Local educator receives Fred Rogers Institute Helper Award

by Nicole Rosselot

Like so many of us, educator Greg Donnellan grew up watching the children’s show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” with Fred Rogers. Donnellan, the director of enrollment management at Lawrence School in Sagamore Hills and Broadview Heights, credits the show with inspiring his career as an educator, making it fitting that he received the Fred Rogers Institute Helper Award.

“I watched the show all the time and the Fred Rogers message that resonates the most [with me] is: everybody is worthy of being loved, just as they are,” said Donnellan. “It is really important to communicate that to children and I would say further, it is important to communicate that to people,”

This past fall, the Fred Rogers Institute honored 14 individuals from around the country with the helper award including educators, first responders and medical professionals.

The award recognizes adults who help and support children and was established in 2023 to recognize the institute’s 20th anniversary. Fred Rogers Institute at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, was founded by Rogers and offers professional development, workshops and keynote presentations.

“We talk a lot at the institute about how, in order to help children, we can’t skip over the adults who are supporting them, and we really try to invest in those adult helpers,” said Dr. Annie White, director of research and evaluation at Fred Rogers Institute. “One of our goals with the helper award was to find people who are doing so much all the time … and to elevate them.”

Donnellan is one such helper, having spent the past 16 years helping students and families at Lawrence School overcome learning differences.

During his time at Lawrence School, Donnellan created a music theater program and developed new ways of teaching music to students who struggle to read. He also established an entrepreneurship program that matches students with local businesses. Donnellan has served Lawrence School as a music teacher and middle school director and is currently the director of enrollment management.

“Greg rose to the top in how he went above and beyond for the kids,” said White. “He created new programs in his school and he was there not just for his students but also for his colleagues in helping their growth and being supportive of the people around him.”

Lawrence School hosted a special program on Nov. 17 honoring Donnellan’s accomplishment. In front of family, friends, colleagues and students, White presented Donnellan with the Helper Award. Donnellan was nominated for the award by his partner, Daniel Anstandig.

“I think we’ve become experts at Lawrence School in talking about learning differences, supporting the kids and helping them improve their skills,” said Donnellan. “We also help them know that we are all different and we all have the ability to be successful and contribute.” ∞

Photo: Greg Donnellan has worked as an educator at Lawrence Schools for 16 years. Photo submitted.