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By Julian Peeples

On the first full day of the Biden Administration, First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden welcomed educators to the White House, expressing deep gratitude for extraordinary efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I couldn’t wait to have this meeting for one more minute, because I’ve never been prouder of our profession! On behalf of our nation, we’re grateful for you,” Biden said during the Jan. 21 virtual meeting. “I’m ready to get to work with you and the unions who support you every day.”

(from left) AFT President Randi Weingarten, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and NEA President Becky Pringle

Educators nationwide attended the meeting with the First Lady, who was joined in the White House by NEA President Becky Pringle and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. Biden said she knows how difficult the past year has been for educators meeting the challenges of distance learning, working long hours to support students and parents, and often distributing food and other resources in school communities—all while taking care of their own families.

“I’ve been so inspired by so many of you who have gone above and beyond to reach students,” Biden said. “Thank you for all the work you’ve done during this pandemic and all the work we’re going to do together.”

An NEA member and English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, Biden will continue teaching during her time as First Lady—another historic first for the new administration. Dr. Biden shared that she is teaching hybrid this semester, even instructing a class on Tuesday morning (the day before the inauguration) before she and her husband, President Joe Biden, left their home in Delaware for their new one in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Biden said she knows educators are stretched thin and that help is on the way.

“Educators, this is our moment! We know how to be a light in the darkness and Joe is going to be a champion for you,” the First Lady said. “You will always have a seat at the table.”

Pringle said it’s energizing for educators to have a partner in the White House who agrees that public education is the foundation of American democracy and is ready to work to transform it into a system that prepares every student for success.

“Dr. Jill, I cannot tell you how excited we are to partner with President Biden,” Pringle said.

Becky Pringle

Jill Biden said the support for public education is already starting, with President Biden calling on Congress to provide historic resources to public schools—$130 billion for K-12, $35 billion for higher ed, $350 billion to states to help school districts avoid layoffs, and federal reimbursement for COVID testing and tracing programs in schools—as part of his plan to physically reopen most K-8 schools safely in the next 100 days.

“We are going to give you the job support you need right now,” she said. “Student by student, you are changing the world. Thank you for all you are doing to make a better future for all students.”