Teaching Profession

Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of Year, Among Educators Who Won Primaries

By Madeline Will — August 15, 2018 2 min read
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Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, has won the Democratic primary for an open U.S. House of Representative seat in Connecticut’s 5th District.

Her victory Tuesday came on the same day that Wisconsin state Superintendent Tony Evers took the Democratic nomination for governor in that state. Also, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a former teacher, narrowly won the Democratic nomination for governor of Minnesota.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, Secretary of State Kris Kobach—whose fiscal proposals have raised anxieties among educators—got the official nod as Republican candidate for governor when his opponent conceded a week after a tight primary there.

Hayes, a first-time candidate, handily defeated Mary Glassman, a longtime politician who was backed by Connecticut’s Democratic party, on Tuesday night. She won 62.2 percent of the vote, according to the New York Times.

If Hayes, 46, is elected in November, she’ll be the first black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress—and the only black member of Congress from New England. A former high school history teacher, she is now the talent and professional-development supervisor for the Waterbury, Conn., school district. She taught for over a decade.

“102 days ago, we started this campaign with no money, no network, and no people. They told me I had no chance, and I had no business trying,” Hayes wrote on Facebook after the election was called for her. “Tonight we proved them wrong!”

In November, Hayes will face Republican Manny Santos, a Marine veteran and immigrant from Portugal. Santos, who is a former one-term mayor, is a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, according to the Connecticut Post. Meanwhile, Hayes has vowed to challenge Trump’s agenda.

Hayes’ platform calls for more resources, training, and support for teachers, access to career training for students, and measures to make college tuition more affordable. She also supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, single-payer health care, universal background checks for gun sales, and a federal assault weapons ban.

During her tenure as National Teacher of the Year, Hayes focused on elevating the teaching profession to attract new teachers—particularly teachers of color.

“Education saved my life, and I will ensure that all children from all communities have access to a high-quality education,” she wrote on her website. Hayes grew up in a housing project in Waterbuy, where she now works, and she got pregnant in high school. When she was growing up, her mother struggled with addiction.

More than 150 current classroom teachers have filed to run for their state legislature this fall, according to an Education Week analysis. Hayes is one of the few teachers who is running for U.S. Congress. If she wins in November, she will join a small club of former teachers in the U.S. Capitol, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Patty Murray.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.