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First lady Jill Biden returns to the classroom – as the only first lady to work outside of the White House

First lady surprises Teacher of the Year
First lady Dr. Biden surprises the National Teacher of the Year 07:03

First lady Jill Biden is heading back to work – in person. She is the first person to have a job while serving as first lady. The teacher had been instructing students virtually last semester, but on Tuesday, she finally went back to her classroom at Northern Virginia Community College.

The first lady has instructed at the school since 2009, according to the Associated Press. During her time teaching as the second lady of the United States, the school discussed whether her name would appear on schedules for her English classes.

The NOVA Community College president told her administrative colleagues the first lady's classes would be listed as TBA. But a month later, the dean told the first lady he was "worried" she would not get the class schedule she would like because of the "TBA" professor listing. "I would like to put 'Biden' rather than 'TBA' that all right with you?" he asked.

Ultimately, the public schedule listed morning classes with "Jill T. Biden."

Last semester, after "meeting with attorneys to make sure there were no legal barriers to her teaching," the first lady, who holds a doctorate in education, taught three introductory English courses.

She instructed students virtually from her office in the White House East Wing or hotel rooms when she traveled and graded papers on flights, according to the AP.  This semester, she'll be at the school, instructing on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Former second lady Karen Pence also worked during a portion of her husband's vice presidency. Mrs. Pence, whose husband Vice President Mike Pence served between 2017 and 2020, returned to the classroom in 2019, saying she "missed teaching art," according to the White House.

While the spouses of presidents often taken on roles in the administration, Jill Biden is the only first lady to continue her career outside of the White House.

A working first lady is a "big deal," said Tammy Vigil, a Boston University communications professor who wrote a book about first ladies Michelle Obama and Melania Trump, according to the AP. 

Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt traveled around the U.S. when her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was limited by polio. And former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama were working mothers before their husbands were elected. 

Both decided against continuing their careers in the White House, but did continue to work, with Mrs. Clinton chairing the Task Force on National Health Care Reform and Mrs. Obama initiating the Let's Move! a program aiming to end childhood obesity.

Jill Biden, who raised daughter Ashley and stepsons Hunter and Beau with the president, is now a grandmother of seven. But at 70 years old, she is not ready to give up the career that is so much a part of who she is. "Teaching isn't just what I do. It's who I am," she said, according to the AP. 

Bo Erickson contributed to this report.

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