BIPOC Voices, Entertainment

‘Abbott Elementary’ is winning in all the right ways

Emmys and education!

words by: Alee Kwong
Sep 16, 2022

If you aren’t watching Abbott Elementary, then what have you been doing? Quinta Brunson (formerly known as one of the Buzzfeed OGs) created, writes, and stars in this workplace mockumentary about a severely underfunded predominately Black school in Philadelphia, PA—where Brunson was born and raised.


The series stars Quinta Brunson, Sheryl Lee Ralph (Moesha, Sister Act 2, Dreamgirls), Janelle James (The Standups), Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris), Lisa Ann Walter (The Parent Trap), and Chris Perfetti (The Surrogate), and centers around teachers who try to do the best by their elementary school students with the little funding/resources they have and the irresponsible behavior exhibited by their less-than-qualified school principal.


The newest ABC series won three Emmy awards: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, going to Sheryl Lee Ralph, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, going to Quinta Brunson.


abbott elementary


If taking three Emmys after your very first year isn’t impressive enough, Brunson also made the choice to divert the show’s marketing funds to buy school supplies for teachers. In an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air, Brunson talks about her joint decision with the production team and network to support school teachers instead of using the money to promote the show.


“We chose to put the marketing money toward supplies for teachers. It’s about being able to make those kinds of decisions that really excite me, things that can really materially help people.”


She goes on to talk about the inspiration for the show being her experience with a similar educational environment in Philly and close ties to public education as the daughter of a teacher.


“Despite it getting harder, despite teachers not having all the support they need, despite kids growing even more unruly than they’ve been in recent time…she still loved the job. The beauty is someone being so resilient for a job that is so underpaid and so underappreciated because it makes them feel fulfilled.”


Her character in Abbott Elementary, Janine Teagues, is an earnest second grade teacher who struggles to make do in her new work setting, as she juggles her subpar romantic relationship, the unfortunate realities of public school funding, and making sure she shows enough support for her students.


So you can imagine that Brunson’s admiration for public educators doesn’t stop at donating funds. She gets even more personal and revealed that the name of the show was a nod to a teacher, Ms. Abbott, who helped her when she had to switch schools during the sixth grade.


“I was scared to go into the real world or what I looked at as the real world at the time, and [Ms. Abbott] just took me under her wing. She was an incredible teacher who put her all into it, making sure that her students felt special and were ready for the world.”


Ready to see the show everyone’s talking about for yourself? Abbott Elementary is now streaming on HBO Max and Hulu, and its new season premieres September 23rd on ABC.


Photos via ABC