Glendora Guillen is about to spend 270 days in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, a mostly French- and Arabic-speaking country of dry shrub lands, volcanic formations and Gulf of Aden beaches.
Mrs. Guillen, a Chief Petty Officer for the U. S. Navy, said she received a phone call during Spring Break, detailing her new assignment and date of departure. She’ll go for in-processing and weapons training before departing for Africa, where she’ll live in a shipping container pre-fabricated into living quarters.
“I’m excited now. In a way, I’m ready to go,” Mrs. Guillen said.
Currently, Mrs. Guillen teaches 1st grade at Mesa Elementary School, in Shiprock. She has taught there for six years.
Mrs. Guillen was just finishing some class projects when we caught up with her at the school.
“I was shocked to find out about my assignment, especially since I’m so close to retiring from the Navy,” she said.
Mrs. Guillen has been with the Navy for 18 years, a path she chose to be able to travel and take advantage of the G.I. Bill (the law provides educational assistance to service members, veterans, and their dependents). She has supported gaining commands in Hawaii, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, DC. She studied business at Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
“My greatest moment in the Navy was making Chief. We are the only branch of service where this is a career milestone and a fellowship within the Chief’s Mess found in no other branch of service. When people are looking for answers, the answer is ‘Ask the Chief.’ The Chief is the leader. The Chief knows the answer. The Chief is the mentor. You have to be prepared mentally and physically as you cross into a brand new world of authority, responsibility and leadership and how to conduct yourself in all situations,” she added.
“The difference between me then and now is that I’m more disciplined. I was respectful before, but the Navy engrains how we should think less of ourselves and more of others; we serve our Sailors, not ourselves. So I bring my Navy core values: honor, courage, and commitment to my job here at Mesa.”
Education is where her heart and mind always is. While in Africa, she is planning to volunteer at the local schools, possibly starting a classroom, she said jokingly.
“My mother was a teacher and I used to help her when I was younger, with her bulletin boards, anything she needed. When I went to college I studied business because I found it interesting. But it was my experience with my mother that brought me to education,” she continued.
“I won’t be here to teach my current class, to see them move to the next grade and that is really hard. But I’ll come back to teaching soon,” she said.
“She’s an example of the great teachers we have at Central Schools. Her dedication and experiences are what we look for in teachers and staff. She’ll be greatly missed at Mesa,” said former Mesa Elementary Principal and current Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Dr. Louisa Lopez-Martinez.
Mrs. Guillen is married with two sons and one daughter. She will be leaving for duty on October 19 and returning August 2019.