When the Irvine Unified School District's newest trustee, Michael Regele, is sworn in Tuesday, he will reach the summit of a long climb.
A reluctant student in Corvallis, Ore., Regele dropped out in his sophomore year of high school. After being coaxed back into the system, however, Regele earned a teaching credential. Next stop: the Board of Education, where Regele has been appointed to take over for Gordon Getchel Jr., who moved to Sacramento.
"In common parlance, I was a student at risk," Regele said. "It was the work of a teacher that helped me back in. He got me into an occupational program and brought me back slowly. I'm convinced I would not have graduated if it were not for that teacher."
It is an experience that Regele, 37, carries with him and still considers relevant.
"I don't think kids drop out just all at once. It's more of a gradual thing as a result of missing school," he said. "It starts out just one day, then another, and then you realize you haven't been to school in a couple of weeks. Then when you try to go back and see how long it's been, you realize you don't know what's going on. Then you think you can't come back."
Students often don't come back all at once, either, Regele said.
"That was very important for me, to bring me back slowly. (The teacher) put me on a program that allowed me to interface with the working world, little by little. Slowly, I integrated myself back into the system. After all of that, becoming a teacher made the most sense for me," Regele said.
That experience is one of two issues he considers central to his early life. The teacher and the system stepping in to help him is one; not growing up in a church family is the other. Besides being a teacher, Regele, who is married and the father of three boys, is an ordained Presbyterian minister.
"My Christianity started with the Jesus people movement in the early 1970s. I was ripe for it. And once I take on something, I go at it," Regele said.
Regele's Christianity also led to his business. He's the co-founder and president of Church Information and Development Services, a consulting firm that advises churches and religious groups by tracking the demographics of communities here and all over the nation.