If Dr. Jill Biden's eight years spent as a second lady taught us anything, it's that she's committed to positively impacting the educational system in the United States. While her husband, Joe, served as vice president, Dr. Biden continued to teach English at Northern Virginia Community College. When recently asked whether she would still teach if Joe won the presidency, her answer was one of hopeful determination.
"I hope so. I would love to [continue to teach]. If we get to the White House, I'm gonna continue to teach," she said in an interview with Rita Braver that aired on CBS Sunday Morning. "It's important, and I want people to value teachers and know their contributions, and lift up the profession."
Dr. Biden, who married her husband in 1977, has spent 30 years working in education. After teaching at various public high schools in Delaware for 13 years, she taught English composition and remedial writing at the Stanton/Wilmington campus of Delaware Technical & Community College, which means she has a first-hand understanding of the issues educators face every day. The fact she's eager to continue her career while living in The White House makes me especially hopeful the American education system will get the overhaul it so desperately needs.
Although Dr. Biden would not be the only first lady to work — Bess Truman, for example, was a salaried Senate aide — her commitment to her career illustrates just how much she cares about improving the American education system. Combined with her husband's proposed policies on the matter, I'm confident her experience as a teacher could significantly influence policy change. Scroll ahead for a look at some of the initiatives she's championed in the past.
Jill Biden Knows Teachers Need Support Now More Than Ever
Due to COVID-19, many teachers have had to choose between going back to school in-person — and potentially putting their families at risk — or giving up their careers altogether. Dr. Biden understands how important it is to open schools safely. "A generation of students, families, and educators are counting on all of us to prevent the spread of this virus, and empower them to grow, and invest in their future, our future," she said in a tweet.
To combat the challenges of safely reopening schools — and address the precarious financial situations many public schools are in — Joe Biden has laid out a five-step plan that will benefit both teachers and families alike.
"Many educators across the country are experiencing stagnant wages, slashed benefits, growing class sizes, and fewer resources for their students," Joe Biden's website reads.
"Educators deserve a partner in the White House," Joe Biden's website says. "With President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, they'll get two. Dr. Biden has worked as an educator for more than 30 years. She and Joe understand that, for educators, their profession isn't just what they do; it is who they are."
Additionally, Dr. Biden believes that anyone involved in the field of education deserves higher wages. From teachers to bus drivers to secretaries, she is aware that many people are struggling to make ends meet with their current salaries, and that needs to change.
But while educating is rewarding, it is also challenging. Many educators across the country are experiencing stagnant wages, slashed benefits, growing class sizes, and fewer resources for their students. Too many teachers have to work second jobs to make ends meet for their families. And, far too often, teachers and school personnel have to take on additional responsibilities that go far beyond the classroom. Educators end up spending their own money on school supplies, mentoring and coaching new teachers, trying to fill in as social workers, and so much more. Teachers should be supported with resources and shouldn't have to take on all of these responsibilities on their own.
Dr. Biden reflected on her husband's education plan as a whole in a guest column for The Gazette. "Joe's plan invests in educators–by paying them competitive salaries, increasing career opportunities, and helping them pay off their student loan debt," she wrote. "He is going to protect and expand their rights to organize and bargain collectively."
Jill Biden Is Passionate About Putting More Mental Health Services in Schools
An advocate for getting more mental health services into public schools, Dr. Biden wants to give students the resources they need to deal with issues that don't necessarily have to do with education: "food insecurity, with anxiety, child abuse is on the rise; so all these kids are going to be bringing all these problems into the classroom," she said. "Not only is the history teacher going to have to teach history, but ease every child's fears."
Biden's education plan hopes to "double the number of psychologists, guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals in our schools so our kids get the mental health care they need," according to his website. "Too many of our children are not getting the mental health care they need from a trained professional. We need mental health professionals in our schools to help provide quality mental health care, but we don't have nearly enough."
Jill Biden Values Community College
Given her experience working in a community college setting, Dr. Biden knows how valuable getting an education later in life can be, especially for parents. "I just love that population," she explained in October 2008. "It just feels really comfortable to me. I love the women who are coming back to school and getting their degrees, because they're so focused."
Dr. Biden also understands how having access to affordable higher education can shape the trajectory of someone's life. "I teach a lot of immigrants, and refugees," she told Rita Braver. "I love their stories, I love who they are as people, and I love the fact that I can help them on their path to success."
Having referred to community colleges as "one of America's best-kept secrets" in the past, Dr. Biden traveled across the US when she served as second lady as part of the "Community College to Career" tour, which showcased how community colleges can work with employers. In 2010, she hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama "to share the best practices to improve student outcomes at community colleges across the country."
Although Dr. Biden wouldn't be the only first lady to be passionate about education in the United States, her extensive background working in both public high schools and community colleges gives her a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. According to a 2018 study, the US is ranked 27th in its investments in education and healthcare, compared to the rest of the world. With so much room for improvement, having a seasoned educator like Dr. Biden in the White House will hopefully contribute to the policy changes we so desperately need.