenders and developed a verbal presentation of their solutions.

The team consisted of Marshall Ebersole, who earned a bronze individual award; Kylie Kreider, who earned a silver; Madeleine Denlinger, silver; Colin Smith, silver; and Lauren Sensenich, the team alternate.

Also at Nationals, three Manor FFA alumni received their American FFA Degrees, the highest degree achievable in the national FFA organization.

They are Brad Groff (Penn Manor Class of 2014), Samantha Bleacher (Class of 2016) and Katey Bleacher (Class of 2016).

Nice work, alumni and current FFA members!

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Johnna Friedman honored for 14 years of school board service

Congratulations to Johnna Friedman, who served her final board meeting as a Penn Manor school director Monday, Nov. 20, after more than 14 years of service.

The school board honored Johnna with a resolution commending her for serving in leadership roles. She chaired the facilities committee during a crucial period of school construction in Penn Manor and was board liaison to the technology committee. She also served on the judicial review committee.

Johnna joined the board on March 8, 2004. Her seat will be filled next month by a new member, Nickole Nafziger.

At her final board meeting, Johnna was joined by her grandchildren, Maxim, Stella and Gianna. She and her husband, Stuart, have three daughters – Jessica, Stefanie and Jamie Lynn, all Penn Manor graduates.

Many thanks, Johnna, for your years of dedicated service. You will be missed!

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Penn Manor field hockey team wins state title with 2-0 victory!

Congratulations to the Penn Manor field hockey team for winning the 2017 PIAA state championship with a strong 2-0 win over Downingtown West!

The team ended the year undefeated, with a 28-0 record. It’s the first Penn Manor team in school history to go undefeated while winning league, district and PIAA titles. The Comets also won the state field hockey title in 2014.

Congratulations to the players, coaches, their families and fans for such a memorable season. The team will be celebrating at the high school.

What a great day to be a Comet!

Penn Manor Field Hockey team celebrates with their 1st place trophy!


PM Ed Foundation awards $50,000 in grants to teachers

Penn Manor students will be building toys for a pediatric hospital, planting a vegetable garden at their school and using computer programs to help hone their violin playing skills, thanks to Venture Grants awarded this month by Penn Manor Education Foundation.

PMEF has awarded 52 grants totaling nearly $50,000 – both record numbers this year – ranging from $38 for plant mazes for second-graders at Central Manor Elementary School to $4,800 for toolboxes for Penn Manor High School Agricultural Mechanics students.

In between are grants for books, news magazines, light tables, field trips, digital photography equipment, therapeutic games and mindfulness training sessions.

Several classroom teachers and librarians will use their money to purchase “breakout boxes” – collections of locks, boxes and clues that challenge students to collaborate and use critical thinking to solve hundreds of different puzzles.

Other teachers received grants to make their classrooms more appealing to restless learners by adding new seating options – including camp chairs, yoga mats and exercise balls. Manor Middle School received a $2,000 grant for training a therapy dog, Wrangler, to help calm students in distress.

And the district’s counseling department received a $2,500 grant to implement mental health training programs.

In all, the grants will enhance the school climate and learning experience for hundreds of students at all 10 Penn Manor schools.

“The fact that we have had the highest number of applicants indicates that innovation and collaboration among our staff continues to grow,” said Anne Kinderwater Carroll, PMEF executive director. “To be able to finance these projects is a credit to our amazing base of supporters.”

Since 2000, the Education Foundation has awarded more than 750 Teacher Venture Grants totaling nearly $800,000.

In addition to its grant program, PMEF supports Penn Manor students and families experiencing financial and emotional difficulties through its Strong & Healthy Families initiative. The Foundation also administers more than 45 annual scholarships for graduating Penn Manor High School seniors.

A full list of approved grants for 2017-2018 is available here.

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Penn Manor’s Ali Murphy named to District Chorus

Congratulations to Penn Manor High School senior Alison Murphy, who qualified to participate in the District 7 Chorus Festival.

Ali was among the nearly 900 students who auditioned for the festival on Oct. 28, competing against students from nearly 80 different high schools from eight counties in Central Pennsylvania.

She qualified as a Tenor 1, and will participate in the festival Jan. 25-27 at Susquehannock High School. The concert is scheduled for 5 p.m. Jan. 27.

Way to represent Penn Manor, Ali!

Alison Murphy
Alison Murphy