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First Lady Jill Biden Makes History By Working Outside The White House

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And now a first for a first lady - Jill Biden returned to teaching in-person classes today at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has taught since 2009. She is the first first lady to commute from the White House to a full-time job. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: There were no throngs of press. It was not a big media event. Still, you don't have to look hard to find examples of Jill Biden talking about her profession.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JILL BIDEN: You know, being with so many of my fellow educators makes me feel right at home.

GONYEA: That piece of audio was from a school event just over a month ago. Like so many teachers, Biden taught remotely last year. She reflected that day on how tough last year was.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: You did what educators do best. You made something out of nothing. You persevered, and you supported your students.

GONYEA: Author Kate Andersen Brower, who has written books about the White House and about first ladies, notes the lack of fanfare in Jill Biden heading off to her job today. She says it's historic but seems so routine at the same time.

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER: It's absolutely a moment in history to have a first lady working. You know, we've never had it before, and I think it's a shame that this is a moment, right?

GONYEA: She calls it one of those days that quietly changes things. Future presidential spouses will now have precedent to point to when they too decide they'll work outside the White House. Watching especially closely today are teachers across America. Melissa Cropper of the Ohio Federation of Teachers calls it validating.

MELISSA CROPPER: It's encouraging to us to know that the wife of the president of the United States understands what we're going through, both in a regular world of teaching, but also in a pandemic world teaching.

GONYEA: Jill Biden's schedule will have her in the classroom two days a week, plus lesson plans and grading, plus the work of first lady.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF BALMORHEA'S "SETTLER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.