Posts Tagged Dr. Jill Biden
By Lisa Daniel
Common Core Standards, No Child Left Behind, STEM, differentiated teaching, merit pay. Keeping up with the latest policies, ideas and buzz words in education is enough to make parents’ – along with more than a few educators’ — heads spin.
That’s why it was a special treat when I got to speak about these trends with Angela Wilson, who traveled here this week to meet Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and conduct other official business as the Department of Defense Education Activity’s 2012 Teacher of the Year. Read more here.
Wilson has been a key player in national education issues since being awarded the honor last spring, along with other Teacher of the Year winners from each of the states and territories. Since then, Wilson has traveled several times to meet with national education leaders and work on projects to advance teaching, while bringing those experiences back to her seventh-grade language arts and speech students at Vincenza Middle School in Italy.
“It’s been an amazing year,” Wilson said. “It’s really opened my eyes to what’s going on in education around our nation. As teachers, it’s easy to get stuck in what’s happening in your classroom and not looking beyond that.”
Wilson has met with President Barack Obama, whose sister, like Panetta’s, is a teacher. She’s also had conversations with Dr. Jill Biden, who remains a teacher even as she is second lady, as well as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other public officials. She has attended education conferences and participated in initiatives and met with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, creator of www.icivics.org, and Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who spent a couple of hours speaking with teachers at the Educational Commission Conference in Atlanta last summer, Wilson said.
“He met with all of us individually … and wanted us to tell him what’s going on in our schools and how he could help,” she said of Gates. “He wrote down what we said,” then Wilson and four other teachers were chosen to be recorded for a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation video.
“That was really neat that he would turn our thoughts into a video” to advance education, Wilson said. “His goal is to make America one of those really competitive educational societies like it used to be.”
Reports that American students’ standardized test scores are falling below those of their international peers are unsettling, but Wilson said she believes the nation is on the cusp of reversing that trend, in part due to the rapid push for new initiatives. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
When First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden started the “Joining Forces” campaign 15 months ago, they did so with the goal of creating impactful and lasting health, education and employment support for military families.
The campaign had two significant achievements this week that its director, Navy Capt. Brad Cooper, told me hit both of those marks.
First, North Carolina became the 26th state to pass a law making it easier for military spouses to transfer their professional licenses. (Read more.) South Carolina and Hawaii passed similar laws in recent weeks, potentially affecting tens of thousands of military spouses, Cooper said. With similar legislation pending in California, Ohio and New Jersey, the campaign is “exceeding our expectations” in getting laws passed in all 50 states by the end of 2014, he said.
“As I take step back and look this – and my dad was an Army officer – this signals a pretty remarkable cultural shift,” Cooper said. “I remember my mother — as well as my wife, spouses of my friends — were reluctant even to indicate they were military spouses” to prospective employers, he said.
Second, the National Association of Social Workers, at its annual convention here this week, announced it is launching a free, online training course for all social workers to better understand the unique needs of military families. It also is providing a set of standards for working with veterans and military families, and is creating a professional Credential for Social Work with Veterans and Military Families. (Read more.)
Social workers are considered the nation’s frontline mental health services providers, and they practice in every county in the country. The NASW represents 650,000 of them. Its pledge to Joining Forces follows that of the four largest nursing associations, representing 3 million nurses, and the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, with 105 and 25 schools, respectively, in training doctors to serve military families and veterans. The Association of Marriage and Therapy Therapists also has signed on, as well as associations representing psychiatrists, psychologists and surgeons.
“This really represents, to me, not just the impactful piece, but the sustaining piece,” Cooper said.
Spouses’ and veterans’ employment also has made major strides, Cooper said. More than 2,000 companies have signed on already hiring 25,000 spouses and 65,000 veterans, and pledging to hire another 175,000 in the next two years, helping bring down the veterans’ unemployment rate, he said.
“This really is the largest outreach and advocacy efforts we’ve had on behalf of veterans and their families for years,” Cooper said.
Joining Forces has been successful, he said, because “we’ve been able to breach through years and years of bureaucracy and bring people together and focus them on the effort.” All they needed was leadership and direction, he added.
“People, generally, want to be helpful,” Cooper said. “They don’t always know what they can do. Our objective is to steer them to meaningful action.”
