New Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called herself a "door-open type of person" in addressing her staff at the Department of Education Wednesday as she pledged to work with and learn from them going forward.
The longtime charter school advocate joked that her confirmation process "has been a bit of a bear," and sought to move past it and the divisive election.
"Even though I'm a grandmother, since this is my first day, I know I'm the newbie and I have a lot to learn. I pledge to listen and learn from you, and stakeholders around the country," DeVos said. "I firmly believe we can genuinely unite around a commitment to the rising generation."
DeVos won confirmation as education secretary Tuesday by the slimmest of margins, pushed to approval only by the historic tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence. DeVos was sworn in soon thereafter.
DeVos spent more than two decades promoting charter schools and school voucher programs, and faces an uphill battle in mending fences with educators across the country after a bitter confirmation process. Opposed by half the Senate, she faced criticism for her antipathy toward public schools, even ridicule for lack of experience and confusion during her confirmation hearing.
President Donald Trump accused Democrats of seeking to torpedo education progress. In a tweet before the vote, he wrote, "Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!"
DeVos was sworn in hours after the Senate vote by Pence, who told the new Cabinet member: "I wasn't just voting for you. Having seen your devotion to improving the quality of education for some of our most vulnerable children across the nation for so many years, I was also casting a vote for America's children."