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Abbott Elementary is the Tuesday night comedy that every teacher needs right now. Set in Philadelphia Public Schools and centered around Janine Teagues, a second-grade teacher struggling to find her voice. In a mix of comedic asides and zingy one-liners, the show nails what it's like to teach in an urban school that is severely underfunded and outnumbered.
The first episode focuses on a documentary crew recording the lives of teachers working in underfunded schools, and a lot is going on at this school. In the first 15 minutes, we've seen:
- a student pees on the rug in Ms. Teague's class because the toilets are broke
- a school engineer that is always moving away from the problem
- a teacher who has a break down in the breakroom after feeling outnumbered from the kids
- there are only 2 teachers left after the 20 new teachers who came the previous year.
The first episode centers around Ms. Teagues quest to make things more equitable in her school-starting with a rug for her classroom. The school requests more money to purchase much-needed supplies, including the rugs that Janine needs for her class. However, the tone-deaf principal, Ava, spends the money on a gigantic sign for the school with her photo. Frustrated, Janine files a complaint to the superintendent, but the email is forwarded to Ava, who disrespects Janine in front of the entire staff. Ultimately, the veteran teachers stand up for Janine and say Ava was wrong. Later, a friend of Melissa's steals several Philadelphia Eagles rugs and gives them to the school, which makes Janine feel a sense of comradery and like she can do 'this,' which is teaching in the inner city.
Cast of Characters
If that's not enough, there's a cast of teachers who are playing their roles so perfectly; we thought they were actual educators- because who can pull off the teacher outfits and snarky humor.
A bubbly new second-grade teacher, Janine Teagues, played by Quinta Brunson (remember from Buzzfeed). A mix between a passionate advocate for her kid and a bleeding heart, she spends her day questioning why they can't fight the system on behalf of the kids. She's in awe of veteran Kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard and sends her countless emails for them to hang out after work.
Then, you have idealistic history teacher, Jacob Hill, played by Chris Perfetti, who obsesses about his time teaching in Africa and is one of two of the original 20 new teachers hired the previous year who is still standing. An unhealthy habit of loving history and hearing himself talk, he's obsessed with the fact that the people in the corner bodega call him 'white boy'- a term of endearment in the community.
They work with two veteran teachers who bring such a realness to their roles; I wanted to immediately print off their teaching certificates. Barbara Howard, played by Sheryl Lee Ralph, is every teacher's teacher. She has classroom management down to a facial expression and works with what she has to the pleasure of an administrator who's oblivious.
Melissa Schemmenti, played by Lisa Ann Walter, is a 'Wise Girl' veteran teacher who knows people and can get anything she needs from the community and the wink of an eye. Then there's incompetent school principal; Ava Coleman, played by Janelle James, who invited the documentary crew to document the school in hopes of highlighting herself.
After a teacher is fired for kicking a student, a new substitute teacher, Gregory Eddie (played by Tyler James Williams), is sent to man the classroom. He ultimately wants to be a principal but is unsure if he wants to be at the school after he didn't get the job from the Superintendent.
Tune in to ABC on Tuesdays at 9 pm EST for thirty minutes of laughter!