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.

Lillie Frank Fitzgerald taught English and speech at Bradley Central 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 Central 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: $2,500 cash and a recognition plaque
  • Amount of Professional Award for Classroom use: $2,500
  • Restrictions on use of Personal Award: None
  • Application Deadline for the 2023 Award: May 15, 2024
  • Announcement of Winner: August 2024 at the opening session of each school system

Important Dates

  • Application Deadline for the 2023 Award: May 15, 2024
  • Announcement of Winner: August 2024, Opening session of each school system


Sylvia Coates

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!

Luajean Bryan

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.

Victoria Pritchard

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!

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