Don McFadden will be remembered for the positive inﬂuence he had on the lives of the many children he taught as a teacher and coach in the Cedaredge schools, and for his eagerness and willingness to share his numerous gifts and multiple talents with as many youth as he could. For more than three decades, Don has coached both the boys' and girls' tennis teams, boys' and girls' basketball, wrestling, taught both drama and art classes, and has directed more than 50 school plays, including this year's musical, "Man of La Mancha." With the help of his students, Don also designed and built the remarkable and outstanding sets used in the plays.
When at home with his wife, Sheri, his two dogs, a cat and four horses, it is readily apparent that, along with being an excellent teacher, Don is also a loving and devoted husband and father, a gifted and talented artist and artisan (his artwork and pottery ﬁlls every room in his home), an accomplished musician (he plays the guitar and mandolin) and an all around handy man and carpenter (he built the beautiful deck and porch that surrounds their home).
"Whatever he chooses to do, he does it well," said Sheri. Known as "Mick" to his friends and students, Don was born and raised in Denver. One of four children (brothers Ken and Pat and sister Tamie) born to Joe and Geraldine McFadden, Don graduated from Englewood High School, in 1972, convinced that he would be drafted into the Army and sent to ﬁght in Vietnam. However, as the war de-escalated and his draft status was deferred, Don had the opportunity to go to college. He chose Ft. Lewis College in Durango. "I loved to ski," he laughed.
And ski, he did. According to Don, he skied four days a week as downhill racer on the local ski team. "I won a lot of beer," he said.
And, even though he had selected biology as his major (he wanted to be a veterinarian), it didn't take long for him to realize that he really didn't have the knack for biology. What he discovered was a gift for drawing "critters." With encouragement from his biology teacher, Don changed his major to art, and in 1977, he graduated from Ft. Lewis College with a major in fine art (BA) and a minor in economics and biology.
Also in 1977, while still in college, Don met his future wife Sheri Andersen, also a student at Ft. Lewis College. Sheri was a graduate of Cedaredge High School, and after graduation, Don came home to meet her parents, Rulon and Carolynn Andersen. According to Don he didn't even know that Cedaredge existed until then.
Later in that year, the two were married and Don went to work for the Delta County School District. Don said he knew enough about art to be dangerous. At the time, to be accredited, high schools had to have an art program. When asked, Don began to share his artistic talent with the youth, teaching art classes for the Cedaredge, Hotchkiss and Paonia High Schools. As a teacher, Don was given the nickname "Mc" (Mick) by one of his students (Mike Bryson) and it has stuck over the years. Don explained that Bryson was Sheri's cousin and was reluctant to call him Mr. McFadden.
Don earned his masters in art from Adams State College, and though he doesn't boast about it, he has had his art work and pottery entered in various art shows, including the Edge of the Cedars Art Show, Delta Fine Arts, and the Ouray Alpine Artists Holiday Art Show. Don also said, with some pride, that one of his pieces was ‘juried" into the prestigious Art Education Exhibition at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts in Grand Junction.
"The problem with the art shows," said Don, "is that they always put me in the professional class because I'm an art teacher. But I don't feel like a professional." In 1980, he was hired to teach art in the Cedaredge Schools, grades 7-12. He was also recruited as the assistant coach for the wrestling, tennis and junior high basketball teams, eventually becoming the head coach for the junior high basketball team. He gives a lot of credit to his coaching mentors - Roger Fulks, Dave Spizer and Matt Diers.
Don also gives a lot credit to his guitar teacher, Roy Martin, whom he said taught him how to play the guitar. "Not true," said Martin. "Don was already an accomplished guitarist when I met him." According to Martin the two just had fun jammin' and playing together, with both brushing up on their techniques.
"When I ﬁrst saw Don," said Martin, "he was out early in the mornings coaching the kids tennis teams." Martin said that Don's humor, his enthusiasm, energy and the positive way that he interacted with the kids so early in the morning was so contagious. "I knew right then that I wanted to get to know him," he said.
Eventually, Don was recruited to be the assistant class sponsor for the junior/senior class plays, which were "extracurricular activities."
While he was in high school and college, Don had good experiences performing in school plays and summer theaters so, even though he had to go back and forth between the schools to teach the art classes, he added working with the drama students on their plays to his long "to do" list.
Don noted, "More than anything else, I love working with kids. I love their enthusiasm and I want to be there to help them through the hard times."
And along with all of this, Don and Sheri have raised three daughters - Jennifer, Jessie and Pepper, who are, like their mother, all graduates of CHS.
As coach, art and drama teacher, set designer and builder, mentor and friend to Delta County students for more than 32 years, Don attempts to bring out the best of each student fortunate to go through one of his classes, making him the kind of teacher that students won't soon forget. Don has been recognized more than once by the school district for his excellence as a teacher, and along the way he has won the respect and admiration, not only of his students, but also from his colleagues, his academic peers and from his many friends.
"But," noted Sheri, "he doesn't like calling attention to himself."
Christopher Smith, one of the boys on the CHS tennis team commented, "Mc is an awesome coach." Another CHS tennis player, Jordan Warner, echoed, "Mc rocks!"blog comments powered by Disqus