WASHINGTON — Jill Biden, the first lady, quietly began a new school year as an English professor on Tuesday, returning to the physical classroom after a year of remote teaching.
dr. Biden, a PhD in educational leadership, teaches writing at Northern Virginia Community College, where she taught full-time as a second lady throughout the Obama administration. As a first lady, she is the first to combine her career with public duties.
Those who take the lessons of Dr. Taking Biden, learning through a hybrid model, with at least half of the semester’s classes taking place in person, according to a schedule posted on the school’s website. All students are required to wear face masks and respect social distancing.
Returning the first lady to class will reinforce President Biden’s promise that his administration can safely bring students back into personal learning, even as the Delta variant increases in the United States. It also gives one of the most influential people in the White House the opportunity to speak firsthand about the challenges facing administrators, educators and students.
In the spring and summer, the government sent Dr. Biden to states across America — including several very conservative ones — to encourage residents to wear masks and get vaccinated. During the short-lived period when health officials recommended that vaccinated Americans remove their masks in public facilities, Dr. Biden became the first government official to do so in a high-profile manner: She took off her mask as she exited her plane to visit a pop-up vaccination clinic in West Virginia.
At stops in other states, including Tennessee, Mississippi, Michigan and Alabama, Dr. Biden also begged Americans to stop politicizing the virus.
“When we return to our classrooms this fall, we will all have to come together to keep our schools safe and open,” she wrote in an essay for Time magazine last week. “We must remember that our enemy is the virus, not each other.”
But the rise of the Delta variant — and the country’s response to a new wave of deaths and illnesses from the coronavirus — shows how complicated it is to send students back to school. Children under the age of 12 cannot yet receive the vaccine and the number of child hospitalizations for Covid-19 has soared over the past summer, although questions remain as to whether the Delta variant causes more serious illness in children than the original virus.
Governors in several states, including Florida, where the virus has hit the hardest, have made it harder for school districts to enforce masks. In Arizona, where school mask mandates are banned, thousands of students and teachers were quarantined.
dr. Biden, for her part, has long been a supporter of return to the classroom, and has used her role as first lady to highlight the work of school districts that remained open during the pandemic to educate students using a hybrid model. In March, she and Miguel Cardona, the secretary of education, visited classrooms in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, where students went about their day wearing masks and sitting behind plastic partitions.
Aside from the many sanctioned interviews and appearances she has given on the subject, Dr. Biden fiercely protected her life as a teacher. The East Wing did not comment on its first day on Tuesday.
“I can attest that Jill teaches and I think her should be an inspiration to women everywhere and a message that whatever your partner does, you can have your own career,” Jimmie McClellan, dean of the liberal arts at Northern Virginia Community College and the supervisor of Dr. Biden, wrote in an email this summer in response to a request to discuss the first lady’s work.
“Every spotlight should shine on what she does off campus,” he wrote. “Here, she should have her rest.”
dr. Biden, a longtime member of the National Education Association, also promoted the government’s efforts to push teachers forward to receive vaccines earlier this year, a decision that helped allay concerns among educators that they would be forced back into work. without proper protections against the virus.
The president has promised to send the children back to school this fall, and many students are already back in class. He is expected to make a speech on Thursday about his administration’s efforts to “use every lever to get the pandemic under control,” according to a statement released by the White House on Tuesday. Mr Biden is expected to discuss the reopening of the school in detail in that speech.