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Georgia Teacher of the Year flies with Thunderbirds

Staff Sgt. Kyle Boddie, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aircrew flight equipment technician, helps Tracey Pendley with her anti-gravity flight suit at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. The Hometown Hero program allows exceptional community members to be nominated for a familiarization flight in a Thunderbirds jet, an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

Staff Sgt. Kyle Boddie, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aircrew flight equipment technician, helps Tracey Pendley with her anti-gravity flight suit at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. The Hometown Hero program allows exceptional community members to be nominated for a familiarization flight in a Thunderbirds jet, an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

An Airman puts a patch on the flight suit of Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth grade teacher, at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. In addition to being named Georgia’s Teacher of the Year, Tracey was also nominated as a Hometown Hero, a program which allows exceptional community members to be nominated for a familiarization flight in a Thunderbirds jet, an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

An Airman puts a patch on the flight suit of Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth grade teacher, at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. In addition to being named Georgia’s Teacher of the Year, Tracey was also nominated as a Hometown Hero, a program which allows exceptional community members to be nominated for a familiarization flight in a Thunderbirds jet, an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth grade teacher, adjusts the visor on her helmet at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. In addition to being named Georgia’s Teacher of the Year, she was also nominated as a Hometown Hero, a program which allows exceptional community members to be nominated for a familiarization flight in a Thunderbirds jet, an F-16 Fighting Falcon.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth grade teacher, adjusts the visor on her helmet at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. In addition to being named Georgia’s Teacher of the Year, she was also nominated as a Hometown Hero, a program which allows exceptional community members to be nominated for a familiarization flight in a Thunderbirds jet, an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth grade teacher, left, and Maj. Jason Markzon, Thunderbirds advance pilot and narrator, pose for a photo shortly before takeoff at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. Tracey Pendley, this year's Georgia Teacher of the Year and Hometown Hero, flew with the Thunderbirds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth grade teacher, left, and Maj. Jason Markzon, Thunderbirds advance pilot and narrator, pose for a photo shortly before takeoff at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. Tracey Pendley, this year's Georgia Teacher of the Year and Hometown Hero, flew with the Thunderbirds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aircrew conduct pre-flight checks at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. Tracey Pendley, this year's Georgia Teacher of the Year and Hometown Hero, flew with the Thunderbirds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aircrew conduct pre-flight checks at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. Tracey Pendley, this year's Georgia Teacher of the Year and Hometown Hero, flew with the Thunderbirds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

Andrew Pendley and his two children watch as his wife, Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth grade teacher, flies with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. In addition to being named Georgia’s Teacher of the Year, Tracey was also nominated as a Hometown Hero, a program which allows exceptional community members to be nominated for a familiarization flight in a Thunderbirds jet, an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

Andrew Pendley and his two children watch as his wife, Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth grade teacher, flies with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. In addition to being named Georgia’s Teacher of the Year, Tracey was also nominated as a Hometown Hero, a program which allows exceptional community members to be nominated for a familiarization flight in a Thunderbirds jet, an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

A U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. Flying in the backseat was Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth grade teacher, who flew with the Thunderbirds under the Hometown Hero program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

A U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Oct. 11, 2019. Flying in the backseat was Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth grade teacher, who flew with the Thunderbirds under the Hometown Hero program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kendra A. Ransum)

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. --

A local teacher took time away from her class recently to fly with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

 

Tracey Pendley, an Atlanta Public Schools fourth-grade teacher, flew with the Thunderbirds here Friday.

 

In addition to being named Georgia’s Teacher of the Year, she was also nominated as a Hometown Hero, a program which allows exceptional community members to be nominated for a familiarization flight in a Thunderbirds jet, an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

 

“The recognition is just something that teachers don’t get a whole lot of and for the Air Force to honor a teacher here in my hometown, it’s really special,” said Pendley. “I just want to give back all of that shine and all of that recognition not only to the men and women who are serving us, but also to the amazing teachers who not only impacted me and my professional development, but to those who are impacting our students every day.”

 

After getting fitted for her oxygen mask and anti-gravity flight suit, Pendley stepped out onto the flightline and climbed into the cockpit of one of the eight Thunderbirds lined up on the Dobbins flightline. Maj. Jason Markzon, Thunderbirds advance pilot and narrator, climbed into the front seat and after some pre-flight checks taxied to the runway where they made their ascent into the clear blue sky.

 

The flight lasted approximately an hour, but the thrills lasted long after Pendley exited the cockpit. She was greeted with hugs from her husband and two children who eagerly awaited her return.

 

“I’m completely just exhilarated,” said Pendley. “It was so exciting. I knew it would be a lot of fun leading up to it, but I didn’t realize how freeing it would feel. I felt completely safe and completely free.”

 

Besides sharing the moment with her family at home, she also plans to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with her students.

 

“My personal experiences allow me to connect with kids,” said Pendley. “I like to tell the kids that when they say they can’t do something, I say, ‘You can’t do it, yet, but you are going to do it.’”