Award & Fellowship Opportunities

Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award

In honor of Mrs. Fitzgerald, her son and daughter-in-law, Dr. Rodney and Margo Fitzgerald, have established the annual “Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award.” This award is the highest honor at the local level to recognize and encourage teaching excellence in the classroom.

Dr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald present this annual award to teachers from either the Bradley County Schools or the Cleveland City Schools who are nominated by supervisors, peers, students, and parents. The Award is presented in August at the opening session of each school system.

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Lillie Frank Fitzgerald taught English and speech at Bradley County High School for 37 years. She was passionate about teaching, instilling into each student a love of learning and a belief that academic success was possible. She attended Carson Newman College and completed graduate work at University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

During her teaching tenure at Bradley County High School, she initiated a club for future teachers and an academic honors banquet recognizing students for their academic achievement. Mrs. Fitzgerald also developed the college preparatory English program.

Nominated by several of her former students, she was inducted into the Tennessee Teachers’ Hall of Fame located at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro in 1995. She was respected by her students for her love of and excellence in teaching. A former student, Toby McKenzie, endowed a scholarship at University of Tennessee College of Education which is given annually to an upper-class education major.​

Amount of Personal Award: $3,000 cash and a recognition plaque
Amount of Professional Award for Classroom use: $2,000
Restrictions on use of Personal Award: None
Application Deadline for the 2023 Award: May 15, 2023
Announcement of Winner: August, 2023, Opening session of each school system

Receiving the Lillie Frank Fitzgerald Award was one of my favorite moments ever. It was shocking and unexpected. But the response of my peers and guests at the Award Ceremony made me feel so very supported and important. Most of all—to think they considered me worthy of exemplifying Lillie Frank Fitzgerald—this was indeed the pinnacle of my career as a teacher!

-Sylvia Coates

As a recipient of the Lillie Frank Fitzgerald Award, I can say that it was likely the highest honor I ever received. The Fitzgerald Award was based on first-hand knowledge of what I have accomplished with my students—the dedication to my classes my daily successes with teaching math at Walker Valley High School. To me, these are the greatest accomplishments of my life and the Fitzgerald Award acknowledged these as worthy.

As a result of this honor, I felt gratified and empowered. The world of opportunities that have opened before me have led me beyond the classroom and I want to continue to contribute to the field of education for at least another decade. I am writing this from Arlington, VA where I am attending my Ph.D. Residency and preparing for my dissertation.

I realize that honoring someone with an award that has an emotional attachment of your parent's name, or the name of a well-known, highly honored teacher by those who love and cherish her memory, is likely the greatest honor of all. It will never cease to both amaze and humble me.

-Luajean Bryan

This was the most rewarding award that I could have ever received. It was wonderful that people actually take notice of the things that I do every day and think that they are outstanding acts. I am totally honored to have received this award!

Mrs. Fitzgerald was my English teacher at Bradley Central High School. She was amazing! She wasn't an easy teacher, but she was definitely a caring teacher! Every day I knew that when I walked into her classroom in 'B-Hall' I would be welcomed, challenged and taught! I loved her! Sometimes, the smile that I received from her was the only smile that I received for that day!

She touched my life in a way that only God would be able to explain. I do not have the vocabulary! She was my hero! To receive an award in her honor is the best thing that has ever happened in my educational life!

-Victoria Pritchard

2005 - Jason Robinson, Ocoee Middle School

2006 - Barbara Brantley, Valley View Elementary

2007 - Richard Shaw, Cleveland High School

2008 - Sylvia Coates, Teen Learning Center

2009 - Luajean Bryan, Walker Valley High School

2010 - Victoria Pritchard, Homebound Teacher, Cleveland City Schools

2011 - Bridgett C. Burris, Oak Grove Elementary School

2012 - Christy Duncan, Mayfield Elementary School

2013 - Dianna Johnson, Cleveland Middle School

2014 - Erin Hattabaugh of Cleveland High School

2015 - Jeremiah Pritchard, Lake Forest Middle School

2016 - Grace Dyrek, Cleveland Middle School

2017 - Abigail Duncan, Oak Grove Elementary School

2018 - Cecily Williams, Cleveland Middle School

2019 - Lindsey Smith Bell, Bradley Central High School; Linda Lemons, Cleveland High School

