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A great role model: “Jill Biden heads back to classroom as a working first lady”

… once an educator, always an educator

Quite simply, Jill Biden is showing what Queen Elizabeth and the “royalty” in the U.K. never understood. In a democracy, those at the top still work.

Today, Jill Biden returned to her classroom as a college English instructor in a Virginia college, a job that she has held since her husband became Vice President 12 years ago.

Indeed, she is blazing a trail that no other First Lady has.

And it is something that is important to her — and to young women who are seeking role models in life.

Back to the whiteboard

This is the essence of what has transpired in the educational career of Dr. Jill Biden,

Jill Biden is going back to her whiteboard.

After months of teaching writing and English to community college students in boxes on a computer screen, the first lady resumes teaching in person Tuesday from a classroom at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has worked since 2009.

She is the first first lady to leave the White House to log hours at a full-time job.

“There are some things you just can’t replace, and I can’t wait to get back in the classroom,” she recently told Good Housekeeping magazine.

The first lady has been anxious to see her students in person after more than a year of virtual teaching brought on by a pandemic that continues to challenge the Biden administration.

Darlene Superville, “Jill Biden heads back to classroom as a working

First Lady,” Associated Press, September 7, 2021

At the age of 70

Jill Biden is indeed changing the role of the past First Ladies,

A working first lady is a “big deal,” said Tammy Vigil, a Boston University communications professor who wrote a book about first ladies Michelle Obama and Melania Trump.

The nation’s early first ladies did not work outside the White House. They supported their husbands, raised children and performed the role of hostess.

Some first ladies acted as ambassadors for their husbands. Eleanor Roosevelt was especially active, traveling around the U.S. and reporting back 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 nationally syndicated newspaper column from the White House.

More recent first ladies, like Laura Bush, who was an elementary school teacher and librarian, had stopped working outside the home after having children and were not employed when their husbands were elected. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama were working mothers who decided against continuing their careers in the White House.

Darlene Superville, Associated Press, September 7, 2021

“It is who I am.”

Dr. Biden worked hard in her education career, first as a mother of the two young sons of Joe Biden who lost their mother and sister in a tragic accident. Then she became a mother herself, but continued to teach,

Jill Biden started teaching English at a Roman Catholic high school in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1976, a year after she met and began dating then-U.S. Sen. Biden. She later taught at a psychiatric hospital and at Delaware Technical Community College.

She earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate in educational leadership during those years.

After Joe Biden became vice president in 2009, she joined the faculty at Northern Virginia Community College. She continued to teach there after he left office and throughout his 2020 presidential campaign, including virtually after the pandemic hit.

Her virtual teaching continued as first lady, from her office in the White House East Wing or hotel rooms when she traveled to promote administration policies. She grades papers on flights.

“It shatters the norms of what first ladies do,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Darlene Superville, Associated Press, September 7, 2021

First Lady much different from second

While she tried to keep her identity secret when she was the wife of the Vice President, that is not possible today,

Jill Biden tries to keep her political identity out of the classroom and has said that many of her former students in Virginia had no idea she was married to the vice president. She also did not talk about it. Secret Service agents accompanied her for security, but she had them dress casually and tote backpacks in an attempt to blend into 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 scrutiny.

First ladies make numerous public appearances — with or without the president — to promote their own or the president’s issues, garnering coverage from national and local news media. Vogue magazine splashed the first lady on the cover of its August issue.

Jill Biden will teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with travel on days when she is not in the classroom. Her employer, the commonwealth of Virginia, requires everyone to wear face coverings indoors on Northern Virginia Community College campuses, regardless of vaccination status. The first lady is fully vaccinated.

Darlene Superville, Associated Press, September 7, 2021

While only two days a week, this is still a great example for the rest of America.

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