When Command Master Chief Donn Sheldon retired from the Navy with more than 30 years of service, he never imagined what an impact he would have on his community’s youth.
For 11 years Sheldon has been an instructor for the Navy Junior ROTC program at Churchill County High School, a job he says couldn’t be more rewarding. The cherry on top of his instructing career came in the autumn when he received the ROTC area 13 Citizenship Development Teacher of the Year award, a very honorable award never before presented to an instructor of ROTC at CCHS. Sheldon was selected from a group of 150 instructors from 13 states including Hawaii, Japan and Guam.
CCHS principal Kevin Lords presented Sheldon with the award.
“I’m very proud of Donn,” Lords said. “He is a great teacher and connects with the kids in a way that enables them to grow and achieve their goals. Our ROTC program is, I believe, one of the best and top notch. Donn did a great job and he very much deserves the award.”
When selecting instructors for this award, a committee looks at specific components such as Navy professionalism, leadership and mentorship that instructors have with cadets, students and other instructors, grades and unison among all of the students in the program.
Sheldon said the program has had a great growth rate and currently has 112 cadets who are thriving.
“The students make my job easy and fun,” Sheldon said. “They all have great, different personalities that make it interesting to work with them. I’ve had some students for four years and others for six; it’s rewarding to see them grow and develop into young adults.”
Sheldon said not every student will join the military after high school or college. He said that he doesn’t instruct and push them to join a certain branch or push them into college.
“Every student is different, some are destined for a four year college and the military, others might just go to a junior college,” Sheldon said. “But I’m not here to push them into any direction, my job is to mold them into great citizens. I encourage them to be productive, responsible, driven and accountable citizens. I want to help them become well rounded individuals who are able to choose their own path in life.”
Capt. Robert Kermen, head of the ROTC program, said he is proud of Sheldon for receiving the award and the reflection it has on the program.
“The award shows the program in a positive light,” Kermen said. “I knew Donn was a great teachers, now he’s officially recognized for being one. He knows how to make teaching fun and to engage the students in their learning. He’s a role model for guys retiring; in that he’s proof you can still positively impact individuals when you get out.”
Several of his students, some who have been with him for a year and some up to six years, have nothing but encouraging remarks when it comes to their instructor.
Newcomer Jessica Goudswaard said Sheldon brings a fun, upbeat learning to the classroom and that he pushes everyone to reach for his or her goals.
“Mr. Sheldon really encourages us to do our best in everything that we do,” Erin Orfrecio said. “He would like to see everyone of us go to college and succeed in whatever field we choose.”
Zack Keener said Sheldon pushed for excellence and being mediocre is not something he believes in. Keener said Sheldon is his favorite teacher at CCHS.
Makayla Smith is a student that Sheldon has had for six years in the program starting at the junior high school.
“Mr. Sheldon would like to see all of his students succeed, regardless if it is in the military or not,” she said. “He just wants us all to be successful and happy in what we are doing.”
Sheldon said although the award is in his name, he could not have received it without the students in the program.
“I tell the students that they are the ones who have won the award,” Sheldon said. “If it wasn’t for their hard work, motivation and wiliness to learn I would not have been able to be considered for it. It is all because of them that I am teacher of the year.”
Sheldon said he plans, hopefully, to retire in two more years.
“My wife told me I couldn’t retire until I pay off all of my toys that I have and that,” Sheldon said.
He said his wife of 23 years currently works at Naval Air Station Fallon. Two of his three children live in Fallon, daughter Megan and son Brandonn, a Fallon police officer. His second daughter, Bridgette, is a teacher in California.
“Although, I’ll miss being an instructor for the ROTC I am looking forward to spending more time with my family and being able to travel more,” he said.