PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- In Donald Sheldon's network and cyber security class at Metro Tech High School, his students learn practical skills that will take them well beyond the class room.

However, Mr. Sheldon also equips them with something even more important: confidence, with the encouragement he gives them every day.

[VIDEO: Phoenix teacher awarded Silver Apple Award]

"I count it a privilege and honor that I have this opportunity," explains Mr. Sheldon, who says teaching is his passion and purpose.

We visited his classroom and presented Mr. Sheldon with the Silver Apple Award. Mr. Sheldon said he was caught off guard by the surprise, as our crew disrupted his class. But he was overwhelmed with emotion when he found out who nominated him.

One of his students, Liliana Vazquez, wrote to the Silver Apple Committee, saying she would not have even considered college if not for the encouragement from her teacher.

She read her letter to Mr. Sheldon: "Mr. Sheldon is not only a hard working teacher, but also a hard working human. I look up to Mr. Sheldon because, like some of us students, we aren't born with money to go to college. Mr. Sheldon pushes us to do our very best, and take every good opportunity life throws at us. Mr. Sheldon also introduced me to a program called 'Your Up.' Without him, the thought of going to college would've have even crossed my mind. Thank you for taking the time to push us to do our very best."

"What you did was the greatest honor any teacher can receive. Thank you so much," Mr. Sheldon told Liliana.

He believes in the potential of all his students and says of Liliana, "She's going to be a cyber security specialist. I envision her working for NSA, FBI, CIA."

The Dairy Council of Arizona partners with Arizona's Family in presenting the Silver Apple Award. So Jennifer Millican from Stotz Dairy gave Mr. Sheldon a $500 check.

"Arizona's dairy farmers sincerely appreciate all of the good you have done in educating today's youth," said Stotz to Mr. Sheldon.

Mr. Sheldon comes from tough circumstances himself. He is not bashful about sharing his story with his students because he wants them to know to know they too can rise above any difficulties they face.

[MORE: Silver Apple Award winners]

"My mom was on welfare. I can relate to a lot of the situations they have,'" explains Mr. Sheldon to his students. "The same options we all come through, they can come through. They need someone to encourage them and let them know, well, it's OK to cry, but sometimes you have to pick it up, suck it up and get the job done."

His passion for teaching is evident. Mr. Sheldon believes his "calling" is a big responsibility, knowing that what he does on a daily basis will affect his students for a lifetime to come.

Gina Maravilla appears every weekday on Good Morning Arizona keeping you up-to-date on your morning commute.  

Join Gina and the rest of the Good Morning Arizona family weekdays starting at 4:30 a.m.


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