Rodney Broadnax and Stacey Wielfaert: 2022 Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award Recipients

Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation

The Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award was granted to Rodney Broadnax and Stacey Wielfaert at the Cleveland City and Bradley County Schools’ opening sessions.  

This Fitzgerald Award is the highest honor at the local level to recognize and encourage teaching excellence in the classroom. In 2005, in honor of Lillie Frank Fitzgerald, her son and daughter-in-law, Dr. Rodney and Margo Fitzgerald, established this annual award. Administered through the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation, 20 recipients have received this Award to-date.  

Mrs. Fitzgerald taught English and speech at Bradley Central High School for 37 years. Passionate about teaching, she instilled into each student a love of learning and a belief that academic success was possible, characteristics on which this award is based.

The 2022 recipients of this prestigious award, Rodney Broadnax and Stacey Wielfaert receive a financial award for personal use and $2,000 for their classrooms’ benefit.

Rodney Broadnax, a Cleveland Middle School art instructor, believes that teachers are powerful. Teachers possess the love that transforms a child’s defeat into resilience and possess the skills to connect students to their potential and purpose. Rodney arrived at the teaching profession from humble beginnings. Growing up in the projects in the inner city of Chattanooga, through hard work and perseverance, he has met the challenges of crossing over societal “railroad tracks,” and is now helping others do the same. 

Stacey Wielfaert, a Walker Valley High School English teacher, is a champion for her students. She learns about her students, their likes and dislikes, their worries and fears, their successes and accomplishments. Her students know how much she loves them, and many students who may not always enjoy her subject will still enjoy her class.

Rodney’s faith is his center, grounding force, and source of teaching excellence. He firmly believes that the wisdom, compassion, and love demonstrated in the Holy Scriptures are keys to transformation and growth within a student, within a classroom. He strives each day to create an environment of love, non-judgment, laughter, and belonging. He models the power of caring and emotional intelligence day after day, year after year, needed a program to teach students who felt disenfranchised or marginalized, this recipient created a mentoring program and served as the liaison between the community and our students. Every Friday morning, 126 students are connected with local mentors because of this program.  

Rodney believes in the power of art and its ability to reach even the most ‘unreachable’ student.  For him, teaching is not only a profession, a career, but also a calling and the impact of this calling is felt in the lifetimes of his students, it is immeasurable. This teacher plans to continue to love, inspire, educate, and build confidence in the lives of our youth. 

Because of his dedication and commitment to education, an Associate of Science degree from Chattanooga State Technical Community College, and a Bachelor of Science from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was not enough for Rodney.  He returned to college to earn a Master of Arts and a Specialist in Education degree from Tennessee Technological University

Some of the awards received by Rodney include twice building level “Teacher of The Year.” 3 times “You Rock” recognition, Cleveland – Bradley County Outstanding “Mentor,” News Channel 9’s “Educator of The Week,” TAMS “Team Teaching Award” recipient.

Stacey Wielfaert, a Walker Valley High School English teacher, is a champion for her students. She learns about her students, their likes and dislikes, their worries and fears, their successes and accomplishments. Her students know how much she loves them, and many students who may not always enjoy her subject will still enjoy having her class.

Stacey is creative and thinks outside the box to find solutions to help every student be successful.  She seeks varied solutions to classroom problems and needs.  She is a grant writer extraordinaire, being awarded 4 grants from the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation.  As a 2015 Fund for Teachers Fellow, she was able to ‘follow the footsteps of Hemingway’ in France and Spain, resulting in the conception and creation of a new history/literature course for her school.  

Receiving the 2012 Belz-Lipman Holocaust Teacher of the Year award and two 2022 National Endowment for the Humanities awards: Teaching Shakespeare’s Plays through Scholarship and Performance and On Hallowed Ground: Gettysburg in History and Memory has enriched Stacey’s teaching.  She acquired charters for the first National English Honor Society and the first International Thespians Honor Society for her school and directed the Inaugural Senior Play for the International Thespians Honor Society Spring 2022. She sponsors the Speech and Debate Club, the Drama Club and co-sponsors the Walker Valley High School Beta Club.

Stacey earned a Bachelor of Arts in English for Secondary Education, Magna Cum Laude and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.  Her first teaching assignment was at Baishan Private School, People’s Republic of China, followed by Cleveland High School, Cornerstone Preparatory School, People’s Christian Academy, both in Ontario, Canada, Ocoee Middle School and Walker Valley High School.  

In her own words, “For over twenty years, I have worked in a profession where I travel to work with eagerness and excitement. I love being a teacher. I love seeing the “light” in their eyes as they grasp the concepts and importance of studying the literature of the past and present. I love challenging them and being challenged by them to “be and do better”. I love learning from them because we all know that a teacher who does not allow themselves to become the student will become ineffective.”

Congratulations to Rodney and Stacey as 2022 recipients of the Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award and thank you both for being professional, articulate, committed, and passionate about education!