‘New Hampshire lucky to share his journey, vision for education’

  • Published
  • By Christian P. Hodge, Air Force Junior ROTC Public Affairs

Four-year Air Force Junior ROTC instructor named 2023 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year.

Retired Lt. Col. Christian Cheetham, Senior Aerospace Science Instructor, Alvirne High School AFJROTC NH-20031, Hudson, NH, was named New Hampshire's 2023 Teacher of the Year during a surprise celebration from a pool of 44 nominees.

“Being selected teacher of the year for New Hampshire is very humbling. I work with many great teachers, so to be singled out in this way is an incredible honor,” said Cheetham. “I made it a priority when I started teaching to be part of the New Hampshire education community and to build great working relationships with my fellow teachers, and this validates that I have done an excellent job in my new profession.  The support I received from faculty, parents and staff during the selection process was incredible and I am thankful for their confidence in me.”

Cheetham commissioned in the Air Force in 1994 through Officer Training School. He served 21.5 years on active duty as intelligence officer where he held multiple key leadership positions within intelligence including deputy group commander, squadron commander, ROTC detachment commander, director of operations and wing intelligence officer. He is also an Iraq veteran.

“After retiring I really wanted to do something in leadership and education. AFJROTC offered me the opportunity to apply my extensive leadership experience and my love for education.  I also thought it would be a great opportunity to have a real impact of the lives of young people as a mentor and teacher,” he said. “People often ask me why do you teach high school, and I always answer ‘because there is nothing more decent or civilized that I can do.’ This is a very challenging and also very rewarding job. It mirrors active duty because you know the mission is important. The rewards are evident when you influence the next generation of Americans.”

According to Cheetham AFJROTC has a great mission as instills confidence in young people. The program teaches critical values and skills that everyone needs to succeed in life: teamwork, leadership, discipline, responsibility, resiliency and kindness. He feels these elements of character development have never been more necessary in America's schools.

The awards ceremony was attended by Valerie Sununu, New Hampshire's First Lady and member of the Teacher of the Year Selection Committee and Frank Edelblut, New Hampshire Education Commissioner.

“Colonel Cheetham has shown exemplary leadership abilities throughout his time as a teacher, and his commitment to excellence in education is obvious to those students who have had the pleasure of sitting in his classroom,” said Edelblut. “He continues to teach students that today’s world is full of opportunities, and we commend his passion for collaborative teaching, taking on new initiatives and recognizing that all students are worthy.”

Sununu said that their state is lucky to share and celebrate Cheetham’s journey and vision for education, adding. "The New Hampshire Teacher of the Year (program) is a precious space where we elevate the profession of educator and shine a light on the individuals who are guiding and inspiring our most valuable asset -- our students, our future," she said.

“Teaching reminds me very much of leading. Veterans are uniquely suited, because of our leadership skills, to succeed in education.  I'm not going to lie, teaching is a difficult job; it can be frustrating,” said Cheetham. “But just like active duty, when the mission is great we can withstand many challenges and overcome any obstacles. Veterans know that the importance of the mission is what determines whether you are happy with your career. What could be more important than teaching?”


The mission of AFJROTC “Develop citizens of character dedicated to serving the nation and community.”  Junior ROTC is a Title 10 U.S. Code congressionally-mandated programs that offer an extensive assortment of citizenship, leadership, academic, aviation, cyber, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), drill, athletics and community service opportunities for cadets at approximately 850 high schools nationwide and abroad. The program is grounded in the Air Force core values of “integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.”