Pequea Elementary School teacher Elizabeth Raff has been named the 2023 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year. Raff, who teaches sixth-grade English language arts and social studies, was selected from 12 finalists who participated in the Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year Conference held in Hershey.
Penn Manor Superintendent Mike Leichliter expressed his enthusiasm for Raff’s achievement, stating, “We are thrilled that she is being recognized for all of her hard work and dedication. 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.”
Raff, who has been teaching at Pequea since 2014, thanked her colleagues and administrators for their perseverance over the past two challenging years. She also credited her students with making her a better teacher, stating, “I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with such amazing young people who challenge me to be my best every day.”
As the Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, Raff will represent the state’s teachers by speaking at conferences, leading workshops and professional development sessions, and visiting school districts, colleges, and universities across Pennsylvania. She will also be a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Award.
Elizabeth Raff’s classroom is a vibrant and engaging learning environment, decorated in an Alice in Wonderland theme. It 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. She encourages movement among her students and leads them through physical exercises that help them understand parts of speech, literary conventions and other lessons.
In a letter of recommendation to the Teacher of the Year review committee, Marlisa Thomas, mother of one of Raff’s former students, praised her teaching methods. She stated, “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.”
Stella Thomas-Wenger, one of Raff’s former students who is now a ninth-grader at Penn Manor High School, introduced Raff at the conference. Stella praised her former teacher for the way she engaged and encouraged students to not only learn but to respect each other’s perspectives.
Elizabeth Raff’s commitment to education and her students is evident in her classroom and beyond. As Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, she will continue to inspire and empower educators and students alike.