2021 - Charis Reagan, Bradley Central High School; Loes Riggins, Cleveland Middle School

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Friends Innovation Award

“Innovation is significant positive change. It’s a result. It’s an outcome. It’s something you work towards achieving with a project.”
—Scott Berkun, author and speaker

In 2019, Dr. and Mrs. Rodney Fitzgerald concieved and helped to establish the Innovation Award supporting numerous academic initiatives in our community. Together, Rodney and Margo were instrumental in the creation of the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation to raise community awareness, gain financial support and enhance teaching and learning. Annually, they support the Teacher Grant program and the Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award.

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This fund, currently supported by friends of public education, seeks to embolden and inspire teachers and administrators in their quest for significant positive change through innovative academic design.

Award: $15,000
Grant application deadline: June 15, 2023, 5:00 p.m.
Award Notification: 2023-2024 School Year Opening Session



Bradley Central High School - I=I (Innovation=Integration), STEM Project-Based Instruction

Cleveland High School - STEMulation Lab: Makerspace Equipment


Walker Valley High School & Bradley Central High School  -  Innovation = Integration, STRONGER TOGETHER


Walker Valley High School - ThinkSpace, Makerspace Equipment

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LEAD: Leadership Education And Development Fellowship

Targeted professional development is supported by BCPEF each year, with emphasis and need determined by the Cleveland City and Bradley School systems. Developing leadership skills and preparing teachers for an expanded role within a teaching team or moving into an administrative role is the purpose of the BCPEF LEAD: Leadership Education And Development Fellowship.

Cleveland City and Bradley County teachers commit to a year-long professional development Fellowship. Fellows are selected by the Directors of Schools and begin the fellowship at a retreat, followed by monthly workshops, job shadowing and school study trips. Study groups, module projects and leadership presentations provide coaching opportunities and facilitate independent learning and team building.

BCPEF has designed this fellowship with collaboration of the Directors of Schools targeting specific and strategic needs of the school system. Facilitators Debby Torres and Terry Murray bring expertise and insight to the monthly modules accentuated by local and national professionals and specialists, panels, and system leaders.  

To indicate an interest in being considered for this LEAD Fellowship, contact your Director of Schools. 

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Participating in the year-long Leadership Fellow Program has given me the tools to conduct effective Professional Development sessions with my leadership team and staff upon becoming a Principal at Blythe Bower Elementary School. The resources and training I received during the Fellowship are invaluable and I refer to my resource notebook often. My Cohort continues to meet for dinner on occasion.

-Prisavia Croft, Principal, Blythe Bower Elementary School

The Leadership Fellows program filled in the practical application gaps that are often in administration preparation programs and gave me the tools necessary to do my job more effectively. I feel more confident in my ability to lead people and programs because of this intensive learning experience and I am ultimately a better educator due to the fellowship.

-Cody Raper, Director of Innovation, CCS

The Leadership Fellows Program was one of the best experiences of my professional career. I learned how to lead well even through adversity, how to provide effective professional development to my peers, and it broadened my scope of knowledge not only K-12 but my knowledge of schools across the SE Tennessee region. Most of all, I was encouraged and inspired by my peers that I met through the program and will be forever grateful for their friendships.

-Miranda D. Whittington, Ed. S, 9th Grade School Counselor, Cleveland High School

The Leadership Fellows program has helped me become an impactful, growth-minded, and effective servant leader. It provided me with tools to evaluate, redesign and deliver professional development, building a collaborative school culture.

-Kirk Campbell, Principal, Charleston STEAM Academy

This fellowship provided a wonderful opportunity to develop and hone leadership skills and to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities confronting educational leaders.

-Dana Yost, Principal, North Lee Elementary School

I use the knowledge that I gained in Leadership Fellows every day as a new elementary school principal. This program is relevant and practical for school leaders. I am so grateful to the Public Education Foundation for the opportunity given me to participate in such an enriching experience.

