First Lady Dr. Jill Biden urges teachers to keep helping students & their communities - AZEdNews
Sections    Tuesday March 28th, 2023

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden urges teachers to keep helping students & their communities

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden (right) And National Education Association President Becky Pringle (left) Speak To Teachers And Education Advocates At A Rally At The Arizona Education Association In Phoenix On Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. Photo By Lisa Irish / AZEdNews
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden encouraged teachers to continue their work to help students and their communities during a Saturday morning rally at the Arizona Education Association office in Phoenix before educators and education advocates knocked on doors to talk with voters this last weekend before the Nov. 8 elections.

“One of the things I love about educators is that we aren’t just dreamers. We’re doers,” Biden said. “When our lessons don’t go according to plan, we find a way to make it work. I’m sure that’s not happened to anybody here, right? And when our students are struggling, we help. And the results are the lives we change.”

“Right now, someone out there is a better thinker because of you. Someone is standing a little taller, because you helped her find the confidence that she needed. Someone is working a little harder, because you pushed him to try. Someone is kinder, because you showed her what that meant. And someone is braver, because you helped him find his courage,” Biden said.

“We aren’t just doers in the classroom, are we? No. Look at this,” Biden said to the crowd.

“When our students come to class hungry, and I know that’s happened to all of you. When our schools need more support, when we see injustice and inequality, we speak up, we organize, we fight for the communities we care about, and we never give up,” Biden said.

National Education Association President Becky Pringle told event attendees that “It’s about every student, it’s about every educator, it’s about every community.”

“Do we want to make sure that educators are respected?” Pringle asked the crowd.

“Yes,” the crowd shouted back.

“Do we want to make sure that every student has everything they need so they can live into their brilliance?” Pringle asked the crowd.

“Yes,” the crowd shouted back.

Before Dr. Biden and Pringle spoke, Arizona Education Association President Marisol Garcia thanked teachers and education advocates for coming to the rally before they went knocking on doors and talking with voters.

“Education is on the ballot. We all know that. In every way and every way possible we need to be out there talking to folks,” Garcia said.

“So listen to some of these stories and share some of these stories as to why people need to be voting for pro-education candidates,” Garcia said.

Anastasia Jimenez, president of the Phoenix Union High School District Classified Education Association, encouraged attendees to vote for pro-public education candidates. Jimenez said the education support professionals she represents, including classroom aides, bus aides, IT professionals, and more provide essential support for students and teachers.

Cartwright School District Food and Nutrition Team Member Alma Silva, who has served students for 18 years, said, “Right now, in my district we are fighting a company that wants to privatize our cafeterias and have us work with no benefits. I’m fighting for a better future for my daughter, my granddaughter, and the generations that come after.”

“I’m here today to stand with you and ask our community to vote yes for pro-public education candidates,” Silva said.

“We all work to meet our needs. We overwork ourselves and sacrifice time with our families. We come every day, because our students depend on us for sometimes the only meal they will get,” Silva said.

“We need to use our voice so we are not abused. We all deserve dignity and respect,” Silva said.

Jacob Martinez, who is running for a seat on Mesa Unified School District‘s Governing Board, said, “It’s always educators who get things done.”

Martinez said educators ensured his Father had what he needed when he moved from foster care to living on the street so that he could graduate.

“When my Mom got pregnant at 16, and had twins at 16, yeah, you know who made sure, who went to her house, and continued to make sure she had what she needed so she could graduate on time, and she didn’t become a statistic? Educators did,” Martinez said.

“And then finally, when my friends and I were scared to go to school, because we were scared about dying in a school shooting in the place that we’re supposed to be learning. You know who stood with us at the Capitol and at school board meetings to say ‘Enough is enough, and that we need to do something about it?’ Educators did,” said Martinez, who was one of the student leaders of March for Our Lives Arizona.

“I’ve been asking educators for help my entire life, and we need you now more than ever, because if anything has been proven, it’s that school boards are our new battleground,” Martinez said. “These are the places where our fight for democracy is going to be happening, and honestly, we’re fighting for our lives right now.”

Reyna Montoya, founder and CEO of Aliento, spoke in support of Proposition 308, which would let undocumented students who attend an Arizona high school for two years and graduate receive in-state tuition at Arizona’s public universities.

Montoya talked about applying for college and scholarships as an undocumented high school student compared with her best friend who was not.

“You are asking and are worried, because as you are receiving the scholarships, it’s asking you for a nine-digit number. A nine-digit number that you don’t have,” Montoya said. “It didn’t matter that you’ve been planning this all along with your best friend. You are now uncertain about the future.”

“This was me 15 years ago, and I was one the of the lucky ones. I got a Fulbright, a private scholarship to ASU,” Montoya said. “I graduated with a double major and a minor, and I then went and became a classroom teacher.”

Montoya said she saw a lot of students just like her, and they were stressed and crying.

“Education meant not only for them to have more opportunities and more doors, but it meant to pay it forward for the sacrifices that their parents, their educators, and their mentors have made,” Montoya said.

“The reality is that there is 2,000 undocumented students and DREAMERS who graduate our schools every single year,” Montoya said. “2,000 who don’t have the same opportunities, but this can stop now.”

“We have in our hands now a historic opportunity that 15 years later people like Reyna, people like Valeria in this crowd don’t have to continue to suffer. Don’t have to see that they and their best friends don’t have the same opportunities even though they went to the same schools,” Montoya said.

Prop. 308 on the ballot means that there is an opportunity this November “that the reality for our students, our DREAMERS, can be different,” Montoya said.

Isela Blanc, an AEA liaison and legislative committee member, urged education advocates to share these and their own stories as they knocked on doors and talked with voters.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman encouraged teachers and education advocates to knock on just a few more doors as they did their canvass this weekend and made phone calls for candidates in the last days leading up to the elections.

“If you were thinking about knocking on 30 doors today, knock on 40,” Hoffman said.

“When you’re knocking on those doors and they’re saying ‘Why do our schools need more funding?’ ‘Why do our schools need more recess?’ Ask them, ‘Do we have full-day kindergarten in our schools?’

“No,” said the crowd.

“Ask them ‘Are our teachers still being paid at the bottom, and do they deserve competitive pay to be competitive like other states?'” Hoffman said.

“Yes,” said the crowd.

“Yes, so our work is far from done,” Hoffman said.

“So what are we going to do?” Hoffman asked the crowd.

“Knock on doors,” said the crowd.

AZEdNews Slideshow of AEA rally with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden

All photos by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

(Click on photo for larger image without captions)