For Jill Biden, heading back to school is a familiar experience.
As she checked out preparations at Shortlidge Elementary School in Wilmington Tuesday morning, she remembered the excitement of a new school year over her more than three decades working as an educator.
And though Shortlidge students won’t be returning in person at the start of the year, Biden got a look at how teachers will be using their classrooms to virtually connect with their kids.
“I wanted to have access to all the resources that were in my room. I could have my smart board, I could have my white board,” said Chris Wiggins, who teaches second grade at Shortlidge. “Also, so the kids could see me in the room, so when it’s time for them to come back to class — which should be soon, hopefully — they’ll know where their seats are, they’ll know what my room looks like.”
The visit was Biden’s first stop on a tour of schools in 10 cities over the next two weeks. She called Wiggins, who is Black, a role model for others to get into the education field.
“One of the things the Biden administration will do is recruit more teachers of color, especially men,” she said.
Jill Biden has long been an education advocate. She told faculty at Shortlidge that her husband, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and running mate Kamala Harris knew the importance of listening to teachers.
“Most of all, Joe knows that the best policies don’t come from politicians, they come from educators like you,” she said. “You’re the professionals, you know what works and what doesn’t work. And Joe is going to listen.”
Following the tour, Biden sat and talked with school leaders outside the building. She heard about the need to support teachers’ mental health after facing the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“They went into crisis mode starting in March,” said Stephanie Ingram, president of the Delaware State Education Association, the union that represents public school teachers. “They faced a summer of anxiety and frustration as they worried about what school would look like in the fall, if they would be back in their classrooms, if they would see their students. A lot of our educators are struggling to dig from a well that is empty.”
Biden said she understands what it’s like to have classroom decisions made by someone who has never worked in a classroom before. She said the first item on the Biden/Harris educational agenda, if they are elected, would be replacing current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with someone who has teaching experience in the classroom.
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