Celebrating the 2021 Lilly F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award

Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation

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.” 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. Lillie Frank Fitzgerald taught English and speech at Bradley County High School for 37 years.
Representing Bradley County Schools, Charis Reagan and from Cleveland City Schools, Loes Riggins, are the 2021 teachers selected to receive this prestigious award. Each teacher receives a recognition plaque, $3,000 for personal use, $2,000 for use in their classroom, and each was honored at their system’s convocation.
Charis Reagan teaches math at Bradley Central High School. Attending community college, she earned an Associates degree and proceeded to obtain a Bachelor of Science & Mathematics from Lee University. Charis continued her formal education obtaining a Masters in Education Degree with additional focus in instructional leadership and administration. Her pursuit of further expertise includes attendance at professional math workshops, a Fab Lab institute, and a Fund for Teachers Fellowship to Germany in 2019 reaping immeasurable benefits for her students, her colleagues and ultimately Bradley County Schools. Committed to educational excellence and innovation, in early 2018 she and her teaching team were inspired to develop a progressive, comprehensive vision and plan for their high school academy. Authoring and receiving numerous Teacher Grants, the first Innovation Grant in 2019, and collaborating with BCPEF on private foundation grants have funded this visionary plan and led to enhanced student learning and teaching effectiveness. She co-authored the 2020 Innovation Award with Walker Valley High School’s math and science team and both high schools have greatly extended the impact. This collaboration was stimulated by the COVID interruption of in-school instruction in March 2020. Unable to complete the project outlined in the 2019 grant, Charis recruited teachers from WVHS to transition the use of resources and equipment for community benefit. Over 600 plastic face shields were produced and distributed to healthcare personnel at 35 different local medical entities. Further sharing her influence, expertise, and visionary innovation, she proposed a project to BCPEF which will be funded in the 2021-22 academic year. This $40,000 project will impact every Bradley County School through the Math Teacher Leaders. Her love for teaching and student learning shows in everything she does. She is professional, articulate, committed, and passionate about education. She serves on the Foundation’s Education Family Committee and has spoken on the Foundation’s behalf to major donors. She is a Math Teacher Leader for BCHSl at which she has taught since 2013, and since 2017 her teamwork and leadership have funded more than $200,000 for her school’s math and science program. Her principal has said “She is one of the most innovative, dedicated, loyal, trustworthy, and hard-working individuals you will find.”

In 2004, Loes Riggins joined the faculty at Cleveland Middle School as a 6th, 7th, 8th grade English/language arts teacher and in 2014 extended her curriculum assignment to include 6th grade English/language arts, science, social studies, and math, teaching on a 2-member team. Loes earned an undergraduate degree in communications, a master’s in education, and an education specialist degree from Lee University. She has additional credits from courses provided to master teachers who mentor Lee University’s student teachers. Described by her peers, Loes is a caring teacher who looks out not only for the students’ educational needs but also for their physical and emotional needs as well. Time and again she has helped students who have had house fires, car accidents, or who have been quarantined and had no food or other essentials at home. Understanding that some of her students’ parents may not feel comfortable in a school environment, she and a fellow team member make home visits at the beginning of the school year helping the family be more willing to communicate. For those families who are not comfortable with a home visit, she offers to meet them in a local restaurant for a treat. Her personal compassion is exceeded only by her professional expertise and performance, establishing rigorous expectations. She uses fun games, songs, and dances and develops an individualized instructional plan for each student. Her students know her classroom is a safe environment where they can learn, struggle, make mistakes, and ask questions. Love, kindness, and respect towards her students are reciprocated by her students to her. She understands the importance of good communication skills and has tutored non-English speaking students on her own time without pay. She has served on the BCPEF Education Family Committee for 10 years, never missing a meeting. Last year, due to COVID restrictions, Loes helped develop a highly effective, user-friendly way to communicate with Foundation donors about the grants that had been awarded and their academic impact. In her own words, Loes shares, “as a teacher it is my passion to work with students who are reluctant learners. Over the years, I have come to realize that building a relationship with each student and his or her family is a crucial part of their academic success. I want my students to know that learning is a process, and that they are not ever alone in it.”
Congratulations to Charis and Loes as 2021 recipients of the Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award and thank you both for being professional, articulate, committed, and passionate about education!