For her first official event since becoming first lady, Jill Biden honored a group of Americans close to her heart — her fellow teachers.
Biden, who’s an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, held a virtual meeting with educators across the country to show appreciation for their hard work amid the coronavirus pandemic and to let them know they have the support of the White House.
“I couldn't wait one more day to have this meeting,” she told those watching, “because I have never felt prouder of our profession. In this pandemic, educators have shown heroic commitment to their students.”
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It’s a commitment, she noted, that goes far beyond the basics required in a typical classroom.
“I've been so inspired by so many of you who have gone above and beyond to meet your students, where they are, in this past year,” she said. “Teaching late nights because your students don't have access to computers until somebody in their family, who's finished using the computer, can give it to them; driving hot spots to neighborhoods without Wi-Fi; taking tearful calls from parents who felt like they just could not juggle at all; supporting parents, distributing food, doing everything that you can to support students’ mental health. And educators, you've done it all, while taking care of your own families and facing your own challenges."
So, for all those reasons and more, she offered thanks “on behalf of a grateful nation,” and added, “You have been so strong — and now it's time for us to be strong for you.”
In fact, Biden, who holds the distinction of being the only first lady to also hold a full-time job while attending to her White House duties, said that she and President Joe Biden “already started” before he even took the oath of office.
“Joe, the president elect, called on Congress to provide our schools with historic support and funding and his plan provides resources so that we can meet the goal of safely reopening a majority of our K-8 schools in the first 100 days of this administration,” she said. “And that means that access to PPE, hiring more counselors, nurses and custodial staff, reducing class sizes — we all want that — and tackling the digital divide, so that our students can continue learning wherever they are.”
She vowed the president would also address racial and economic inequities that impact education, “give students what they need to succeed,” and that the Biden administration would support teachers in tangible ways.
“We're also going to give you the job support you need right now,” the 69-year-old said. “Scaling up COVID testing in schools, promoting access to vaccines for educators and providing funding to state and local governments, so that you can keep your job.”