Physical therapist for Lawrence school district ‘goes the extra mile’ for student with terminal disease

photo by: Contributed photo

Lawrence Superintendent Anthony Lewis presents the 2019 Dedication to Education Award to Jessica Rohrberg at Kennedy Elementary School on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019.

When Kelli and Justin Bates’ son Darby, a student at Pinckney Elementary School, was diagnosed with a terminal disease in 2018, doctors could only help by providing a list of vitamins for the boy to take.

But Jessica Rohrberg, a physical therapist for the school district, immediately acted to help the family by researching the disease and useful therapies to provide Darby with in school, the Bateses wrote in an award nomination letter to the Lawrence Schools Foundation.

“We are happy to report that though Darby has significant mobility issues, and despite our best efforts will likely continue to worsen, many of the systems she put in place have helped to keep him on grade level,” the Bateses said.

In honor of her work for the Bates family and others in the school district, Rohrberg was named the winner of the Dedication to Education Award for 2019. The Lawrence Schools Foundation and Superintendent Anthony Lewis presented Rohrberg with the award on Tuesday at Kennedy Elementary School.

The award honors a certified teacher or paraeducator who “goes the extra mile to help students who need it most,” according to the foundation’s website. It also came with a $5,000 cash prize.

The Bateses said in the letter that Rohrberg was deserving of the award because Darby’s needs are nuanced and require a deep understanding of his personality, which she has. They also noted that Rohrberg has helped the family repeatedly outside of school, often attending appointments with the family at a hospital in Kansas City, Mo., to help them communicate with Darby’s rehabilitation doctor.

“There are not enough superlatives to fully describe what Jessica Rohrberg means to our family,” the Bateses wrote. “She goes above and beyond her job description every day and is more than worthy of your award.”

While being presented with the award on Tuesday, Rohrberg thanked her peers and students.

“I love my job and my coworkers, my students and my family,” said Rohrberg, who appeared to be crying in a school district video of the event. “I’m the luckiest lady.”

Reading from other nomination letters, Lewis said students, parents and colleagues commended Rohrberg for her passion for working with the students and making sure their needs are met.

“She is well deserving of this recognition,” Lewis said.

Contact Dylan Lysen

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact reporter Dylan Lysen:


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.