Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award
August 3, 2015 – 10th Year Anniversary

Following is the Award presentation by Dr. Rodney Fitzgerald at the August 3rd Joint Opening Session of Cleveland City and Bradley County Schools.

While the difficult job of teaching includes lesson plans, curriculum guides, standardized tests, parent-teacher conferences, faculty and committee meetings, grading papers, attendance and grade reporting, bus duty, cafeteria monitoring and much more, it has a greater purpose – that of influencing and transforming the lives of students.

Winner Jeremiah Pritchard
From left to right: Matt Bentley, BCPEF President; Jeremiah Pritchard, winner of 2015 Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching award; Margo Fitzgerald and Dr. Rodney Fitzgerald

Reading over the 18 nominations this teacher received from administrators, colleagues, current and former parents, and current and former students our committee members quickly realized just how important connecting with students is not only in the area of learning but also in the area of human life. Teachers truly can be transformative agents in students’ lives and based on reading these nominations, this teacher has done this on many occasions.

Described as one of the most compassionate, forgiving people whose tact and civility in difficult situations, this teacher combines giving 110% of his professional best in all that he does with a tremendous amount of self-sacrifice, giving up an entire month of weekends, often out of state to help students excel in activities that bring them confidence and joy.  His structured classroom and the ability to connect with students who are high achieving or difficult to love makes him a “kid magnet”.

He mentors students and integrates life skills, such as conflict resolution, responsibility and respect into his lessons. He understands what makes a middle schooler “tick” and as a result, his students excel. One nominee stated that “his heart knows exactly what to do and say for the betterment of the child”. Another said he has a captivating charisma that invites students to step out and dare to be great, overcome bashfulness, low self-esteem or the fear of failure. He gives his students hope that ANYTHING is possible.

One former student stated that throughout her middle school years, she experienced a lot of turmoil in her home and this teacher offered her daily encouragement that continued on into her college years. Another parent said that when she was asked to write a nomination letter she was overwhelmed with emotions from joy to tears and utmost appreciation. Having lost an older son in a tragic car accident, this teacher reached out to this family and put together a huge group of singers to perform at her son’s funeral. What this man did for my family can not be expressed in words.

Helping students make the transition from elementary to middle school, this teacher visits 5th graders helping them find a place to “plug in” as they enter middle school.

His teaching philosophy emphasizes that all students are capable of learning and the role of the educator is to find the least restrictive, yet structured environment for all students to master what they are capable of achieving. He feels a teacher must always be prepared for each day as learning occurs on a daily basis and the process of learning is more important than the product.

A cum laude B. S. graduate from Lee in Special Education, a summa cum Laude M.S. graduate in Administration and Supervision and an Ed. S. graduate from Lincoln Memorial in Curriculum & Instruction, this teacher spent four years in the special education area before becoming Show Choir Director and Drama Coach at Lake Forest Middle School for the past 14 years. His Revolution Show Choir has earned highest awards in competitions in Alabama, New York, Mississippi, and Florida.

His community activities include: Big Brother Program, Director of Music at Old Pathway Baptist Church, work with Cleveland City Ballet, choreographer for Bang-a-Rang productions, and coordinator of a Gospel Choir with current and former students performing at various churches and other community venues.

A most deserving recipient of the 2015 Lille F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award is Jeremiah Pritchard from Lake Forest Middle School.