"My wife's going to be back in the classroom teaching next week," he later added.
Karen Pence teaches art two days a week at Immanuel Christian School, a private school in Northern Virginia.
White House officials made the move in part to convey how seriously they believe the schools question should be taken, the person said, but also to try to stabilize the teaching workforce and streamline guidance at a time of confusion about the future of classrooms.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the critical worker designation could be used to "threaten, bully and coerce" teachers into classrooms without the proper considerations.
"If the President really saw us as essential, he'd act like it. Teachers are and always have been essential workers—but not essential enough, it seems, for the Trump administration to commit the resources necessary to keep them safe in the classroom. Rather than fund these protections, create a plan and guidance for how to ensure that school buildings can reopen safely, and follow the science," Weingarten said.
"The Trump administration will always try to change the rules to threaten, bully and coerce. No doubt this new 'guidance' will be used as a pretext by Trump-supporting governors to force students and educators into unsafe buildings to serve the president's political agenda."