Jill Biden returns to teaching in person
WASHINGTON – Jill Biden, the first lady, quietly started another school year as an English teacher on Tuesday, returning to the physical classroom after a year of distance learning.
Dr Biden, with a doctorate in educational leadership, teaches writing at Northern Virginia Community College, where she taught full-time as a second lady throughout the Obama administration. As first lady, she is the first to balance her career with public office.
Those taking Dr. Biden’s classes will learn through a hybrid model, with at least half of the semester’s classes taking place in person, according to a schedule listed on the school’s website. All students are required to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Sending the first lady back into the classroom will reinforce President Biden’s promise that his administration can safely bring students back into in-person learning, even as the Delta variant spreads across the United States. It will also give one of the most influential people in the White House the chance to speak firsthand about the challenges facing administrators, teachers and students.
Over the spring and summer, the administration sent Dr Biden to US states – including several deeply conservative – to urge residents to wear masks and get vaccinated. During the short period that health officials recommended that vaccinated Americans remove their masks in public places, Dr Biden was the first administration official to do so in a high-profile manner: she removed her mask in leaving his plane to visit a pop-up vaccination clinic in West Virginia.
At stops in other states, including Tennessee, Mississippi, Michigan and Alabama, Dr Biden also pleaded with Americans to stop politicizing the virus.
“As we return to our classrooms this fall, it will take all of us together to keep our schools safe and open,” she said. wrote in an essay for Time magazine last week. “We have to remember that our enemy is the virus, not each other. “
But the rise of the Delta variant – and the country’s response to a further rise in the number of coronavirus deaths and illnesses – shows just how complicated it is to send students back to school. Children under 12 cannot yet receive the vaccine, and pediatric hospitalizations for Covid-19 have skyrocketed over the summer, although questions remain as to whether the Delta variant causes more illness. serious in children than the original virus.
The governors of several states, including Florida, where the virus has hit the most, have made it more difficult for school districts to impose the wearing of masks. In Arizona, where school mask warrants are banned, thousands of students and teachers have had to self-quarantine.
Dr Biden, for her part, has long been a back-to-class advocate and has used her role as first lady to highlight the work of school districts that have remained open throughout the pandemic to educate students about the using a hybrid model. In March, she and Miguel Cardona, the secretary of education, visited classrooms in Connecticut and Pennsylvania where students wore masks and sat behind plastic dividers as they went about their day.
Beyond the many interviews and sanctioned appearances she gave on the subject, Dr Biden fiercely protected her life as a teacher. The East Wing made no comment on its first day back on Tuesday.
“I can confirm that Jill is teaching and I think she should be an inspiration to women around the world and a message that no matter what your spouse can do, you can have your own career,” Jimmie McClellan , dean of liberal arts at Northern Virginia Community College and supervisor of Dr Biden, wrote in an email this summer in response to a request to discuss the first lady’s work.
“Any spotlight should shine on what she does off campus,” he wrote. “Here she should have her peace.”
A longtime member of the National Education Association, Dr Biden also championed the administration’s efforts to push front-row teachers to receive vaccines earlier this year, a move that helped allay educators’ concerns, according to which they would be forced to return to work without adequate protection against the virus.
The president has promised to send the children back to school this fall, and many students have already returned to class. On Thursday, he is expected to give a speech on his administration’s efforts to “pull all the levers to bring the pandemic under control,” according to a statement released Tuesday by the White House. Mr Biden is expected to discuss the reopening of schools in detail in this speech.