Joining Forces’ efforts have caught the attention of military spouses.
By Lisa Daniel
As Missouri National Guard members met with Dr. Jill Biden this week to discuss their family challenges and areas of support, Jenn Whitacre’s feedback was both professional and personal.
As a National Guard family assistance center coordinator in Jefferson City, Whitacre spends her days helping Guard families – pursuing job opportunities, finding childcare, arranging transportation, shoveling snow, and the like. As it turned out, Whitacre’s toughest challenge was her own.
Whitacre’s husband, Army National Guard Spc. Shane Whitacre, returned from a year in Iraq with a shoulder injury that proved more complicated than the couple expected. Shane needed surgery and would not be able to lift anything or drive for six months. In the weeks after the surgery, he would spend six hours each day in a physical therapy chair and another six in an ice pack.
The couple had arranged their schedules around that of their four children, but things got complicated when they learned Shane would not be able to lift their 6-month-old daughter. Jenn had to leave at 6 a.m. for work each day, and daycare didn’t open until after 7. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
April 30, 2012
Education was front and center in Washington last week and at least two major events directly impact the education of military families’ school-age children.
First, Angela Wilson a 7th grade language arts teacher at a Defense Department school in Vicenza, Italy, spent the week in the nation’s capital representing DoD schools as one of four finalists in the annual National Teacher of the Year competition.
Wilson, accompanied by her husband, Chase, who also is a 7th grade teacher at Vicenza Middle School, shined a light on Department of Defense Education Activity schools for both their quality and also on the unique challenges of their students and teachers.
The week’s packed agenda included a ceremony with President Barack Obama at the White House, a reception at the vice president’s home at the U.S. Naval Observatory with Dr. Jill Biden – a teacher so dedicated she continues to teach three days each week while serving as “second lady” – as well as opportunities to discuss education policy with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The teachers also participated in classes and training of their choice at the Smithsonian, and events with education-focused companies and nonprofits to advance classroom teaching. That, not to mention the discussion these best and brightest had amongst themselves and will no doubt share with their colleagues, should comfort DODEA families.
The knowledge and skills the Wilsons will bring back to the classroom is vast. But even more important, Angela Wilson told American Forces Press Service, will be her message to students that American leaders – all the way to the president – care about them and their education.
“They do value education, you can tell,” she said.
The news got even better when Duncan sent an April 24 letter to all public school superintendents – where 80 percent, or 1.2 million, of students from military families are enrolled — encouraging them to understand and respond to the needs of military students, many of whom change school districts more than a half dozen times in their parents’ military careers. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by in Family Matters on April 5, 2012
By Elaine Sanchez
April 4, 2012
First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday unveiled a new hiring effort that will deliver thousands of portable, flexible job opportunities to military spouses.
Eleven companies have pledged more than 15,000 jobs for military spouses and veterans, the first lady said. The good news for spouses is the vast majority of these jobs – in areas such as customer support and telemarketing — can be accomplished from home.
Other jobs will be in contact centers located near military installations, and offer family-friendly scheduling, growth opportunities and the ability to transfer seamlessly from one center to another
This commitment will make a “huge difference” for military spouses, Obama said during a teleconference announcing this effort. “Having an opportunity to have a decent job … is one of the most important ways we can support these families,” she said.
Posted by in Family Matters on January 23, 2012
By Elaine Sanchez
Jan. 23, 2012
Last week, I traveled to California to join Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, as she embarked on a West Coast Joining Forces tour.
Dr. Biden had arrived with her husband a day earlier than me, so I caught up with her at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she was participating in a roundtable discussion on military kids and how schools across the nation can better support them.
She sat amid a group of educators, social workers and students involved in the Building Capacity in Military-connected Schools project, which helps to create military-friendly environments in schools and to raise awareness of their challenges among educators.
The participants took turns sharing their consortium success stories for Biden. Gena Truitt, a prior service member, military mom and social work intern, talked about how she created the Pride Club at an elementary school to foster camaraderie among military kids.
Robin Williamson, a Navy wife and school liaison officer, described how she helped to create transition rooms in 11 military-impacted San Diego-area schools. Families use the rooms to learn about school and community resources, and to create connections with other military families.
