Hands-on training

For the next year, Clark Magnet High School government teacher Edit Khachatryan is getting a civics lesson of her own.

As one of five Teaching Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education, Khachatryan is living, eating and breathing policy. She's in congressional meetings and hearings one day, and think-tank sessions and policy deliberations the next.

And this is just her first month in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.

"I'm in an office that works with Capitol Hill, and basically all the stakeholders, to make laws and policy happen," she said. "It's very fitting for what I'm interested in."

The three-year-old fellowship program is designed to expose highly qualified classroom teachers to federal education policy and have them share their knowledge with their peers, lead fellowship coordinator Gillian Cohen-Boyer said.

"She will be very, very actively involved, and the policy person she works for has already been tapping her to go to really any meeting that has to do with teachers," she said. "It's at the beginning stage, but I think she's going to have a lot of great opportunities with the position she's in."

Part of Khachatryan's position is regular check-ins with Clark Magnet staff, where she was on the instructional leadership and staff development teams. She's in a prime position to merge some of the innovations at the high school with trends favored by the federal government, Clark Magnet Principal Douglas Dall said.

Clark is one of the top-performing schools in California, and has narrowed an academic achievement gap between socioeconomic and ethnic groups.

"There's a lot of stuff we're doing at Clark I think could be a national model, and having Edit there gives us an opportunity to share what we're doing," Dall said. "We will develop and grow with her, and she will grow with her experience in D.C. It's a win-win."

With the No Child Left Behind Act up for renewal soon, as well as some of the largest sums of funding in the Education Department's history, the 29-year-old government teacher is living her lesson plans, be it federalism or separation of powers.

"This is going to be an amazing experience to go back to my government students and say, 'This is exactly how the three branches of government work together,'" she said. "I'm living it. I'm doing it."

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