Manheim Township Middle School mural

Manheim Township Middle School students completed this gridded mural, which represents the newly penned school song. The large piece of art will be hung in the school and celebrated Saturday.

THE ISSUE: It’s Friday, the day we take a few moments to highlight the good news in Lancaster County and the surrounding region. Some of these items are welcome developments on the economic front or for area neighborhoods. Others are local stories of achievement, ingenuity, perseverance, compassion and creativity that represent welcome points of light as we confront critical and stressful issues in Pennsylvania, across the nation and around the world. All of this uplifting news deserves a brighter spotlight.

Today is the final day of Teacher Appreciation Week — though we think every week should be Teacher Appreciation Week.

Among the many excellent educators teaching Lancaster County students is Penn Manor’s Elizabeth Raff, Pennsylvania’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year.

Late last month, Raff met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, took part in an international teaching summit and met with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, Penn Manor School District stated in a news release.

The celebration of teachers from across the country “culminated in an April 24 gathering in the Rose Garden of the White House,” the district noted.

“It was an honor of a lifetime to walk into the White House holding all of my students from Penn Manor in my heart,” Raff said.

Part of the trip to Washington, D.C., involved talking to members of Congress about the great work being done in public school classrooms and highlighting the need for future support of that crucial work.

The need for such support is critical.

“(It) was an incredible look at the work of advocacy in education,” Raff stated in the news release. “Education is for all of us, and I am inspired by the tireless work of educators who are ready and willing to hold democracy in their hands.”

And, of course, she continues to inspire Penn Manor students with the energy, dedication and demeanor that helped to earn her the statewide honor.

“I really believe teaching is a work of art,” she told LNP | LancasterOnline in a 2021 interview. “And for me, that is, how do I bring creativity in the classroom so that other kids are inspired to be creative as well?”

Inspiring students is just one of the many things teachers do so well. We are incredibly grateful for all of them during this Teacher Appreciation Week.

In other good things:

— Manheim Township Middle School students will unveil a colorful new mural Saturday afternoon in the school’s lobby.

The mural is a visual representation of the song “Who We Are.” Middle school art and music students worked to create it with artist-in-residence Melinda Steffy, LNP | LancasterOnline correspondent Carole Deck reported.

“Using a system designed by Steffy, the mural converts the ‘Who We Are’ school song sheet music into an abstract geometric artwork which translates the notes and rhythms into colors and boxes,” Deck explained.

Many students were involved in painting the wooden panels that comprise the impressive mural, which is 8 feet by 8 feet and weighs about 175 pounds.

Eighth grade student Noah Connell is among those who are enthused about how the project creatively combined artwork and music.

“It represents our school and school song,” he told Deck. “It influences how we see our school.”

— Elizabethtown College student Laura Cardona has been awarded a prestigious scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study Mandarin in New Taipei City, Taiwan, this summer.

Cardona is majoring in international business and political science at Elizabethtown.

The Critical Language Scholarship “is one of the most competitive scholarships in the U.S. and is the most prestigious language program for U.S. citizens,” the college explained in a news release. “With an acceptance rate of less than 10%, the program covers about one academic year of university-level language coursework during an eight-to-10-week program.”

The federal program aims to increase the number of Americans with mastery of a foreign language in an effort to boost both economic prosperity and national security. Cardona will be required to speak only Mandarin during her time this summer at Tamkang University and its surrounding cultural attractions. We wish her the best. 

— Finally, we’re thrilled that the “Keys to the City” pianos will be returning to public locations beginning Tuesday. The program is run by the nonprofit Music for Everyone.

“There will be 19 colorful pianos that anyone, regardless of age or skill level, can play: 17 in downtown Lancaster, one at Park City Center and one at Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse,” LNP | LancasterOnline’s Mickayla Miller reported.

We love the pianos, which have become associated with our image of the city in the summer. They will be available to the public through early October. For a full list of locations, go online to And let the melodic sounds of spring and summer begin. 

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