Biden wrapped up the roundtable by thanking the educators for their work and for rising to the Joining Forces challenge. “What you’re doing is a perfect example of how we want to change things in America, where every state, every school district has programs like this,” she said. “You’re doing exactly what needs to be done.”
After the roundtable, I drove down the coast to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, where Dr. Biden was headed the next day.
In the morning, I followed the media trail of cars down a very long and winding dirt road to the infantry immersion trainer. This state-of-the-art training complex simulates situations Marines may encounter in Afghanistan.
We were escorted to the top of a building, across the way from Dr. Biden, to gain a bird’s eye view of a live-fire exercise.
A Marine patrol entered a simulated Afghan bazaar and, moments later, a loud explosion echoed in the air. A female Afghan, whose leg had been “blown off,” fell to the ground screaming in pain. The Marines rushed to help her as a rocket-propelled grenade, shot from Biden’s rooftop, flew past.
The overall experience was incredible, Dr. Biden told us on her way out.
“It’s been an amazing experience to be here,” she said. “It made me realize just how difficult it is for our military when they go to Afghanistan and when they went to Iraq.
“Americans should be really proud,” she added.
Posted by in Family Matters on January 12, 2012
Jan. 12, 2012
The nation’s medical colleges are the latest to join forces with First Lady Michelle Obama to ensure the best care for troops, veterans and their families.
The first lady yesterday announced the commitment, which is aimed at improving training for civilian health care providers so they can better care for veterans and their families. It also calls for more research on combat-related injuries.
The Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, with a combined 130 schools between them, have signed on to use their expertise in education, research and clinical care to better serve the military population.
“Today the nation’s medical colleges are committing to create a new generation of doctors, medical schools and research facilities to make sure our heroes receive the care worthy of their military service,” Obama said in an article written by my AFPS colleague Lisa Daniel.
As part of the initiative, Daniel reported, the associations pledged to:
– Train their medical students as well as their current physicians, faculty and staff to better diagnose and treat veterans and military families;
– Develop new research and clinical trials on traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder;
– Share their information and best practices with each other through a collaborative Web forum; and
– Coordinate with the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.
This new commitment is one of many spurred by the Joining Forces campaign. The first lady and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched Joining Forces last year to raise awareness of troops, veterans and their families, and to call on all sectors of society to support them.
“In a time of war, when our troops and their families are sacrificing so much, we all should be doing everything we can to serve them as well as they are serving this country,” Obama said yesterday. “It’s an obligation that extends to every single American. And, it’s an obligation that does not end when a war ends and troops return home. In many ways, that’s when it begins.”
Obama acknowledged the difficulties troops and their families sometimes face when they return home from war.
An estimated one in six Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans return home with post-traumatic stress or depression, and at least 4,000 have had at least a moderate-grade brain injury, the first lady said. While some seek treatment, the stigma of seeking mental health care stops many troops in their tracks.
“I want to be very clear today: these mental health challenges are not a sign of weakness,” Obama said. “They should never again be a source of shame. They are a natural reaction to the challenges of war, and it has been that way throughout the ages.”
For more on this commitment, read the AFPS article, “Medical Colleges Pledge to Care for Troops, Families,” written by my colleague, Lisa Daniel.
Posted by in Family Matters on November 14, 2011
Guest blogger Angee Croxon, a military spouse, describes her experiences at a spouse appreciation event during the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 5. Along with a host of celebrity cooks and exhibitors, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, also stopped by to visit with military families during the Operation Home Cooking event.
By Angee Croxon
Nov. 14, 2011
As a military spouse I have an enormous sense of pride in my husband and other military men and women’s ability to juggle their duties as service members, fathers and mothers, and spouses. They deserve all the support they get, even if it’s just an occasional military discount at a store or restaurant. When I heard about a military spouse appreciation event put on by Food Network called Operation Home Cooking, I thought it was nice that people are taking time to recognize the sacrifices military spouses make so their husbands and wives can fight America’s wars.
As big fans of the network’s shows my two girlfriends (fellow military spouses) and I decided to go. Not only did I get to hang out with a couple of my great friends — Stephanie Brown and Jamie Powell — but I got a chance to see some famous chefs from Food Network talk to a group of spouses who shared the common experience of being married to the military.
