Rebecca Traister, in NYMag:
… Warren’s work as a teacher — the profession she dreamed of from the time she was in second grade — remains a crucial part of her identity, self-presentation, and communicative style. Her 2014 book, A Fighting Chance, opens with these sentences: “I’m Elizabeth Warren. I’m a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. For nearly all my life, I would have said I’m a teacher, but I guess I really can’t say that anymore.”
But just because she’s not in the classroom these days doesn’t mean that those she’s talking to can’t smell it on her from a mile away. Leading up to the first round of debates, the Onion ran a headline reading, “Elizabeth Warren Spends Evenings Tutoring Underperforming Candidates.” And during a June episode of Desus & Mero, the two Bronx hosts did a riff on how Warren “definitely gives you teacher swag, but the teacher-that-cares-a-lot swag,” imagining her being the kind of teacher who comes to your house to tell your mom you have potential. “You came all the way to the Bronx for this? Wow … that blanquita cares.”
Warren has won multiple teaching awards, and when I first profiled her in 2011, early in her Senate run and during what would be her last semester of teaching at Harvard, I spoke to students who were so over the moon about her that my editors decided I could not use many of their quotes because they were simply too laudatory. Many former students I interviewed for this story spoke in similarly soaring terms. One, Jonas Blank, described her as “patient and plainspoken, like an elementary-school teacher is expected to be, but also intense and sharp the way a law professor is supposed to be.” Several former students who are now (and were then) Republicans declined to talk to me on the record precisely because they liked her so much and did not want to contribute to furthering her political prospects by speaking warmly of her.
Yet it remains an open question whether the work Warren does so very well — the profession about which she is passionate and that informs her approach to politics — will work for her on the presidential-campaign trail.
Plenty of our former presidents have been teachers. Some of them, including William Howard Taft and Barack Obama, taught law; some, including Millard Fillmore, primary school. Warren has been both law professor and primary-school teacher, and as a person who ran for office for the first time in her 60s, her four decades as a teacher define her in a way Obama’s stint as an instructor in constitutional law never did. Here, as in all else, it matters that she’s a woman. Teaching is a profession that, in post-agrarian America, was explicitly meant to be filled by women. That means teachers historically were some of the only women to wield certain kinds of public power: They could evaluate and punish, and so it was easy to resent them…