Three stand-out Cambria Heights educators receive Dr. John Powers Outstanding Educator Award

University Communications & Marketing | 05/01/2024

Pictured Left to Right:
Robin Mislevy, SFU President Fr. Malachi Van Tassel, T.O.R., Michele Schirf, and Rachel Manack.

Ƶ Francis University presents the Dr. John Powers Outstanding Educator Award to a deserving elementary or secondary teacher or administrator each spring. This year, the university presented the award to three outstanding Cambria Heights educators during the Ƶ Francis University President's Awards Convocation on April 30, 2024.

Rachel Manack – Cambria Heights High School, English Teacher

Rachel graduated in 2004 from California University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor's Degree in Technology Education as well as an Associate’s Degree in Drafting and Design. She taught at Blacklick Valley High School after graduation for two years and then continued her career at Altoona Junior High School for the next 12 years. During that time in Altoona, she attended California University of Pennsylvania, and completed a Master’s Degree in Technology Education.   In 2018, she began teaching at Cambria Heights High School. Throughout her career, Rachel has been an integral part of designing state-of-the-art technology and engineering labs for her current and former districts, winning Technology Education Program of the Year in 2016.  Since teaching at Cambria Heights, she has also been nominated for the Altoona Curve Teacher of the Year for the past three years.  Aside from teaching engineering, manufacturing, and graphic design at Cambria Heights, she is a co-advisor for the Technology Student Association - TSA at both the middle school and high school levels. She also assists each year with the Honors Physics Chain Reaction contest through Westinghouse and the Invention Convention contest at the regional, state, and national levels.

Although Rachel is not a Cambria Heights graduate, she is a proud Highlander staff member. She resides in Salix with her husband, Brandon, and her daughter, Grace.


Robin Mislevy – Cambria Heights High School, English Teacher   

Robin began her teaching career in 1998 at St. Michael Catholic School in Loretto as a 3rd and 4th grade combined class teacher.  She went to the Altoona Area School District in 1999 to establish and build their deaf and hard of hearing program.  Robin worked with students with various hearing losses and needs during her 9 years at the district.  She was an itinerant teacher who typically visited 5 buildings a day, 11 buildings a week, throughout the Altoona area.  In 2009, Robin joined the Cambria Heights School District as a high school English teacher.  Robin’s freshmen students consistently demonstrate high achievement on the Keystone Literature State Assessments. During her time at Cambria Heights, Robin has been very involved in extracurricular activities with her students.  She is the adviser of the school’s speech and debate team, Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) chapter, and co-adviser of Cambria Heights’ National Honor Society.  Robin has been recognized as an IU8 Rockstar Teacher in 2013, a semifinalist for the 2020 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, and a 2023 FCCLA Western Region Adviser of the Year.

Robin is a proud Cambria Heights alumnus. She resides in Patton with her husband, Scott, and two sons, Zach and Nathan.


Michele Schirf – Cambria Heights High School, Gifted & Learning Support Teacher

Michele is in her 17th year of teaching at Cambria Heights School District.  She has held the position of high school gifted support teacher and learning support teacher for the duration of this time.  Michele is also the middle school Technology Student Association (TSA) co-advisor and high school TSA assistant advisor.  She plans and coordinates the high school Career Fair, College Fair, Jared Box Project, and numerous academic competitions, some of which include Powering Pittsburgh, Chain Reaction Contraption Competition, Invention Convention, and PSU Math Competition.  Most recently, Michele created and implemented a ‘snack cart’ curriculum with students at the high school, which helps these students with many of their independent goals in a real-world setting.  Michele has been recognized as the 2022-2023 High School Teacher of the Year from Post 4315 Veterans of Foreign Wars.

When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, camping, and attending her children’s sporting events.



Ƶ Dr. John Powers

Ƶ Francis established the Dr. John Powers Outstanding Educator Award to honor the memory of the late John Powers, who began his 30 years of teaching in Loretto in 1946. Initially hired by the Franciscans to teach history, Dr. Powers accepted the chairmanship of the Education Department within a few years and earned his doctorate in that field from Penn State University in 1956.

In addition to preparing generations of teachers for the classroom, Dr. Powers served on local school boards for fourteen years. He was president of the Pennsylvania Institutional Placement Association and vice-president of the Pennsylvania Association of Liberal Arts Colleges. He and his late wife, Jeanette, were also deeply committed to the local parish school, St. Michael's. The Powers’ three children, Kathy, Jack, and Maureen, all graduated from Ƶ Francis.