Posted by in Family Matters on October 12, 2011
A few top entertainment industry stars have joined forces with First Lady Michelle Obama to help shine the light on military families and their service and sacrifice.
The entertainment industry’s Inter-Guild Joining Forces Task Force today released new public service announcements featuring producer and director Steven Spielberg, movie star Tom Hanks and legendary talk show host Oprah Winfrey, a White House news release said. The task force developed the PSAs in support of the Joining Forces campaign, a national initiative launched by the first lady and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to support and honor service members and their families.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America West formed the task force to provide creative and production support for Joining Forces, the release said, and to inform and inspire their members about military families.
The PSAs tell real stories about America’s military families and call on Americans to give back to ensure service members and military families have the support they deserve.
“The entertainment community answered the Joining Forces call and has done what they do best — bring to life stories that move us,” Obama said in the release. “Through this PSA campaign, Americans will learn more about the unique challenges and needs of our military families; see their strength, resilience and service; and find out how they can give back to these extraordinary troops and families who have given us so much.”
The guilds launched the PSA project following the first lady’s visit to Los Angeles in June. She discussed military families’ stories and issues and encouraged the guilds to incorporate their experiences into film, TV and digital media. The PSAs are a direct outcome of that visit, the release said, adding that A&E Networks, CBS, Comcast NBC, Disney ABC, FOX and WB have agreed to support the PSA campaign.
The PSAs encourage Americans to get involved in supporting military families by visiting the Joining Forces website. Visitors to the site can send messages of thanks, find opportunities to get involved and share stories of service, the release said.
“As a military mom I know just how much it means when people reach out to show their support for our service members and their families,” Biden said in the release. “The first lady and I hope that this campaign will inspire more Americans to take action and reach out to military families in their own communities around the country.”
Posted by in Family Matters on September 2, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Sept. 2, 2011
Navy Capt. Brad Cooper seemed at ease seated in an ornate room in the White House’s East Wing, surrounded by memorabilia from past events. He gazed at a wooden rack of military coins across the room, taking a moment to contemplate my question about his mission there.
Cooper recently became the executive director of the White House’s “Joining Forces” campaign, a military family support initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. This nationwide campaign calls on all sectors of society — from businesses and communities to nonprofit organizations and individuals — to rally in support of troops, veterans and their families.
His mission, he told me, is to help build a bridge between military families and the people seeking to support them. And like the first lady and Dr. Biden, he’s passionate about building this support, he said.
“I want to focus on the extraordinary [nature] of military families and veterans who have been asked to do a lot over the course of a decade of war,” he said, “and bridge that with the extraordinary capacity of the nation to lend a hand.”
This is more than just a job; it’s personal, Cooper said.
With 10 deployments and 27 moves over the course of his own and his father’s Army career, he said, he’s more than familiar with the challenges military families face. His two children have attended 10 different schools. And he frequently asks his wife, his high school sweetheart, for the military spouse perspective.
He’s confident Joining Forces can help ease some of the challenges military families face, he said, from the frequent deployments and moves to education and employment challenges.
The first lady and Dr. Biden already have made inroads to that end, the captain said. Companies have stepped up to hire spouses and veterans, and the Chamber of Commerce is hosting spouse and veteran career fairs across the nation.
Cooper said he also recently met with the Council of Governors, and they identified three issues in which states can make a difference: professional licensing for spouses, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, and job credentialing for transitioning service members.
The council committed unanimously to doing everything it could to move those pieces forward, he said.
Along with leaders and companies, I asked Cooper how individuals can help.
He responded with a quote from the first lady: “Do what you do best.” Business owners can hire military spouses, universities can connect with veterans, and individuals can help by mowing a lawn or watching a military parent’s kids, he said. “It’s a pretty broad spectrum, and in between are thousands of opportunities.”
While they may not know exactly how, Cooper said, it’s evident people want to help. He cited the huge success of the Operation Honor Cards program, which encourages people to volunteer for community service to honor the service of military families. In just a few months, people have pledged nearly 7 million hours and served nearly 3.5 million hours. The goal, he noted, was 2.5 million.
The first lady often says everyone can do something, Cooper said. “What that is, in doing something, is the bridge that needs to get built,” he said. “And the great piece is it’s our bridge to build.”