Jill Biden’s return to the classroom: “I want students to see me as their English teacher”

The White House gave some details about First Lady Jill Biden’s return to teaching, although this is the first time in history that the First Lady has worked full-time outside the East Wing.

But getting Biden back to her students required months of negotiations, concerns about how to get her on the program and an accurate reading of the constitutional Monuments Clause, among other things, according to hundreds of administrative and planning documents CBS News obtained through a request for public documents from Northern Virginia Community College.

First lady Jill Biden talks with students in Becky Taylor’s class during a visit to Christa McAuliffe High School in Concord, New Hampshire, 17. March 2021.


The emails reflect the First Lady’s willingness to keep a low profile, even though she is much more recognizable now than when she was the Second Lady. For several weeks, specific questions were discussed, e.g., whether his name would be on the roster of students enrolled in Dr. Biden’s English classes.

I think she should have been on the TBA list, the NOVA Community College president said in an email in late November. But a month later, Dean told the First Lady he was concerned she wouldn’t get the program she wanted because of the TBA speaker list. I would write Biden, not TBA…. Do you mind? He asked.

But a few days before classes began in January, it had apparently not yet been decided which name will appear. The campus dean told her colleagues that the title was a delay in making plans for Jill’s schedule. The fact that Biden sometimes uses her middle name, Tracy, instead of her last name at the university, because her account information must match in the distance learning system, possibly complicated the decision.

At least on the social calendar was a morning class with Jill T. Biden.

Biden immediately tried to distance her other White House job from her job at a community college when her husband was still in office.

I’m an English teacher at NOVA – I’m not the first lady, she emailed her colleagues in the week after President Biden’s inauguration, to avoid mentioning her role in the White House in a prospectus for students. I try to separate my roles like the second lady did. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I want the students to see me as their English teacher. I don’t talk about it at all in my classes. Thank you for respecting my identity as a teacher. Jill

This semester she is teaching three introductory English courses, two of which are hybrid, with live instruction and independent online work, according to a copy of her schedule that has been made public.

The separation of roles seems important to Dr. Biden, not only for personal and professional reasons, but perhaps also for legal and ethical reasons.

Two weeks after Biden was declared the winner of the November election, the dean of the college informed his colleagues that Dr. Biden … was meeting with lawyers to make sure there would be no legal impediments to his teaching.

Dr. Jill Biden addresses graduates of NOVA Community College during the graduation ceremony in May 2016.

NOVA Community College Facebook page

Clearly, Biden’s lawyers are interested in the Constitution’s salary clause, which provides for reasonable compensation for the president and makes clear that the president … shall not receive … any other memorial to the United States, or any of them.

This article is specifically about the President, not the First Lady …. But since NOVA is a public school and Jill and Joe file a joint tax return, it’s questionable whether either means the state, the dean explained in an email about his discussions with Biden’s staff.

The emails do not mention that former President Trump has been charged with violating the indemnification clause by continuing to financially own and participate in hotels and restaurants, including the Trump International Hotel near the White House, during his presidency. In January, the Supreme Court dismissed the case.

Dr. Biden’s senior advisor] The question is not if she will teach, but how, Dean writes. It may be necessary to pay their salary to the endowment, or to establish an endowment chair so that their salary comes from a non-governmental source.

According to public documents obtained by CBS News, it is unclear what Biden’s lawyers ultimately decided about the constitution and her possible salary from the state, but the first lady’s office confirmed to CBS News that Biden and her team worked with the NVCC to ensure that all necessary steps were taken to continue her education.

In late November, after university administrators were made aware of the potential constitutional dilemma, NOVA President Anne Kress and Human Resources discussed paying Biden’s salary with non-government money from the NOVA Foundation, the university’s nonprofit fundraising organization, which states on its website that it regularly funds faculty positions.

The college president floated the idea of using a charitable grant to fund this semester’s portion of the first lady’s $81,904 annual salary, according to a report released on the 13th. A recruitment agreement for state teachers was signed in July.

Would it make sense to use the Brazilian scholarship funds before applying to the foundation? Kress asked two human resources officials in an email dated 30. November.

They thought it was appropriate.

I would say, use those funds instead of making individual donations to the fund, Kress said, without elaborating.

NOVA confirmed to CBS News that starting this semester, Dr. Biden’s salary will be funded by the donation. The spokesperson explained that the funds do not belong to a specific donor and that the Brazilian grant is an institutional reduction, as well as unrestricted revenue from the NOVA grant that expired in 2019.

The First Lady hopes to be back on campus in January and has asked to be present for the development of courses….. to keep work separate from the WH, according to conversations among executives. The request was denied because administrators limited faculty presence on campus during the pandemic until mid-February, administrators wrote. In the meantime, college funds are fully available to support Ms. Biden while she teaches remotely.

The first lady’s office confirmed this week that she is still teaching remotely.

I’ve been waiting for years to see what the first lady’s job would look like outside the White House, because I’ve always been concerned about conflicts of interest and security. I just wonder if it would really work, Myra Gutin, a historian of the first lady and professor emerita of communications and journalism at Rider University, told CBS News. Looks like Jill Biden has it.

Correspondence received by CBS News also shows his commitment to education and his enthusiasm for his work.

Last July, while helping her husband campaign for the White House, Biden filed her leave of absence for the fall semester.

I’m not ready to retire yet. …. But I know we have to work as hard as we can to win. So I’m going to sign up for blended learning to teach next semester, Dr. Biden wrote in an email to the associate dean requesting a leave of absence.

Life has taken such incredible turns for all of us ….. I hope you and your family are doing well. Thank you for your patience, Biden concluded, displaying next to his name a pink emoji with a double heart, a common feature of his email signatures.

But teaching also has its drawbacks, such as online courses. She was blocked from attending college, but has already completed most of her courses, the college dean told her colleagues in December.

The email also revealed some of the impressions it had of its competitors. When it was suggested in the December issue of the Wall Street Journal that she had used her doctoral degree to become a doctor of educational leadership, her colleagues quickly defended her.

We are so proud of the work you do as an English teacher at NOVA and know you will bring inspiration and grace to your new position as first lady, a group of 13 faculty members wrote to her the night before Inauguration Day, including a photo of the Zoom group wearing T-shirts that read Thank You: Doctor, the first lady, Jill Biden.

They called him the Professor.

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