Linda Lemons winner Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Winner 2019

Lindsey Smith Bell, center, and family and colleagues celebrate as one of the two winners of the Lilly F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award


Lindsey Smith Bell and Linda Lemons, winners of the Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award 2019


“To love another person is to see the face of God.” –Victor Hugo

“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” –Luke 12:48

These quotes succinctly describe Ms. Bell whose passionate commitment is not first to her teaching area but rather to making students feel necessary and emphasizing that they ALL matter.

When the individual nominating this teacher for the Award called for input, she immediately received 40 letters from parents, teacher, friends, and community members. Current and former students submitted over 100 emails or texts sharing stories about this teacher. One story came from a parent of a special needs student who wrote, “my first child has numerous health issues, and has never bonded with others, or stood out in any way. She was terrified of high school, and ready to quit. This teacher found her and brought out a side of my child I thought I would never see. She got her to help with after school projects and fundraisers, when I could not even get her to smile at a stranger.”

Her students state that Ms. Bell “is our greatest ally, trusted confident, biggest supporter, and most admirably, our role model. She has taught us all, through her actions, what it means to be truly selfless and kind.”

Through her Drama Central, she teaches students they can do anything, no matter how impossible it seems. A fellow teacher writes that other teachers can’t wait to see what the next theatrical production will be because they tailor specific lesson plans in their subject area around the production to emphasize either historical, culture, political, ethical, or socioeconomic significance.

Obviously, Ms. Bell has impacted the lives of her students while teaching two Introduction to Theater classes, one Advanced Theater class, advised several independent student projects, directed 3 professional quality plays (including Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Rome and Juliet) to sold out crowds, rescued countless animals, volunteered for multiple organizations, mentored countless motherless kids while being a wife and mother to her own 3 year old.

Learning about the financial problems of one of her students whose mother’s medical bills were extensive, she decided to hold a fundraiser and decided to donate all of the box office proceeds to this astonished, grateful family.

She considers the study of Theater Arts to be the study of human intentions, the tactics we use to get what we want, and the given circumstances surrounding why we behave the way we do. It is the study of understanding others and valuing all of life’s experiences.

Based on a famed director, actor, teacher, and theorist’s model, she teaches students to first look beyond themselves and into the variables that exist in other people’s lives. This is what she learned from her own father who emphasized, “everyone has their own sack of rocks”. She encourages students to ask, “if this happened to me, what would I do, think, and feel?” She says that she teaches drama to avoid drama. She emphasizes, “everyone is on a journey we call life and being a life-long learner is living one’s best life. Allow others to teach you, to contribute to your character, and to excel in their own ways for this takes nothing from you but adds to who you are to become.”

Twelve years of Ms. Bell’s professionalism has led to Drama Central performing its 21st show, the props closet overflowing, and an average of 50 students involved in each play, often confronting a lack of space for all the actors who want to participate.

Earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Centre College; a Master of Arts, Theater: Arts/Administration from University of Kentucky; and a Master of Fine Arts, Directing from Illinois State University, Ms. Bell had extensive theatrical  work in Louisville and Lexington KY, and Evanston and Chicago, Illinois.

Her community/civic involvements have included Hospice of Chattanooga, Prom Perfect, Paws for a Cause, City of Cleveland Animal Control and  as a founding member and volunteer of Cleveland’s No-Kill City initiative.

At her school, she has been named Teacher of the Month four times; runner up for Bradley County Best Teacher, and Most School Spirit among the faculty since 2008!

Lindsey Bell gives credit to her parents, siblings, and extended family for the knowledge and character they instilled in her along with her Aunt Inez and Uncle Lee Clemmer who taught her lessons of faith, gratitude and education. Loving the role of wife and mother of her son Jacob, this year’s award winner considers herself “the luckiest human being alive and she makes it her life’s purpose to give back the fortune I have been given.”

Read more in the Cleveland Daily Banner story, here.

Linda Lemons winner Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award 2019

Cleveland High School teacher Linda Lemons accepts the Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award. 


LINDA LEMONS, Cleveland High School 

"I am proud to announce the winner of this 2019 Lillie Frank Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award to a veteran teacher starting her 50th year at Cleveland High – Mrs. Linda Lemons.  “The mediocre teacher tells; the good teacher explains; the superior demonstrates and the great teacher inspires.”  Certainly Ms. Lemons has inspired many students," said Dr. Rodney Fitzgerald. 

Colleagues, students, administrators, and parents describe this teacher as rigorous, respected, compassionate, empathetic, wise, humorous, and a problem solver with a tireless passion for her job. Many of her colleagues consider her a mentor and a “point person” with stamina, faith, perseverance, and intellect.

She not only engages her Advanced Placement students but also those who are more challenged academically. Often engaging her students in Socratic seminars, she provides an open, non-judgmental classroom where she helps students effortlessly relate difficult books like Catcher in the Rye and As I Lay Dying to their personal situations. One student indicated that she had no idea how to do creative writing but by the end of the school year writing had become her favorite pastime. 

Ms. Lemons has watched the tools for teaching and learning evolve from filmstrips and mimeographs to low-tech computers and projectors to a new Mac laptop. Rather than resisting change, she has embraced it and integrated new technology in her classroom while remaining a steady, calming presence in the midst of change!

All of her time is not spent in the classroom as she is involved in many other aspects of the school culture: teacher liaison for the Leadership Team; leader for student recognition committee; organizer for social events including faculty retirement dinner; Department Head for over 35 years; sponsor or co-sponsor of Beta Club, Yearbook, National Honor Society, Toss Up, and Camp English Director at the summer institute for teachers from surrounding school districts; Co-chair of the Honors Banquet, SACS Evaluation and School Improvement Plan and Chair of High Schools that Work Initiative.

​Earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from Lee University and a Masters of Education from UT, she has also completed additional work in Composition and Literature at UTC and attended Advanced Placement workshops. She has been honored as Building Level Teacher of the Year for three years.

​Her community involvement includes pianist at North Cleveland Church of God for 48 years, Music Board Chair and Christian Education Board member, and Sunday School teacher for first grade and adult choir classes.

​Proudly married for many years, she has a daughter who is a 5th grade teacher and has two granddaughters.

​Read more in this Cleveland Daily Banner story, here.

Linda Lemons and family

Franklin Lemons, husband, granddaughters Peyton & Caroline and daughter & son-in-law, Tara and Jamie Henson.