The first lady sat in a socially distanced circle in the library at Fort LeBoeuf Middle School in Pennsylvania, listening and taking notes as parents expressed relief that the school had reopened and their kids were back in the classroom.
One mother talked about the “bumpy patches” of online learning and said reopening “has been so to the T” that she doesn’t worry about her son and daughter. Another mom said the district included parent input and she was comfortable her children were in a “safe environment.”
A teacher herself, Biden praised the small circle of parents, teachers and administrators for working together to help reopen Fort LeBoeuf. And she repeated a message she had delivered earlier that day while visiting Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Meriden, Connecticut.
“We’ve been through really tough, hard times, but I think the one good thing about educators that I love — and that includes the cafeteria workers, the bus drivers, the teachers, everyone involved — is we’ve all learned from this,” Biden said of the pandemic and its emotional, social and human toll.
“We’re all going to take everything that we’ve learned and are going to turn it into opportunity to make things better for students as we move forward,” she said.
The first lady seems intent on turning every aspect of her new job into an opportunity, for that matter, especially anything related to her triple passions for education, fighting cancer and supporting military families.
A few days after she became first lady, Biden told governors’ spouses during a virtual meeting at the White House that her new platform is “one that I would never let go to waste.”
She’s long been focused on education, having taught at a high school, a psychiatric hospital and community colleges for more than three decades. She’s still teaching, virtually from the White House, and pining for the day she can go back to the classroom.
Finding a cure for cancer also motivates her and President Joe Biden.
The couple lost son Beau to brain cancer in 2015 at age 46. Her parents died of cancer, and one of her sisters had a stem cell transplant. Doctors also gave the dreaded breast cancer diagnosis to four of her girlfriends within a one-year period in the 1990s.
The Bidens also advocate for service members and their families, an appreciation that stems from Beau Biden’s service in the Delaware Army National Guard, including a deployment to Iraq. Jill Biden intends to revive a military family support program that she led with former first lady Michelle Obama when Biden’s husband was President Barack Obama’s vice president.