Comedian, actress, and producer Quinta Brunson is the creative professional behind the ABC comedy “Abbott Elementary,” a sitcom that follows a group of passionate teachers who find themselves working together in a fictional West Philadelphia public school where despite the odds stacked against them, they’re determined to give their students a quality education.
The series gives public school teachers an on-screen spotlight and shows the flaws of the public school system in a comical way. Teachers are often burnt out and overworked and Brunson provides these educators with that necessary comic relief.
“The show hits close to home. I see a lot of my myself in the younger characters on the show,” said Jamal Robinson, second-grade HISD teacher. “Everyone knows the overall spirit of the teachers are tired. We do a lot with less, but it doesn’t deter us from our passion to educate our kids. This show does a good job understanding the challenges of educators.”
Some educators observed that the lack of Black male educators on the show mirrors much of the challenges of schools that struggle with when it comes to recruiting qualified Black men. One Houston school administrator, who chose not to be mentioned by name, said she found it also disheartening to notice how incompetent “Abbott Elementary’s” principal is.
“As a Black woman and new principal, it’s already hard getting a seat at the table. Black women have to work twice as hard especially in roles of leadership, so it was interesting to see a Black leader on the show depicted in that manner when in reality it is not like that.”
In an interview with Deadline, Brunson explained her vision behind the sitcom.
“We don’t want to create an environment where we say these issues are okay and shouldn’t be fixed, that’s not what we’re going to do. What we want to do is say, ‘Look at these people who do the job anyway – how can we support them further?’ How can we take a look at our school system and say it shouldn’t be this way anymore,” she continued. “I think that’s what’s really important about this – giving people a behind-the-scenes look of what teachers really do through humor and heart and straight-up comedy.”
From the very first episode, Brunson, who is a Philadelphia, native sets the scene in a scenario that is familiar with many challenges of public school — the lack of funding in lower-income communities. Teachers are often tasked with educating students with tools that are out of date. The new sitcom put a large magnifying glass on a system that consistently fails educators in a mockumentary style reminiscent of “Modern Family”.
“It’s amazing to see an urban elementary school along with many leading characters of color in the national spotlight. It feels good to see certain aspects of my own career in some of the episodes,” said Ebony Cumby, an HISD principal.
“With the nation’s current climate this show came at the right time. You hear so many negative things on the news about the public education system and what ‘Abbott Elementary’ is showing the nation is our willingness to make things happen for our students regardless of the circumstances. The show has a specific niche and I hope it gets picked up for multiple seasons.”