When Laura Henderson brought her class at Deerwood Academy Elementary School down to the gym for a “special assembly” on the last day of the first semester, she had no idea it was all for her.
The third grade teacher was about to be announced as a winner in the Symetra “Heroes in the Classroom” program. Symetra partnered with SunTrust and the Atlanta Falcons to recognize this year’s teachers.
Henderson is one of 16 K–12 teachers in Georgia honored for educational excellence program during the 2015 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. Henderson will be recognized at the January 3 game when the Falcons face the New Orleans Saints.
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. Henderson was nominated by Deerwood Academy parent Belita Hamilton.
“Laura Henderson creates a trusting and safe classroom environment, where all her students can learn. She encourages the use of technology, creating real-world projects for her students like a series of STEM activities designed to help build their confidence in working as a team,” Hamilton said. “Ms. Henderson communicates with parents both when they might need some additional support and when they are excelling. She has such a kind and gentle spirit. Her generosity is evident in the supplies, snacks and extra time she spends with her students.”
Deerwood Academy Principal Camisha Perry said Henderson is a great example of the caliber of teachers working at the southwest Atlanta school.
“It speaks to the true passion for teaching and the love for students that all of our teachers have, especially Ms. Henderson,” Perry said. “It’s one thing to send an email or a note, but for a parent to take the time to go through the nominating process in order to make sure her child’s teacher gets recognized, it’s really overwhelming.”
Henderson said the award indeed caught her by surprise.
“I’ve grown really close with this group of kids,” said Henderson, who taught the same group of students last year in second grade. “They are great. For a parent to reach out like that, it makes you feel really special, really appreciated. I feel so honored.”