After a historic presidential election that ended with the first woman and Black American as vice president-elect, the Biden administration might usher in another first.
Incoming first lady Jill Biden, who holds a doctorate of education, has been a teacher for more than three decades, and there's every sign she'll return to the job.
The 69-year-old has said as much in recent interviews, and Biden advisers are signaling no change — which would make her the first first lady to have a full-time, paid position outside the White House, according to the White House Historical Association.
"The role of first lady is not static," the organization said in a statement to TODAY. "Rather, it is shaped by the person who serves in the position and changing societal norms and expectations."
'Lift up the profession'
"I would love to (keep teaching)," Biden told "CBS This Morning" in August. "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 the profession."
She made a similar statement last year to NBC's Mike Memoli, who asked if she'd continue to teach throughout her husband's presidential campaign. (Biden did eventually take a break from teaching this year, her first since giving birth to her daughter, Ashley, in 1981, according to The Washington Post.)
"I've done this schedule through Joe's Senate campaigns, our vice presidential campaigns, now through this campaign," Biden told Memoli. "I'm taking it day by day, just seeing where it goes. And if we go forward, I would love to continue it in the White House."
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"How great would that be?" she added. "What would that say about teachers? Wouldn't that lift up the profession and celebrate who they are? It would be my honor."
The president-elect also alluded to his wife continuing to teach during his acceptance speech Saturday.
"For American educators, it is a great day for you all. You’re going to have one of your own in the White House," Joe Biden said.
Traveling with term papers
As second lady, Biden was involved in issues relating to education, in addition to teaching English full time at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). In fact, she became known for bringing students' work with her when she traveled.
"Jill is always grading papers,” former first lady Michelle Obama told People in 2016. "Which is funny because I'd forget. 'Oh yeah, you have a day job!' And then she pulls out her papers, and she’s so diligent and I'm like, 'Look at you! You have a job! Tell me! Tell me what it’s like!'"
Jimmie McClellan, Ph.D., Biden's former supervisor at NOVA, texted with her during the fall about potentially returning to her role, he told ABC Washington recently.
"We don’t treat her any differently than anyone else," he said. "She sits in a rustic cubicle just like the rest of us with minimal equipment and no ambiance. Sometimes Jill brings a change of clothes to the office, and she will leave from the campus straight to a State Dinner. She is able to separate those two worlds."
“I have said all along that I hired a great teacher who happened to be second lady, not a second lady who happened to be a great teacher,” he added.
The 2020 campaign and beyond
Biden delivered her speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention from her former classroom at Brandywine High School in Wilmington, Delaware.
Before the speech, she tweeted, "Teaching is not what I do. It's who I am."
Walking through the school's hallways, she said, "I have always loved the sounds of a classroom, the quiet that sparks with possibility just before students shuffle in, the murmur of ideas bouncing back and forth as we explore the world together, the laughter and tiny moments of surprise you find in materials you've taught a million times."
Biden started out teaching teens and adolescents, but community college has become one of her educational policy priorities.
Her husband's campaign website references her career choice amid his plan to make two years of community college debt free. Biden's also repeatedly referred to community college as "one of America’s best-kept secrets."
Following the election, Biden "is spending time with her children and grandchildren in Wilmington, Delaware," her press secretary, Michael LaRose, said in a statement to NBC News. "Dr. Biden is focused on building her team and developing her priorities focused on education, military families and veterans, and cancer."
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