“For American educators, this is a great day for you all,” Joe Biden said during his victory speech on November 7th. “You’re going to have one of your own in the White House.”
Dr. Jill Biden is thought to be the first second lady to hold a paying job while her husband served as Vice President. Now Dr. Biden makes history by being the first to hold a day job while serving as first lady. Dr. B, as her students call her, will continue teaching English and writing at Northern Virginia Community College.
“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 their profession,” Dr. Biden said on CBS Sunday Morning.
Ohio University professor and expert on first ladies Katherine Jellison said, “It would be a real modernizing of the first ladyship … to have the president’s spouse live the kind of life that the majority of women live, which is working outside the home professionally.”
Having her own life and work outside of her husband’s shadow makes a marked difference in Dr. Biden’s well-being and holds firm to the stance that her career does not negatively impact her ability to be a great political collaborator. As she told People in 2009, “I knew if I let any time-lapse, I would be sucked into Joe’s life. I can have my own job, my own life, but also work on issues. I can have it all, really.”
Dr. Biden graduated from the University of Delaware in 1975. After her graduation, she began work as an English teacher in local public schools and at a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. Dr. Biden went on to earn one master degree in reading from West Chester University in 1981, then a second master’s in English from Villanova University in 1987. Dr. Biden taught English and worked as a reading specialist in Delaware public schools, and later taught English Composition at Delaware Technical and Community College, a position she held for 15 years. She officially became Dr. Biden in 2007, when she earned a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware.
During 2011, Dr. Biden and first lady Michelle Obama launched Joining Forces, a national campaign to assist military spouses and veterans returning from service find career opportunities. Dr. Biden also wrote a children’s book for military families inspired by Dr. Biden’s granddaughter Natalie’s experience with her father, Beau, serving in Iraq titled Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops.
Beau, who passed away from brain cancer in 2015, is also honored through Joe Biden and Dr. Biden’s continued involvement in cancer research and care initiatives. Even before Beau’s diagnosis, Dr. Biden founded the Biden Breast Health Initiative in Delaware in 1993 to educate young women on the importance of early breast cancer detection. The Biden Cancer Initiative will continue its work during Biden’s presidency.
As a member of the National Education Association, Dr. Biden will act as an advocate for teacher unions. Additionally, Dr. Biden plans to continue to push for two years of tuition-free community college, tackle unequal access to resources among students, address food insecurity issues, support military families, and stand with those fighting cancer in the coming years.
You can follow Dr. Jill Biden on Twitter and Instagram @DrBiden and read Dr. Biden’s recent blog posts here. You can also check out Dr. Biden’s memoir Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself in hardcover and paperback.