Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by First Lady Jill Biden at the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) Representative Assembly
Thank you, Amy! And thank you for your 30 years as a special education teacher. Your leadership has helped this union thrive, and I know that everyone here is grateful for your work.
And Becky, you have been a wonderful partner and friend. As always, I’m honored to be with the NEA—the union that has supported me for so many years.
I know that Lieutenant Governor Barnes will be joining you today—and I just had the chance to meet his mom, LaJuan, who was a Milwaukee public school teacher for almost 30 years!
Looking at this crowd, I’m reminded that Wisconsin’s recertification process was created in order to weaken unions. And yet, every year, you come together to stand up for your right to collectively bargain. You come together to fight for the MTEA and WEAC because they fight for you.
Despite the obstacles in your way, Milwaukee is—and will continue to be—union strong!
As a teacher myself, being with you—feeling your commitment and excitement—is exactly what I need right now.
Because we’ve all reached that point in the semester when the shininess of those first exciting days of class have rubbed off—but we’re still far away from winter break. You know the feeling. Maybe you need an extra espresso shot in your iced coffee; maybe you take a little longer to get out of your car in the morning.
This isn’t always an easy job—in fact, sometimes it feels harder than ever, doesn’t it? But we keep coming back. Because this isn’t just a job. It’s a calling.
So, when the budgets run thin and the lesson plans go wrong, teachers find a way to push past the chaos and build something beautiful.
When kids aren’t getting enough to eat, cafeteria staff work long hours to make extra meals—and bus drivers deliver them to students in need.
When families are struggling to find housing, when they’re wrestling with trauma or grief, school counselors call after work and make sure they have the help they need.
Educators, you are the heart of your communities. And you were called to this profession for a reason. Because you never give up on the families you serve. Because when extremists try to stop you from doing your job, you put your shoulders back and focus on the kids who need you. Because you continue to believe that a better world is possible—and you make that world real, one student at a time.
And I am here today to say that you aren’t in this alone. You have a friend in the White House—two, in fact: me, and my husband, Joe.
I always knew that Joe would be an education President. Because this means so much to him. And he’s delivered on his promises: from historic investments to safely re-open schools, to addressing the mental health and academic needs of our students, to signing the bipartisan gun bill, to loan forgiveness for public servants.
And he’s working every day to support what we call the three R’s of teaching: recruiting, respecting, and retaining our educators. He’s working hard to help bring more people to this profession and give them the support and mentoring they need to succeed.
Here in Wisconsin, Governor Evers and Lieutenant Governor Barnes have been incredible partners in that work. They’ve invested millions so every student can have access to mental health services, so students with disabilities have the support they need, and so teachers can have manageable class sizes.
In fact, later this evening, the Governor and I will be heading to a “Homework Diner”—and I’m excited to see how school communities are coming together to better support families here in Milwaukee. But there’s much we still need to do.
If we hope to invest more in our schools and your salaries, if we want to rebuild the middle class, if we want to protect women’s rights and Social Security—we need leaders who will stand up for you and your students.
That’s why we all need to get involved. Because you know what’s at stake. And because this union knows how to get things done.
We have to speak up for justice and equity. All of us have a “Teacher voice”—and now is the time to use it. We must come together—as NEA always has—and demand that we be heard. I’ll be there beside you, every step of the way.
Now, it won’t be easy. We know that. But we do this work because it’s who we are: We’re optimists. We’re true believers. We’re union members! We stand together and we fight for the communities we care about.
We will never give up. So underestimate us at your own risk.
I want to end by saying thank you. Thank you for fighting for your students and for each other. Thank you for the good you do and the lives you’ve touched.
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 she needed.
Someone is working a little harder because you pushed him to try.
Someone is kinder because you showed her what that meant.
Someone is braver because you helped him find his courage.
This group is powerful. And in little ways and big ones, you change the world every day.