Is ‘Abbott Elementary’ Based on a True Story?

New comedy TV series Abbott Elementary revolves around the faculty of an underfunded West Philadelphia-based elementary school and how much they love their jobs despite the lack of funding. Is the popular ABC sitcom based on a true story? Creator, writer, executive producer, and star of Abbott Elementary, Quinta Brunson, previously revealed her inspiration behind the sitcom.

Quinta Brunson as Janine Teagues holding a mat outside of the school
Quinta Brunson as Janine Teagues in ‘Abbott Elementary’ | Prashant Gupta/ABC/Getty Images

Quinta Brunson says ‘Abbott Elementary’ is inspired by her mother’s teaching experiences

A few months before Abbott Elementary premiered on ABC, creator, writer, executive producer, and star of the mockumentary comedy, Quinta Brunson, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Speaking to comedian Wanda Sykes, she explained the sitcom is “loosely” inspired by her mother teaching at a West Philadelphia public school for over 40 years.

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The actor went more in-depth during a Feb. 2022 taping of The Kelly Clarkson Show as she explained how her exposure to having a parent who teaches gave her a “behind-the-scenes” view into the occupation.

For example, Brunson said she had her mother as her kindergarten teacher and went to the same school she taught at until sixth grade. Therefore, the actor rode back-and-forth to school with her mom and watched her continue working at home. Those experiences, including her mother’s “countless stories,” breathed life into Abbott Elementary.

‘Abbott Elementary’ is filmed in Los Angeles, California

Even though the fictional elementary school is based in West Philadelphia, the cast actually filmed the show in LA, California. However, it still features several references that make it feel like the mockumentary is shot in Pennsylvania’s largest city.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Brunson attended an underfunded public school in Philadelphia, similar to one in the show, where she met her sixth-grade teacher, Joyce Abbott.

Inspired by her and unable to use her alma mater’s name, Brunson paid homage to her favorite educator and Philadelphia-based actor Will Smith by titling it Willard Abbott Elementary. It also seems that revered kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard is inspired by Brunson’s mother.

Her character, Janine Teagues, admires Mrs. Howard in the series. Additionally, Lisa Ann Walter, who portrays second-grade teacher Melissa Schemmenti, claimed her friendship with Barbara is partially inspired by the bond Brunson’s mother had with a Silician educator in a January 2022 interview. As the show creator’s mother was also a kindergarten teacher, it’s possible she inspired Barbara’s character.

Brunson portrays Janine Teagues in ‘Abbott Elementary’

Including writing and producing the sitcom, Brunson stars in it as a chipper second-grade teacher, Janine Teagues.

Passionate about her job and helping her kids despite the school’s limited resources, she finds herself going above and beyond.

Her colleagues, more experienced second-grade teacher Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter), a kindergarten teacher she looks up to, Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), loyal history teacher Jacob Hill (Chris Perfetti), and substitute first-grade teacher who seems to have a crush on her, Gregory (Tyler James Williams) support the optimistic teacher while still bringing her back down to Earth when needed.

The inept principal Ava Coleman (Janelle James) enjoys picking on Janine but has also shown a willingness to help at times. Abbott Elementary airs Tuesdays on ABC.

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