|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Connecticut's 5th district
January 3, 2019
March 8, 1973
Waterbury, Connecticut, U.S.
|Education||Naugatuck Valley Community College|
Southern Connecticut State University (BA)
University of Saint Joseph (MA)
University of Bridgeport (SYC)
Jahana Flemming Hayes (born March 8, 1973) is an American educator and politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Connecticut's 5th congressional district since 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, she is the first African-American woman and African-American Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress. Hayes was recognized as the National Teacher of the Year in 2016.
She went on to earn an associate degree at Naugatuck Valley Community College and a bachelor's degree at Southern Connecticut State. In 2012, she earned a master's degree in curriculum and instruction at the University of Saint Joseph. In 2014, she earned her Sixth-Year Certificate from the University of Bridgeport School of Education.
Hayes's first job was at the Southbury Training School in Connecticut. She went on to teach government and history at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury. In addition, she chaired the Kennedy SOAR Review Board, a "school within a school" that provided advanced instruction for gifted students. She was also a co-adviser of HOPE, a student-service club at Kennedy. In 2015, she won the John F. Kennedy Teacher of the Year and then the Waterbury School District Educator of the Year. In 2016 she was named Connecticut's Teacher of the Year.
This award won Hayes widespread media attention. "I really think that we need to change the narrative, change the dialogue about what teaching is as a profession," Hayes told The Washington Post. "We've spent a lot of time in the last few years talking about the things that are not working. We really need to shift our attention to all the things that are working." Appearing on Ellen DeGeneres's talk show, Hayes said that she teaches her students "kindness" and "community service." After receiving the award, Hayes addressed the annual meeting of the National Education Association. "I am so grateful to be a member of the NEA," she said, praising the union for preventing the "altruistic character trait that all teachers possess" from being exploited.
In 2018, Hayes ran for the Democratic nomination for Connecticut's 5th Congressional District. Her difficult upbringing was a cornerstone of her campaign. "I know what it's like to go to bed to gunshots outside," she told an audience at a candidate forum. "I know what it's like to wake up in the morning to a dead body in the hallway."
Hayes won the primary on August 14, beating Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman, who was endorsed by the Connecticut Democratic Party, by a margin of 62 to 38 percent. In the November general election, she faced the Republican candidate, Manny Santos, former mayor of Meriden.
On November 6, 2018, Jahana Hayes declared victory, becoming the first black Democratic House member from Connecticut. With the November election victory of Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts's 7th congressional district, they are the first women of color to be elected to Congress from New England.
Hayes supports public education and teachers' unions, and has credited her "union brothers and sisters" with playing a role in her success. In the 2018 election, she won the endorsement of the Connecticut Education Association. Her candidacy was also supported by the Connecticut Working Families Party (CTWFP), with CTWFP state director Lindsay Farrell saying that her primary victory "demonstrates the value in electing and mobilizing teachers who will fight for public education, stand up to [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos, and advocate the importance of collective bargaining."
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