Jill Biden returns to class as active first lady
WASHINGTON (AP) – Jill Biden returns to her whiteboard.
After months of teaching community college students writing and English in boxes on a computer screen, the first lady resumes her classes in person on Tuesday from a classroom at Northern Virginia Community College , where she has been working since 2009.
She is the first lady to leave the White House and save hours at a full-time job.
“There are some things you just can’t replace, and I can’t wait to get back to class,” she recently told Good Housekeeping magazine.
The first lady was keen to see her students in person after more than a year of virtual education sparked by a pandemic that continues to challenge the Biden administration.
A working first lady is “big business,” said Tammy Vigil, a communications professor at Boston University who has written a book about first ladies Michelle Obama and Melania Trump.
The country’s first ladies did not work outside the home, especially when the home was the White House. They supported their husbands, raised children and played the role of hostesses.
Some first ladies acted as special ambassadors for their husbands. Eleanor Roosevelt was particularly active, traveling across the United States and reporting to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose activities were limited by polio. She advocated for the poor, minorities and other disadvantaged people and began writing a column in a national White House newspaper.
Newer first ladies, like Laura Bush, who was an elementary school teacher and librarian, had stopped working outside the home after having children and had no jobs when their husbands were elected. . Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama were working mothers who decided not to pursue their careers in the White House.
Jill Biden, 70, is charting a new course for herself and her successors.
The first lady said she always wanted to be a career woman. She taught at Virginia Community College for the eight years her husband was vice president and wasn’t about to let the added responsibility of being the first lady force her to give up a career she identified with. so closely.
“Teaching is not just what I do. This is who I am, ”she said.
Women made up nearly half, or 47%, of the U.S. workforce in 2019, according to Catalyst, a group advocating for women in the workplace.
The leaders of the largest teachers’ unions in the country are pleased that one of their own is now in a position to help influence the educational policies of the administration and raise the profile of a profession in which many have long been. felt unappreciated.
“She sees it up close and personally and now, as the first lady, not only does she speak from a place of understanding, she has the opportunity to create a platform and to have influence, ”said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association.
President Joe Biden told teachers attending the NEA annual meeting that he learned about their life watching his wife learn to teach online.
“It gave me a first-hand appreciation that I thought I had, but I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t seen it,” he said at the July meeting. “And then go out and teach – she was working four or five hours a day, getting ready to teach, making her lesson plans… in a different way.”
In 1976, a year after meeting and starting dating then-US Senator Biden, Jill Biden began teaching English at a Catholic high school in Wilmington, Delaware. She then taught at a mental hospital and at Delaware Technical Community College.
She obtained two master’s degrees and a doctorate in educational leadership during these years.
After Joe Biden became vice president in 2009, she joined the faculty at Northern Virginia Community College. She continued to teach there after she left office and throughout her 2020 presidential campaign, including virtually after the start of the pandemic.
Her virtual teaching continued as first lady, from her office in the east wing of the White House or hotel rooms when she traveled to promote administrative policies. She notes the papers on the flights.
“It breaks the standards of what first ladies do,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Jill Biden tries to keep her political identity out of the classroom and said many of her former students in Virginia didn’t know she was married to the vice president. She didn’t talk about it either. Secret Service agents accompanied her to safety, but she asked them to dress casually and wear backpacks in an attempt to blend in with the campus environment.
But being first lady, for which there is no job description or pay, comes with a much higher level of visibility, security and control.
First Ladies make numerous public appearances – with or without the President – to promote their own issues or those of the President, garnering coverage from national and local news media. Vogue magazine splashed the first lady on the cover of its August issue.
Jill Biden will be teaching Tuesdays and Thursdays, with travel on days she’s not in class. Her employer, the Commonwealth of Virginia, requires everyone to wear a face covering indoors on Northern Virginia Community College campuses, regardless of immunization status. The first lady is fully vaccinated.
The school offers fall courses in a variety of formats, including fully distance-based, in-person on campus, and a hybrid.
Anne M. Kress, president of Northern Virginia Community College, said she looked forward to welcoming students and faculty, including Jill Biden, for the fall semester and expressed gratitude for their commitment to “l ‘excellence in teaching and equity of opportunity’.
“Their belief in our students is deep, real and transformational,” Kress said.
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