Before launching into her prepared remarks, first lady Jill Biden apologized to the room full of high school teachers at Hunter High School in West Valley City for being late.

“I’m sorry I was late today ... because I’ve been in your seats, to have to stay after school,” Biden said. It was the first snow day of the year in Washington, D.C., Biden explained, and she had to wait for her plane to be de-iced before they could take off.

Biden landed at the Salt Lake City airport just before 3 p.m. Tuesday, where she was greeted by Utah’s first lady, Abby Cox, and her daughter Emma Kate. Biden and Cox were then whisked away in a motorcade to Hunter High School, where they were greeted with applause by a group of high school student leaders.

Inside the school’s cafeteria, they were applauded again, this time by a room full of teachers, administrators and a small group of students who had stayed after the school day to hear from Biden and Cox, as well as U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

They spoke to the teachers about the need to take time to care for themselves, even as they work to care for their students. In the years since COVID-19 disrupted schools, teachers have struggled to get students back on track — and it took a toll of them as well.

A study put out by RAND Corporation shows stress levels among teachers are starting to return to normal almost four years after the start of the pandemic, but teachers generally experience higher stress levels than other working adults. The study also showed 26% of teachers sometimes or often fear for their physical safety at school.

Another survey of teachers showed one-in-10 reported having been physically assaulted or attacked by a student, and that number was one-in-five for principals, according to reporting by EdWeek.

Biden, Cox and Murthy all encouraged teachers to take time to care for themselves and to support one another.

“I know that, sometimes, it feels like the weight that teachers like you across the country have to carry is too much for one person to take on alone,” said Biden. “Pay that doesn’t match your value. Work that doesn’t end when the afternoon bell rings. Students who seem to be struggling with more than a teacher can solve.

“Today, first lady Cox and I are here to tell you that you aren’t alone. We understand, and we are working to honor this profession and give you the support you deserve — because there is no greater calling than educating the future.”

Biden praised Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Abby Cox for their outreach to teachers, saying, “Supporting educators does not have to be a red issue or a blue issue, it’s an American one.”

Biden has worked as a teacher for over 40 years, and she currently teaches English and writing at Northern Virginia Community College.

Abby Cox, who also has a teaching degree, has focused her efforts on a program called “Show Up,” which includes outreach to teachers. She said she and Jill Biden shared a “passion for educators.”

“I love this opportunity that she and I have to come together with a shared purpose and a shared goal of lifting our educators, making sure that you have the tools and resources that you need to be successful, because we know that you are the ones that are building the next generation,” Cox said.

Cox also spoke about her and the governor’s focus on service to improve mental health among young people, calling it a “powerful tool in the toolbox” to address mental health challenges.

“We need to make sure that our communities are thriving, and the way we do that is to volunteer and serve and go out together and show our students how powerful service is,” she said.

Inside Gov. Cox’s service symposium where he called service, community ‘defining features of the state’

At the end of her remarks, Cox said local business Beehive Meals was giving each teacher there five freezer meals to go home with. The teachers were also each gifted a Crumbl cookie.

Responding to Biden’s and Cox’s remarks, Paula Edmonds and Angie Pester, who work in the front office at Hunter High School, said students and staff at the school were excited about the first lady’s visit after they heard she was coming last Friday. They both said it was an important message right now.

“Kids disconnected (after COVID-19) and it’s hard for the teachers to get them to reconnect,” said Pester. “I think the teachers have done a phenomenal job coming up with lesson plans to get them to reengage.”

Edmonds said the first lady’s message was an important one for the kids to hear. “I think it’s good for the kids to see that the teachers are important resources in their life. They deserve to be recognized as well,” she said.  

Biden blames Trump for incivility, says democracy ‘at stake’ in 2024

After her visit to Hunter High School, Biden traveled to Park City, to raise money for the Biden Victory Fund, President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign fund.

Biden addressed around 100 supporters at the home of Mark and Nancy Gilbert, according to a pool report. Gilbert was appointed to serve as the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa by former President Barack Obama.

She told supporters the 2024 election was about “the survival of America’s democracy, a battle for the soul of the nation,” according the report.

“As my husband said, ‘Democracies don’t have to die at the end of a rifle. They can die slowly, suddenly, silently, one freedom, one right at a time. One hope at a time,’” Biden said. “A court decision, a voting law, a big lie repeated over and over and over again. The temperature gradually increasing, unnoticed by many until the pot has boiled over.

“I want you to remember what it felt like on the morning after that 2016 election when we fell short. Remember that feeling? Remember when you woke up? And you said, ‘What just happened?’ We can’t let that happen again.” 

President Biden is hoping to win a second term later this year, but polls show he is lagging behind in head-to-head contests against several of the Republican candidates, including GOP front-runner Donald Trump. Biden kicked off his re-election bid earlier this month with a speech at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, where he said the 2024 presidential election was about the “sacred cause” of democracy.

Jill Biden, who will campaign alongside her husband this year, plans to leave Utah on Tuesday night, heading first to California, then to Ohio.