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Dr Biden pledges to keep teaching

The victory of Joe Biden in November’s US Presidential election will mean there will be a working English as a second language teacher in the White House from 20 January, the date for President-elect Biden’s inauguration.

Joe’s wife, Dr Jill Biden, will assume the official title of First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). As of September, Dr Biden was still teaching English at Northern Virginia Community College and told the CBS network, “If we get to the White House, I’m going to continue to teach.”

Based on her performance so far, we can expect First Lady Dr Jill Biden to be a powerful advocate for English as a second language teaching.

When Dr Biden, as partner of Vice-President Biden from 2009-2017, was Second Lady she used that post to promote education in general. Her official tour of Korea, Japan and Vietnam in 2015, for example, saw her leading a workshop for English language teachers at the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City (see the September 2015 Gazette, page 1).

She’s a particularly passionate advocate of “free community college” (further education colleges in the US). She hosted the White House’s first Community Colleges Summit in 2010 and took part in the national Community College to Career bus tour in 2012. The then First Lady Michelle Obama observed that “Jill is always grading papers.”

Dr Biden’s teaching career began in 1981, when she taught English and was a reading specialist in schools in the Bidens’ home state of Delaware. This included Brandywine High School in Wilmington – from whose corridors she later addressed the 2020 Democratic National Convention. She also taught English to adults with emotional disabilities in a hospital.

After 13 years as a high school English teacher, she moved to Delaware Technical Community College in 1993, working there until 2008. While at Delaware Tech she gained her doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Delaware; her thesis was on retention of community college students. She insisted on being addressed as “Dr Biden” after becoming weary of receiving mail addressed to “Senator and Mrs Biden.”

On becoming Second Lady, Dr Biden began teaching at Northern Virginia Community College, where she still teaches English composition and ‘English 111’. She asked her Secret Service security detail to dress as students and hang out in the corridor with their laptops while she was teaching. Many of her immigrant students had no idea who “Dr B” was. She told CBS, “I teach a lot of immigrants and refugees… I love the fact that I can help them on their path to success.” She added, “I want people to value teachers and know their contribution and lift up the profession.”

Image courtesy of Crush Rush / Shutterstock
Matt Salusbury
Matt Salusbury
MATT SALUSBURY, news editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also joint Chair of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor, most recently at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.
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