-Jeremy Jones, Principal, Valley View Elementary School


2020-21 Leadership Fellows

Bradley Central High School - Andy McMahan, Assistant Principal

Bradley Central High School - Robert McIntire, CTE Information Technology Teacher

George R. Stuart Elementary / Arnold Elementary - Alicia Kahrs, Assistant Principal

George R. Stuart Elementary - Mindy Kiser, Physical Education Teacher

2019-20 Leadership Fellows

Taylor Elementary - Lori Riad, Instructional Coach

Oak Grove Elementary - Stephanie Jones, Principal

Blythe Bower Elementary - Casey Price, Assistant Principal

E.L. Ross Elementary - Adam Moss, RTI Facilitator

2018-19 Leadership Fellows

BCS - Beth Fugate, Math Coordinator

Bradley Central High School - Patrick Spangler, Principal

Valley View Elementary - Chase Smartt, Leadership Academy Teacher

E.L. Ross Elementary - Cherish Reid, Instructional Facilitator

2017-18 Leadership Fellows

Valley View Elementary - Jeremy Jones, Principal

Cleveland High School - Miranda Whittington, 9th Grade Counselor

2016-17 Leadership Fellows

Cleveland City Schools - Cody Raper, Director of Innovation

Charleston STEAM Academy - Kirk Campbell, Principal

2015-16 Leadership Fellows

Blythe Bower Elementary - Prisavia Croft, Principal

North Lee Elementary - Dana Yost, Principal


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Fund for Teachers

Fund For Teachers began in 2001 as a national foundation, based in Houston, Texas, that supports educators' efforts to develop skills, knowledge and confidence to impact student achievement. Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation, in collaboration with PEF-Chattanooga, assists teachers in Bradley County and Cleveland City Schools to design unique fellowships for professionalism and leadership and submit proposals to Fund For Teachers competing nationally for awards. Since 2014, 25 teachers from Bradley County and Cleveland City Schools have received fellowships from Fund For Teachers enabling them to travel the world pursuing learning experiences and professional growth which impact their teaching practice on a daily basis. As a result of these fellowships, their classrooms have been forever changed.

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Siema and Cara

Mission of Fund For Teachers: strengthening instruction by investing in outstanding teachers' self-determined professional growth and development in order to support student success, enrich their own practice, and strengthen their schools and communities.

Application Process Open - Fall 2022

Deadline - January 2023

Award Announcements - April 2023

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Nomination Requirements

Requirements for Nomination

  • Employed as a full-time, certified K-12 teacher in either the Bradley County or Cleveland City school system with a minimum of five (5) years of teaching experience
  • Demonstrates a passion for teaching and inspires students with a love of learning
  •  Involved personally in the community [e. g., religious, civic, and other community/volunteer organizations]
  • Communicates effectively across all racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds
  • Admired and respected by students, parents, and colleagues
  • Utilizes creative, current, and relevant strategies in the classroom
  • Embodies the spirit of teaching demonstrated by Lillie Frank Fitzgerald—professional, articulate, and passionate about education

Reviewed by Committee

All applications are reviewed by an independent committee established through the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation.

Nomination Packet

The Nominator must compile and submit a nomination packet online as a pdf document to containing the following:

  • Letter from nominator outlining the reason(s) the teacher is nominated for the award.
  • Letters of recommendation from one peer and current supervisor
  • History of the nominee including:
    • Full resume
    • Achievements and recognitions in the field of education
    • Civic, and community involvement
    • Family information
  • A statement of teaching philosophy from the nominee.


E-mail nomination packet as a pdf document to or submit using the upload button below.


Kayla Rudy, German Language Teacher and Sara Pennington, Spanish Language Teacher, Walker Valley High School
France-to participate in a world language workshop in Agen, France to research and experience new techniques in teaching proficiency.

