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[Educator Network] What does it mean to have an educator in the White House?

[Educator Network] What does it mean to have an educator in the White House?

The year has been fraught with confusion, best attempts, and conquering fears. Educators have risen to the task of educating our students and continue to plow forward using what we have learned. Through it all, a political spotlight has been on education. And now, we will have a teacher in the White House.

Jill Biden has been in education for most of her professional life. Even as she served as second lady during the Obama administration, she continued to teach—the first in her position to hold down a full-time job outside of the White House. Dr. Biden was a full-time English professor at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) while in her public role. Can you imagine her arriving at campus in a motorcade? Or that some of the students in her class are highly trained secret service agents? I just think it is fun to imagine. 

Dr. Biden has spent more than three decades teaching — in community colleges, high schools and at an adolescent psychiatric hospital; working with students in from all walks of life. All while working in classrooms and helping raise her family, Dr. Biden also earned her Master of Education with a specialty in reading from West Chester in 1981, and then her Master of Arts in English from Villanova University in 1987. In 2007, she went on to earn her Doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware.

Her commitment to education and to students is evident. Dr. Biden stated in a 2009 White House briefing, "I have always believed in the power of community colleges to endow students with critical life skills, and I am pleased that I can make a difference by doing what I love to do, teaching people who are excited to learn."

Just like every other American educator, Dr. Biden’s classroom had to change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closures which took place earlier this year, completing a voluntary training course in online teaching NOVA offered to their educators while on the campaign trail with Joe. Dr. Biden has indicated that she intends to resume her teaching career after moving into the White House, stating in an interview with CBS in July: "If we get to the White House, I'm going to continue to teach. It's important, and I want people to value teachers and know their contributions and lift up the profession."

Once again, I am imagining that she will not have trouble finding parking at the school. If she does indeed teach in the coming years, she will be the first first lady to receive a salary from a job outside the White House.

What does this mean for education? Well, it means there is a teacher in the White House. There is someone that sees the world through our lens. We have a teacher who has experience with students with special needs. We have a teacher with a focus on higher education, and not just the process of a four-year program, but in finding a program that work for every student. We have an educator that is aware of mental health considerations for students. We have a teacher who knows the struggles and successes of working online, from a learner and an educator perspective. Things just got interesting.

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Winnie O'Leary

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently a Curriculum Manager for Edmentum. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she finds something new and exciting every day.