Cleveland Avenue Elementary School Teacher Honored as ‘Symetra Hero in the Classroom’

Symetra, SunTrust and the Atlanta Falcons honored Cleveland Avenue Elementary School teacher Rita Simmons as a “Symetra Hero in the Classroom” on Dec. 10, 2013 during a surprise school assembly. Simmons is an instructor in the Atlanta school’s Gifted and Talent Development program and the district’s 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year.

APS Teacher of the Year named Symetra Hero in the Classroom during a surprise school assembly

“I have known Rita Simmons for the past several years at Cleveland Avenue Elementary School and have witnessed with pride her many accomplishments at our school,” said Angela Gilchrist, a colleague. “To help foster stronger bonds between parents and their daughters, Mrs. Simmons initiated and led Cleveland Avenue’s mother-daughter and father-daughter balls. She also developed and hosted our school’s Young Entrepreneur Business Showcases as a part of her economics unit. The program encouraged entrepreneurship by teaching gifted students how to create and execute business plans. All of these events were a success!” Gilchrist nominated Simmons for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

Simmons is an instructor in the Atlanta school’s Gifted and Talent Development program

“I have had the pleasure of working alongside Mrs. Simmons as a fellow mentor in the Just Be Beautiful, Inc. (JBB) organization, which she founded and leads,” said Gilchrist. “Mrs. Simmons brought this after-school program to Cleveland Avenue Elementary to help teach fourth- and fifth-grade female students how to be young ladies and to address topics girls often have questions about. Character, self-esteem, discipline, etiquette, life-skills, leadership, health, relationships and beauty are just a few rays of the sunshine that radiates from the classroom lessons Mrs. Simmons shares with her female student mentees.”

“I truly admire and respect Mrs. Simmons as a teacher, colleague and friend,” adds Gilchrist. “She stands out because of the extra mile she goes for her students and the way she carries herself. She is respected by her colleagues and her very presence commands the attention and respect of her students.”

Simmons was acknowledged during an on-field presentation during a Falcons home game

Simmons is one of 16 K–12 teachers in Georgia who will be honored for educational excellence in the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom program during the 2013 NFL season. Teachers are recognized in front of their students and peers at surprise in school presentations, and they receive a $1,000 donation for classroom books and supplies. In addition, they receive tickets to a Falcons home game and are acknowledged during an on-field presentation at the Georgia Dome. Simmons was recognized at the Dec. 15 game when the Falcons took on the Washington Redskins.

Teachers may be nominated by their principal, district staff, student or student’s parent. The winners are selected based on their ability to make a real difference in students’ lives; to go above and beyond in their day-to-day responsibilities; and to help students build life skills.

More information about Symetra Heroes in the Classroom is available at

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