Kent Pekel is taking a break from teaching global studies at a Minnesota high school to spend some time with experts on the subject: high-ranking officials of the Central Intelligence Agency.
As one of the 1995-96 White House Fellows, Mr. Pekel is two months into a yearlong stint as a special assistant to the director of the CIA, John Deutch.
"The experience has not just broadened my horizons, but is showing me different angles," said the 27-year-old teacher from Jefferson High School in Bloomington, Minn.
Each year, the President's Commission on White House Fellowships provides up to 20 fellowships, choosing from among thousands of applicants from around the country. Fellows spend a year as full-time paid assistants to senior White House staff members, the vice president, Cabinet officers, and other government officials.
Mr. Pekel said becoming a temporary member of the intelligence community is a great experience that is shaping his thoughts on education in a "strange and unexpected way."
Although he did not bring intelligence experience to his new duties--about which Mr. Pekel is understandably vague--he does bring an outside perspective.
"I'm frustrated by my inability to tell you what I do," he said, "but I'm not a spy by any means." He was, however, required to get a top-secret clearance.
Mr. Pekel, who once spent two years as a teacher in China, said last week he is already looking ahead to new adventures. "Right now I'm deciding 'Where should I go next?"'
Though he might go back to Jefferson High, he's considering other options--like starting a charter school.
One thing is certain, Mr. Pekel added: He'll stay in education.
Though he would like to deal with larger reform issues, he said there are some things he misses about teaching. He said that as a teacher he was his own boss to some extent. But things are a little different in the government.
"I work for great people, but I work for them. It's easy to take that for granted with teaching."
Mr. Pekel is not complaining, however.
"It's important to encourage teachers to seek out opportunities like this--not necessarily with an educational or teacher focus," he said. "So many teachers feel so underappreciated, it's easy to lose sight. There are opportunities like this out there."
--Adrienne D. Coles