FLORAL PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The young winner of the iconic CBS reality TV show “Survivor” was welcomed back to the Long Island school where he teaches Friday.
He was dressed as the Grinch for the holidays, but 26-year-old Tommy Sheehan is far from mean, and for him, his welcome home party was just as memorable as what he experience Wednesday night when he was named the winner of “Survivor” season 39.
The Floral Park-Bellerose School District teacher has lived on Long Island his whole life, but he quickly learned competing on an island in Fiji is a lot different.
“The game is as real as real can be. It was much harder than I actually thought. You’re starving. You don’t have any food. There’s no shower, no toothbrush. There’s no bathroom,” Sheehan said.
In March, the Long Beach man found out he was selected to be on the show, having to keep it a secret from most people.
Then, he couldn’t tell anyone he was in the top three – not even his fiancé or parents.
“I knew nothing at all. He would not tell me a thing,” Tom Sheehan, Tommy’s dad, said.
“It’s just been a whirlwind the whole time,” Sandy Sheehan, Tommy’s mom, said.
But all three of them were there when he, and the world, found out he won and lived out his childhood dream.
“Since he was 8 years old, he watched every show with the family,” Tom Sheehan said. “I am proud of everything he does as a teacher, and this is just the icing on the cake for me.”
Tommy Sheehan says the greatest thing to come from the show isn’t just the $1 million prize, but teaching his students to dream big.
“That shows you, you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it,” student Tommy Imperato said.
“I watched every single episode,” student Griffin Schwab said.
“It’s really amazing,” student Kaitlin McCormack said.
Tommy Sheehan still plans on teaching.
“You could give me $10 million and I would still be here the next day. When I landed right after I got off the show, I came to work the next day. I love my job and this is my passion, so no money, nothing could take me away from this school and community,” Sheehan told CBSN New York’s John Dias.
Forget the beach; this is one person who would rather be right here during the holidays.
Tommy Sheehan says he emailed his school right after he got off the stage Wednesday night to tell them he won and paid for a catered lunch the next day.
He says he plans on using his winnings to buy his sister a great birthday gift, give his fiancé the wedding of her dreams, give back in many ways and save the rest.