Whether one’s talents come as a social worker, a doctor, a bus driver, a bricklayer, a retailer, an administrative assistant, a grocer, a butcher or a baker or any one of thousands of careers, the commitment to exceed expectation is often driven by the individual and not so much by a set of rules or guidelines.s
Striving to make a difference in the lives of others is a personal zeal becoming more evident in all realms of life.
This points to the importance of an annual recognition provided through the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation. It is called the Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award which recognizes a top teacher within our Cleveland and Bradley County school systems.
It was founded by Dr. Rodney and Margo Fitzgerald in memory of his mother, the late Lillie Frank Fitzgerald, who gave her life to teaching for 37 years. She taught English and speech at Bradley Central High School.
As announced last week during a teacher in-service for the county school system, and as we further explored editorially in Wednesday’s edition, the 2011 award winner is Bridgett Burris who teaches at Oak Grove Elementary School.
We have applauded Ms. Burris’s convictions, her excellence in the classroom and in her selection to this prestigious honor. Yet our recognition should not stop with the impressive credentials of this well-respected second-grade teacher. Our focus should rest as well on the shoulders of those who made it possible as well as the admirable premise on which the award is based.
In today’s society, the teaching profession is undergoing more government, public and parental scrutiny than ever before. And rightfully so. Teaching inarguably is becoming one of the most important professions on a local, state, national and global stage. The reason is obvious — our children. These youngsters stand before us at the dawn of a new age. We are accountable today for their tomorrows.
Failure to prepare them for a future which they will help to shape is a tragedy, one whose blame is best pointed to us and not them.
Young minds are trained by teachers at all levels — elementary, middle, secondary, post-secondary, graduate and beyond. This then is the importance of recognizing — and more importantly, emulating — teachers who are excelling by use of whatever tools are at their disposal.
The BCPEF understands their importance and as such coordinates the Excellence in Teaching Award using a set of criteria that gauges not only natural ability, but relevance and personal dedication. Let us consider local teachers who are nominated for this award.
The prerequisites on which each is measured include:
1. Communicates effectively across all racial, cultural and economic backgrounds. Most know this as the ability to relate and to empathize.
2. Admired and respected by students, parents and colleagues. Earning the respect of the masses, and not just the few, shows a well-rounded presence of mind, spirit and devotion.
3. Utilizes creative, current and relevant strategies in the classroom. In today’s age of innovation, it is most commonly known as “thinking outside the box.” It is as important in teaching as in corporate engineering.
4. Embodies the spirit of teaching demonstrated by Lillie Frank Fitzgerald — professional, articulate and passionate about education. One must “think” like a great teacher in order to be a great teacher, as Mrs. Fitzgerald most certainly was.
5. Must be employed as a full-time, certified K-12 teacher in either of our local school systems with a minimum of five years of teaching experience. For teachers, experience is the best teacher. For students, the best teachers are those who bask in the experience of teaching.
To honor a teacher whose life is dedicated to making a difference, in or outside the classroom, is truly a recognition well worth the making.
We thank the Public Education Foundation and the Fitzgeralds for making this possible.
Their reward is the realization that teachers still love to teach. And many still do it quite well. We offer one Bridgett Burris as our proof.