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Kendrick Middle science teacher Lindiwe Ngubeni wins Symetra Heroes in the Classroom Award

Lindiwe Ngubeni embraces Freddie the Falcon during an assembly in which she was surprised to learn she was a winner in the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom Award program. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

Lindiwe Ngubeni embraces Freddie the Falcon during an assembly in which she was surprised to learn she was a winner in the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom Award program. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Lindiwe Ngubeni sits with her students after being named a Symetra Heroes in the Classroom Award winner. The honor included a trip to see the Atlanta Falcons defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-23 Sunday at the Georgia Dome. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Atlanta Falcons receiver Harry Douglas, left, and Freddie the Falcon celebrate with Kendrick Middle science teacher Lindiwe Ngubeni, center, who was name a Symetra Heroes in the Classroom Award winner. (Special Photo)

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Kendrick Middle science teacher Lindiwe Ngubeni, center, was surprised during an assembly recently to learn she was a Symetra Heroes in the Classroom Award winner. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

JONESBORO — Lindiwe Ngubeni was initially upset that her students missed the last part of their science lab in order to attend an assembly in the school gymnasium.

However, that angst quickly turned to joy when she learned she was the reason for the assembly. Officials announced in front of the entire student body and faculty that Ngubeni was a Symetra Heroes in the Classroom Award winner.

Ngubeni teaches seventh- and eighth-grade physical science and life science at Kendrick Middle, where she has put in 11 years.

She said she has been inspired by her mother, a retired educator, to help young people excel in the classroom.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Ngubeni. “I’m honored. It’s affirming. These are the types of moments that lead me to continue to do what I do.”

Representatives from the Atlanta Falcons organization, The Douglas Brothers Foundation and SunTrust were on hand at the assembly to congratulate Ngubeni. The Falcons, SunTrust and Symetra are partner sponsors for the Heroes in the Classroom Award.

Melissa Jordan is an area manager for SunTrust.

“It’s so exciting,” said Jordan. “We have some great partners who understand that giving back to the community is important. We want to make sure our students are inspired to learn and grow and develop into productive citizens.”

Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas joined the assembly with members of his nonprofit group, The Douglas Brothers Foundation, which he started with his brother, Houston Rockets guard Toney Douglas.

Both Douglas brothers are Jonesboro High School graduates — Harry in 2003 and Toney in 2004. Their foundation offered cash and prizes to the highest-achieving and most-improved students attending the assembly.

Ngubeni said she was glad to see high-achieving students also being recognized for their efforts in the classroom.

One such student is the reason for her recognition.

Ngubeni’s former student Amber Paige nominated her for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom Award. Paige is now a high school freshman in another school district, said Ngubeni, but the two still keep in touch.

“I taught her for two years,” said Ngubeni, who believes she was nominated because the pair were able to form a bond. “She knew she could come and talk to me and ask me questions whenever she needed to.”

As part of the award, the school received a $1,000 donation.

Ngubeni earned Falcons game gear and apparel and received two tickets to the Oct. 20 Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers game at the Georgia Dome with VIP sideline access.

The Falcons defeated the Buccaneers 23-31 during a game in which Douglas put up record numbers receiving. He amassed seven receptions for a career-best 149 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown catch.