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Street Talk: From K Street to School Corridors

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
John Scheibel, a teacher at the Washington Jesuit Academy in Northeast D.C., left his job on K Street to become a middle-school teacher. Last week he gave his class a real-life lesson on his former job, bringing them to the Hill for a mock lobbying session.

Last week, John Scheibel listened carefully as a House Judiciary Committee aide and seven pint-sized lobbyists bantered about tax policy, the criminal justice system and a bill to boost public recreation centers.

It could have passed for another of the countless meetings Scheibel convened with Members of Congress and high-ranking officials while he was a K Streeter.

But this was a once-a-year visit to the Hill for the former lobbyist and Congressional staff director who opened and led Yahoo's government affairs shop. Six years ago, he resigned from that job and made a curious career move, becoming a middle-school teacher.

The little lobbyists who accompanied Scheibel to the Rayburn House Office Building were his students, who were on a field trip last week to advocate for a mock piece of legislation. Their annual lobbying day included a tour of the Capitol, mentoring sessions with members of the American League of Lobbyists and motivational speakers.

"You hear stories about disaffected lawyers," Scheibel said. "I wasn't one of those people. I loved my job at Yahoo. I loved working on the Hill all those years."

But coaching his then-5-year-old son's Little League Baseball team helped Scheibel discover a completely different calling. It led him to swap the swanky office space of a tech company and the trappings of a top-paying K Street gig for a no-frills classroom bedecked with handmade posters that read "respect," "responsibility" and the word "can't" with a line through it.

That classroom is at Washington Jesuit Academy, a private Northeast D.C. middle school that educates boys from disadvantaged homes.

"It was a process for me, but I really decided at some point that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of young men from low-income areas," Scheibel said.

To make the move, he enrolled in a yearlong program at Johns Hopkins School of Education in Columbia, Md. Only a weekend separated his departure from his lobby job from his arrival as a newly minted teacher-in-training.

"I won't tell you it wasn't culture shock to walk out of Yahoo on a Friday and walk in with textbooks the next week," he said.

While he was wrapping up his teaching degree, Scheibel learned about Washington Jesuit Academy from a parent at one of his son's hockey games. He met with WJA President Bill Whitaker, who said he was struck by the applicant's out-of-the-ordinary background and his passion and hired him.

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