Students at Pasco-Hernando State College recently enjoyed a virtual presentation from a seasoned educator of more than three decades; a veteran community college educator who holds a Doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware and two Master's Degrees. Oh, and aside from teacher, this presenter has earned a second valued title throughout her diverse career: Second Lady of the United States.
As a part of her national “Back-to-School Tour,” Dr. Jill Biden met virtually with students at Pasco-Hernando State College Sept. 2. As a part of this tour, conducted both virtually and in person at schools throughout the nation, Dr. Biden discussed challenges that students and teachers are facing at this time and ways in which the learning environment can be improved and enhanced. And she addressed the plans of husband and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden to reopen the American economy and schools in the safest manner possible.
Dr. Biden's ultimate message, according to promotional material, concerned "how we can invest in infrastructure and education to make sure our students have the tools they need to succeed."
Dr. Biden's virtual appearance at PHSC was coordinated by Porter Campus Provost Kevin O'Farrell and Dr. Davina A. Jones, Professor - Speech Communication (Civic Engagement, Public Address & Interpersonal Development) at PHSC - Porter Campus.
"In working with the Porter Campus Provost, Dr. Kevin O'Farrell, we've had various speakers to share in a way that allows us to connect our classrooms to the real world," said Jones. "We've hosted speakers from various viewpoints on various issues and allow our students to then experience their path. A primary requirement, however, is that we practice civility. Through community engagement, we often meet various individuals that help us to initiate invitations such as the one with Dr. Biden."
Aside from prepared comments regarding the need for both safety and educational enrichment in schools, Dr. Biden congratulated Kevin O'Farrell on the impending birth of his third child. She also had high praise for Jones and other state college instructors.
"In you, I see the best of this nation," she said. "An incredible, effective educator."
Jones said that Biden supplemented her comments with a lengthy question and answer session with her students.
"My students were in the Zoom during the entire broadcast and before. Dr. Biden met with my students prior to going live because my priority was for her to engage students. In fact, the broadcast started late because I extended the students’ time with her," she said. "She asked them questions about their experiences through the pandemic, returning to school and studying online. They shared their concerns, many of which we summarized during the broadcast. Students were surprised and thanked her for coming."
Biden's presentation is part of an ongoing schedule of informational guest speakers at Pasco-Hernando State College.
"We have hosted guest speakers on various issues and from various viewpoints," said Jones. "When we saw an opportunity to invite Dr. Biden, we did. However, it is not my job to tell students who to vote for, it is my job to simply expose them to voting. Thus, I remain open to students researching and hearing from speakers on various issues, representing various viewpoints. A fundamental ask of mine is that guests are civil!"
Biden's two-week, 10-visit back to school tour was the latest in her long line of speeches and presentations at schools throughout the nation. In 2012, she embarked on a “Community College to Career” tour, and in fall 2010, she hosted the inaugural White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Barack Obama (https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/administration/jill-biden). During her husband's term in office, she continued to teach English full-time at a community college in Virginia (https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/administration/jill-biden) and has stated her intention to continue teaching if she becomes First Lady of the United States (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH3TJsxBelM).