Why Abbott Elementary Earns a Television A+


VIA Iz Nissen

Jordan Millar, Editor-in-Chief

School is one of those things you either love or hate. And while most people can admit that, although they’ve had a teacher or two that have made an impact on their lives, they rarely stop to think about what the lives of their beloved educators look like outside of school grounds. Abbott Elementary, ABC’s beloved sitcom, is changing that.

Despite premiering on December 7, 2021, Abbott Elementary is still incredibly popular and  shows no signs of slowing down. The series won three Emmy awards and numerous nominations in 2022 and has skyrocketed ABC’s viewership. Consequently, the network recently renewed the show for a third season. With each episode, Abbott Elementary continues to change perceptions of what school is like, while also humanizing the teachers around us.

Created, written by, and starring Quinta Brunson, the hit show follows the lives of hardworking and passionate teachers, a sarcastic janitor, and a self-serving principal at Abbott Elementary: an underprivileged, predominantly Black elementary school in Philadelphia. Shot in the style of a mockumentary (which was paved by other well-known shows like The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family), the pilot episode explains that an unseen film crew is covering underfunded public schools. What makes the show so heartwarming yet realistic, is that Brunson’s inspiration for it was her own mother, a retired Philadelphia public school kindergarten teacher.

Each episode follows the school staff as they navigate through the hurdles of shaping the lives of young children while simultaneously dealing with hardships of their own. The show effectively tackles many of the realistic issues that public schools encounter, from a lack of school supplies and inadequate funding to obnoxious parents. But the best part about Abbott Elementary is that no matter how disadvantaged their school district may be, the staff at Abbott show up each and every day with determination. Their number one priority is the students. From organizing fun egg-drop challenges to creating a school garden and hosting read-a-thons, the teachers at Abbott are truly unsung heroes. We also get refreshing glimpses of the lives of the teachers outside of the classroom. From showcasing the characters’ relationships and dating lives to personal family struggles, Abbott Elementary never fails to remind us that teachers are people too.

Though some might not think that a workplace comedy starring teachers would make for good television, Abbott Elementary does just that and more – it’s undeniably hilarious: all of the teachers have incredibly different personalities that somehow just work. While Brunson stars as the overbearingly optimistic and kind-hearted second-grade teacher Janine Teagues, her co-stars shine just as much, if not brighter.

Barbara Howard and Melissa Schemmenti (Sheryl Lee Ralph and Lisa Ann Walter) are a dynamic duo of wise veteran teachers who comically contrast the young newcomers Jacob (Chris Perfetti), Janine’s best friend and  well-intentioned “white-ally” at the school, and Gregory (Tyler James Williams from Everybody Hates Chris), who is serious yet lovable. But Principal Ava Coleman (Janelle James) and Janitor Mr. Johnson (William Stanford Davis) deserve an A+ in my book for best characters. Both are so witty and charismatic that they’ll leave you in tears, shattering all preconceived stereotypes of your everyday principal and custodian. The best part about Principal Coleman is that she simply doesn’t know how to do her job. Though she has a soft side, Coleman is known to be selfish and slightly rude, going as far as spending valuable money given to the school by the district, a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, on a massive billboard of herself (hilarious). She also frequently aims inappropriately flirty comments at Gregory, while dishing insults at Janine for her intense optimism,making room for constant laughs. The slick comments Mr. Johnson makes as he mops down the hallways and his unsolicited opinions are perfection. Even the students on Abbott Elementary are comedy-gold, delivering funny one-liners in certain episodes.

Television shows set in schools are nothing new – over the past few decades, we’ve seen the likes of iconic shows such as A Different World, Saved By the Bell, Glee, and even Gossip Girl grace our screens. But Abbott Elementary puts a unique spin on the overdone school trope, putting teachers, an underappreciated group of professionals, in the spotlight. Abbott Elementary ultimately demonstrates that the best teachers are not just the ones who give us little homework and the grades we want. As Barbara Howard best puts it, “It’s about the people who show up here every blessed day.”