Fellows Khanh Le (left) and Sheikisha Jenkins are working on a range of policy issues in the office of Rep. Mike Honda.
It’s common to say that things work best from the top down, whether it’s passing legislation to effect change or riding with the top peeled back in a flashy new convertible.
But for two new hires in the office of Rep. Mike Honda, their temporary gigs with the California Democrat are examples of a time when working from the bottom up is customary.
“Since I’ve been on the Hill working for Congressman Honda’s office, my experience as a teacher has really informed the decisions they make,” said Sheikisha Jenkins, who touts 10 years of teaching experience in the Maryland public school system. “A lot of times, teachers feel like decisions are made from the top down and they’re really not included. I’ve been the voice for teachers and students.”
Jenkins comes to the Hill as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator fellow, while her colleague, Khanh Le, was brought on to fulfill a fellowship with the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. Although the new staffers — whose positions last 12 months and nine months, respectively — came to Washington with similar goals, the pair arrived on different paths.
“I never, ever thought in a million years I would be here,” Jenkins said with a laugh. “I always wanted to come here, because this is where policy is made and change happens,” Le said. “I want to eventually run for office one day.”
Jenkins’ résumé is loaded with an arsenal of teaching qualifications: She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a master’s in teaching and secondary science from Bowie State University, and a post-master’s certificate in professional teaching standards from George Washington University.
The 33-year-old pursued a path in Maryland education because she was inspired by her own experience in the Prince George’s County public school system. Jenkins attended Bowie High School, where she took Advanced Placement biology, and came back several years later to teach that same class at Bowie.
“I struggled in college with biology, even though I was at the top of my class in high school,” she said. “I took on teaching AP biology because I was committed to making sure the students’ experience would be taught with a rigor comparable to college. I didn’t want them to go through what I did.”
After the first year that Jenkins took on the challenge, her students’ test scores were the highest the school had ever seen. After two years, the scores were higher than the national average.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.