CLOSE

Dr. Jill Biden has championed for her husband, Joe Biden, throughout his political career. But she has her own incredible accomplishments.

USA TODAY

All anyone could talk about that day were the yellow roses.

During the 1976-1977 school year, a courier delivered three dozen long-stemmed roses to the desk of Saint Mark’s High School newest English teacher. The women in the office were buzzing about their beauty. The men commented on their exorbitant cost. 

Even teenage boys took notice. 

When the teacher, for whom the flowers were for, opened the card, her cheeks blushed. Everyone already knew who Jill Jacobs’ admirer was — some of them likely voted for him.

More than 40 years later, retired teachers and some former students can still recall the day Ms. Jacobs received those yellow roses. It represented an important chapter in the life of Jill Biden: Her first year of teaching full-time, while also dating a gregarious U.S. senator whose ambitions included the White House. 

“She always knew where she was going.”

Barbara Reilly

During this year at Saint Mark’s, Jill began to establish her long career as an educator. Her kind gestures, tough grading and stylish outfits are still remembered by students decades later.

At 25, she also cautiously began to enter what would become her life as mother and senator’s wife, all while trying to find independence from her partner. She would continue to do so for years to come. 

“She was always self-possessed,” said Barbara Reilly, who taught English at Saint Mark’s for decades. “She always knew where she was going.”

As a teacher and later a professor, Jill’s office had no photos of her husband, only of her children and grandchildren. Some students never knew who she was married to. When Jill defended her doctoral dissertation in education from the University of Delaware in 2007, she did so in her maiden name. Joe Biden was not allowed in the room out of concern that his presence would sway opinions. 

If Jill Biden’s husband is elected president come Nov. 3, that first year at Saint Mark’s may offer a glimpse at the early life of a potentially historic first lady — one who plans to have a job outside the walls of the White House. 

“I want my own money, my own career, my own identity,” Jill Biden told The News Journal in 2007.

“He realizes,” she said of Joe Biden, “that he’s not my life and my love.”

‘A banner year for the discovery of Middle English’

On the first day of teacher orientation, Barbara Reilly knew she liked her instantly. Jill Jacobs was smart and confident. She seemed like a natural teacher. 

“And I thought, ‘Merciful goodness she’s beautiful,’ ” she laughed. 

The two teachers formed a tight bond that year, particularly since the English department shared an office. It was a social group, where belly laughs were frequent. Reilly, already