“Over and over, I made a promise to you that when Joe was elected president you’d always have a seat at the table, and I meant it,” First Lady Dr. Jill Biden told teachers yesterday evening.
On the first full day of the Biden presidency, Dr. Biden held true to that promise by inviting NEA President Becky Pringle and AFT President Randi Weingarten to the White House to literally sit at a table with her and address the nation’s educators.
“I couldn’t wait one more day to have this meeting,” Biden, an NEA member, said. “I have never felt prouder of this profession. During the pandemic educators have shown heroic efforts on behalf of their students.”
She continued, “Joe is going to be a champion for you because he knows that’s the best way to serve our students. Together we’re going to transform our nation’s education system, and when we do that, we’re going to change the course of the nation. Just remember, the First Lady of the United States is one of your own.”
Biden told teachers that she knows schools are facing many challenges right now and that teachers are stretched too thin. “Educators, you’ve done it all while taking care of your own families and facing your own challenges. Thank you. You have been so strong. And now it’s time for us to be strong for you.’
Biden, who is continuing to teach at Northern Virginia Community College while serving as first lady, has a firsthand perspective on the challenges of pandemic teaching.
“I know how hard it is. I’m teaching hybrid this semester myself,” she said. “On Tuesday morning, before we got on the plane to come to Washington, I was actually teaching my class.”
Biden said her colleagues have helped her learn new strategies for hybrid teaching. “And that’s what I love about our profession–we always help one another.”
Biden continued, “I couldn’t wait to get to the White House because one of the things I promised you was that we would work together. This is day one. We’ve already started.”
Last week President Biden called on Congress to provide schools with historic funding to provide more PPE, reduce class sizes, tackle the digital divide, hire more counselors, nurses, and custodians, and more.
“We’re also going to give you the job support you need,” Dr. Biden said. “More COVID testing at school and promoting access to vaccines for educators. Your safety and wellbeing are critical to the success of our students.”
“I can’t thank you enough for inviting both Randi and me into the people’s house,” said Pringle, who identified herself as the great granddaughter of an enslaved American. “It is our honor to join you here.”
Pringle continued, “I can’t tell you how excited we are to partner with you. We know the Biden Administration will partner with us to reclaim public education as a common good, as a foundation of this democracy, and transform it into a racially and socially just system that prepares every student to succeed in a diverse world.”
Weingarten said that President Biden has made it clear to educators that “help is on the way, and not just with words but with actions.”
“Today Joe also released a national strategy for our country’s COVID-19 response,” Dr. Biden said. “Haven’t we all been waiting so long for this?”
She said, “We have to do two things right now: make sure the health and safety of educators are protected, as well as those of the families they serve, and give students the educational support they need in the schools they love.”
Biden concluded, “With dedicated educators like you, I know we’re going to get there. Thank you for all the work you have done during this pandemic and all the work we’re going to continue to do together.”
Watch the full virtual event with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden (starts at 23 minutes in).