CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Bridgett C. Burris, a second-grade teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School, is this year's recipient of the Lillie F. Fitzgerald Excellence in Teaching Award.
The prize is the Cleveland/Bradley Public Education Foundation's top annual award.
The presentation was made Monday as Bradley County teachers met to start their new school year, which includes training sessions over the next few days.
"I was born to a very young mother and my parents struggled to keep my brother and me fed, clothed and a roof over our heads," Burris said. "We borrowed money for food most weeks, and being able to afford a field trip was out of the question for us.
"My journey as a teacher has not always been joyous or easy, but I consider it a sweet privilege that I would not trade for any corporate position at a famous firm."
Rodney Fitzgerald, a veteran teacher whose mother is Lillie Fitzgerald, said Burris once worked three simultaneous jobs to pay her way through college.
Burris also was applauded for her community service, including tornado relief, Christmas toy drives and family bereavement fundraisers.
Nominations for Burris came from co-workers, parents and superiors, and included a note from her second-grade teacher that said: "very smart girl, sweet to others, talks too much!"
The award is named for Lillie Fitzgerald, a veteran teacher. Rodney Fitzgerald and his wife created the award, which comes with a $3,000 cash gift, to honor the legacy of his mother.
During Monday's meeting, several Bradley County school system employees were recognized for 25 and 30 years of service, and two were honored who achieved National School Board certification.
Schools Director Johnny McDaniel also previewed changes coming to classrooms this year, including a new teacher evaluation system.
"In your classrooms, you have the creative and innovative thinkers who have the answers to many of the problems, even the crises, we will face in the future," McDaniel told the teachers. "They are going to be in your classroom every day."