Unknown Class Gains Attention

Brandon McCormick

The little known class that is big in the hearts of many.

Penn Manor has had a woodshop class for the last…well nobody is really sure how many years. Sean McKnight, the head of the Technology department claims it’s been around for as long as he can remember. Administrator Jason D’Amico couldn’t come up with an exact date either. Regardless of its age, Penn Manor’s woodshop class is still going strong.

Ben Darrach's Electric Guitar

“Many schools are doing away with [woodshop],” said McKnight. “We think the hands-on work is good.”

Lancaster Country Day School has never had a program, according to Secretary June Chrales.

The School District of Lancaster doesn’t have a specific woodshop class like Penn Manor does either, said Kelly Burkholder. They have pathways that help students prepare for life after high school. One of these pathways is a technology path though.

Penn Manor’s woodshop class, just like every elective has had ups and downs in numbers over the years, although it has always been a favorite course for a few students. This year however, the woodshop class, which became known as AP Wood, had students who went above and beyond the call of the average wood worker.

Eric Gerlach gifted the class with the title of Advanced Placement Woodshop. While there is no actual GPA weighting like a usual AP class, every student works hard to perfect their study in the course.

Eric Gerlach's Tresure Chest

“It is the hardest level of woodshop Penn Manor offers. Some of the projects are so hard to make [the student] could be given an AP credit,” said Gerlach.

Maybe that is what sets this years class apart from all the others.

Matt Soto has been the woodshop teacher for the past six years. This class ranks very highly compared to his past years, said Soto.

“This is one of the most accomplished classes. There is a very high skill level from all the students,” said Soto. “There are a whole variety of students in this class, from Career Prep to College Prep and Honors. One thing that is similar is their desire to make a nice project.”

Soto stated, “No, not every project is perfect. That’s the beauty of it, the students takes these imperfections and try to hide or fix them.”

And these imperfections become invisible to make an amazing project.

Travis McConathey's Cherry Roll Top Desk

Such as Travis McConathey’s roll-top desk: an upright cherry desk with a magnificent rolling door.

“I enjoyed the class,” McConathey said. “I liked working with wood and making raw materials into a finished product.”

Bo Perez made a large lawn bench. His favorite part of the class was using the lathe where he crafted a walnut gavel. Perez plans to take the course every year he is eligible.

Jordan Drexel created a walnut dove-tailed chest. He plans to continue using his talents after he is done at Penn Manor’s woodshop.

Bo Perez's Lawn Bench
Jordan Drexel's Dove-Tailed Chest

“My grandparents have a woodshop in their barn. I’ll finish some of the projects from my great grandfather.”

Soto was so impressed with this years class he invited some of the schools administrators to a AP Wood showing so they can see the impressive work done by students.

“It’s hard to believe you can turn scrap wood into something so impressive,” said Administrator Doug Eby.

Bo Perez's Lathe-Spun Gavel

Eby was surprised when he walked into the woodshop and saw such intricate pieces.

Dean of Students, Eric Howe, was equally impressed.

“You don’t always see talent expressed like this in a normal school day,” Howe said. “Some pieces could be sold in stores. You would never know they were made by high school kids.”

With all the breath-taking projects coming out of the woodshop this year the only remaining question is; will woodshop be on your course selection sheet for next year?