Dr. Jill Biden joined NEA President Becky Pringle and AFT President Randi Weingarten in a virtual address to the nation’s public school educators yesterday evening, thanking them for all they do.
“Right now, we’re in the last stretch of the semester,” the First Lady said, “and I know that, like me, many of you are working on final exams and tabulating grades. This time of year is magical—but there’s always a bit of mayhem too as you manage an overflowing schedule of winter assemblies and holiday concerts and class parties. I know it can be overwhelming on top of doing a job that’s not easy in the simplest of times, so I wanted to personally let all of you know how grateful the President and I are for the incredible work you do.”
She added, “Thank you for standing up for your students and for each other. Thank you for using your ‘teacher voice’ to fight for justice and equity. Thank you for showing up when it matters most.”
Dr. Biden pledged to continue championing teachers’ causes in the White House, building on the administration’s historic investments to safely re-open schools, address students’ mental health and academic needs, pass meaningful, bipartisan gun reform, and provide loan forgiveness for educators.
“And we’re not done yet,” she said. “We’re going to keep fighting for you and your students. We’re going to keep standing with you as you change lives in little ways and big ones.”
NEA and AFT’s leaders acknowledged the President and First Lady’s commitment to public schools.
“I can tell you that as I’ve traveled around the country and talked about your dedication to teaching and listening to students, the authenticity and reality that you bring to this job here in the White House is apparent to all of our educators,” Pringle said. In her travels, she has also asked educators what they needed in order to succeed.
“We need to be seen,” they have shared. “We need to be heard. We need to be respected as the professionals we are.”
Biden, too, recalled meeting educators in her own travels across the country, including Connecticut teachers working with students in summer enrichment programs.
“Their stories have reminded me of how much hope can be found in our classrooms,” she said. “As you calculate your grades and mid-year evaluations, you can see the difference you’re making in your students’ lives,” she explained, adding, “Your influence goes beyond books read, or lectures given. It’s how you see the boy who feels like he’s fading away and help him express himself through music or art. It’s how you help the girl who thinks she’s not smart enough, find the intelligence that’s always been there. How you tell a mom that, despite her fears, she’s doing a good job. How you know that sometimes ‘I’m fine’ means that everything is wrong—and how you light a path when someone feels lost. Those are the tiny miracles you perform every day—and that magic lasts beyond one class or semester. You help students become kinder and smarter and more optimistic—become the people they want to be. You shape our world, one student at a time.”
Echoing the First Lady’s sentiments, Weingarten told fellow educators, “What you do is noble and righteous work. Every single day, you lift kids up. You dig into your pockets for money for paper and supplies. You nurture with your eyes and your smiles, and it’s not always easy. We saw all the culture wars this year. We’ve seen the demonization. We see all the names that we get called. But every single day, you persevere. You are nation builders.”