Charis Reagan, Math Teacher, & Kari Ivester, Chemistry Teacher Bradley Central High School
Germany-to travel to Burghausen, Germany to study the tested & proven German approach of the dual-vocational instructional model, to learn techniques to implement in our classrooms and train fellow teachers in STEM disciplines.

Kelly Hughes, Art Teacher, Cleveland Middle School, and Ginger Crouch, Science Teacher, Cleveland High School
Italy and France-to follow in the footsteps of Leonard DaVinci to investigate his connection between science and art.


Gabriela Tallent, Chemistry Teacher, Cleveland High School
Utah, Romania, and Provence, France—to experience the challenges of producing lavender essential oil, analyze the harvesting and steam distillation processes of hybrid and genetically modified lavender plants and compare the farming customs and traditions in different countries and cultures which determine the qualities of the product.


Siema Swartzel, Arnold Elementary School (CCS) and Cara Rogers, Michigan Avenue Elementary School (BCS), K-5 Elementary Music Specialists
Ireland—is to experience the music of Ireland through learning its dance and folk instruments gaining an understanding of the culture’s role in Irish music and its influence in Southeastern American Music.


LeAnn Klepzig, Language Arts Teacher, and Renee Holman, World Language Teacher (French), Walker Valley High School
Hungary, Romania, Germany and France—to following the path of Elie Weisel and exploring the reconciliation of the events of WWII, its effects on both Eastern and Western European culture, relative to the cultures’ involvement and roles played; comparing the differences in post war France liberated by the Allies, and Eastern Europe, which was liberated by the Russians.

LuAnn Carey, CTE Agriculture Teacher, Bradley Central High School
Netherlands—to study their ecologically progressive horticulture practices including pest management, production methods, the organic agriculture and greenhouse systems.

Mary Ann Poplin, Art Teacher, Cleveland City Schools
Paris—to see and study original works of the Impressionists, experience the culture that encouraged these artists to leave behind traditions for a world of light, color and passion and to tour the museums of Paris and the locale associated with these artists.


Athena Davis, Cleveland High School
Jerusalem—Participate in Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies' three-week seminar on Teaching the Shoah and Antisemitism to increase personal knowledge of the Holocaust.

Stacey Wielfaert, Walker Valley High School
France and Spain—Retrace Hemingway's experiences in France and Spain and enroll in a Paris-based workshop for high school writing teachers, to experience the connections between environment, historical moment and the act of writing during one of the most productive periods in American literary history.

Lisa Eulo, Walker Valley High School and Carol Dale, Cleveland High School, World Language Teachers (German)
Burghausen, Germany—conduct a site visit with two partner schools to lay the foundation for both school systems to engage in a German American Partnership Program (GAPP) which promotes cross-cultural experiences and friendships.


Tonya Mullinax, Science & Social Studies teacher, E.L. Ross Elementary
Alaska—to study its wildlife, geology, ecology and native cultures.

Christian Mann, History/Social Studies Teacher, Walker Valley High School
France and Belgium—experience this first truly global and modern war—WWI—through both museums and battlefield experiences as well as through survivor and familial experiences in memorial services.

Victoria Pritchard, Homebound Teacher, Cleveland City Schools
Germany, The Czech Republic, Poland and Holland—examining, first-hand, the unthinkable past of the WWII Holocaust through the eyes of a survivor, Maude Dahme, by joining the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education on a trip through Germany.

Erin Hattabaugh, Science, Anatomy & Physiology, & Medical Engineering Teacher, Cleveland High School
UK—to study its lengthy history of successful social medicine and healthcare educational practices.

Sarah Garrett, English/Journalism/Language Arts teacher, Walker Valley High School
Boston area—to explore the lives, surroundings, and culture of the early New England writers to gain a deeper insight into their works.

Rachel Hicks & Elizabeth Pickens, History/Social Studies teachers, Walker Valley High School
Athens, Tinos, and Mykonos—to visit historical and archeological sites, collecting knowledge and resources to use in furthering our students’ understanding of the evolution of political thought.

Lori E. Tipton & Kerri D. Shrestha, Biology/Geography/Economics, Walker Valley High School
Andes Mountains and Amazon Rainforest ecosystems—studying the inter-connected of economics, geography, and biology to understand the physical and biological processes and the cultural characteristics that created and continue to change this region of the world.

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Fitzgerald Innovation Award Guidelines

1. Eligibility:

  • A team of full-time, certified teachers and/or administrators representing one of the public schools in Bradley County Schools or Cleveland City Schools will be eligible to submit an application for an award requesting funding up to $15,000. One proposal per school may be submitted within a single award season. The team is defined by the individual school. It may consist of a grade level team, a cross-curricular team, a subject-specific team, etc. A Project Coordinator must be designated who will be the contact for BCPEF. The Coordinator must ensure the team follows BCPEF’s guidelines for this award including proposed activity, donor response, and filing reports and reimbursement requests. Projects must directly benefit students academically.
  • Up to but not exceeding 20% of the requested amount may be used for professional development applicable to the development and implementation of the project. Expenses may include conference registration fees, conference materials such as books, media materials, program manuals, etc. Award funding excludes travel, food, lodging, substitute teacher salary, etc.
  • The following will not be funded:
    • Capital improvements
    • Travel
    • Classroom furnishings unless an integral part of project
    • Salaries nor salary supplements
    • Playground equipment
    • Field Trips
    • Athletic programs
    • Postage/Shipping

2. Grant Application Submissions:

  • All applications submitted by the deadline will be evaluated by a team of professional, educational and community representatives, rotating members of the BCPEF Executive Committee (excluding both directors of schools) and chaired by Rodney and Margo Fitzgerald, who will make final award determinations.
  • All submissions must use the online process. Hard copies will not be accepted. All applicants will be notified by e-mail when their application is received by the Foundation office.
  • Complete the online COVERSHEET. When completed, the Coversheet will contain all necessary contact information. It is critical to use the same title on the cover sheet and application.
  • Complete the online APPLICATION starting with the project title. Complete each section, paying attention to and effectively explaining each bulleted point. It is recommended that you compose, copy and paste your work however, you are free to compose in the text box. There is no word count or character restrictions. You may save your work and return to it at a later time. When complete use the submit button. Once submitted, you will not be allowed to make changes to your proposal.
  • Unlike the Teacher Grants, schools and systems should and can be identified in the application to provide clarity and purpose.
  • Approval by the applicable school principal and Director of Schools is required on the cover sheet.

3. Award Requirements and Reimbursement Procedure:

  • All applicants will be notified of award or non-award. Upon official notification of award, recipients may purchase only materials specified in the application. The BCPEF Executive Director must approve any changes in use of awarded funds. Funds may not be over-spent, and any money not spent will revert to BCPEF.
  • When making purchases, use school purchase orders. After materials have been received, complete the Reimbursement Request by May 1 (use the online form or download and print) and attach all invoice copies. Submit to school bookkeeper who will submit to BCPEF in order for the school to receive reimbursement.

4. Project Report and Donor Response

  • It is the responsibility of the recipient school to write a letter thanking the donor(s) for supporting the project through BCPEF, enclosing photos or class art work or other materials as appropriate and to send a copy to BCPEF.
  • By May 15 (of the same school year of award/implementation) the recipient must submit a Year-1 Project Evaluation Report to the Foundation office by e-mail/pdf attachment and a follow up Year-2 Report due May 15 of the next school year following implementation of the award. Both Reports must include at a minimum:
    • Results including Student Impact (incl. # of students)
    • Itemized financial report
    • Photos as appropriate which can be used for Foundation publicity
    • Copies of communication with donor(s)

5. Summary of Dates

  • Grant application deadline: June 15, 2021, 5:00 p.m.
  • Award notification: 2021-2022 School Year Opening Session (Bradley County Schools and Cleveland City Schools each)
  • Thank you letters to donor(s): January 15, 2022
  • Reimbursement requests: May 1, 2022
  • Year-1 Project evaluation report due: May 15, 2022
  • Year-2 Project evaluation report due: May 15, 2023