Quinta Brunson, creator of Abbott Elementary, gives back to teachers

It’s Teacher Appreciation Month, and the General Mills Box Tops for Education and Abbott Elementary School Designer and star Quinta Brunson tries to make sure people do just that.

Through the Box Tops for Education app, shoppers can scan receipts showing their purchase of Box Tops labeled products. New app registrants can donate $5 to the school of their choice from their first receipt using the code “TeachersMakeUsBetter”. After that, it’s the normal Box Tops giveaway of 10 cents per label. Box Tops will also donate $20,000 to the former Brunson Andrew Hamilton Elementary School in Philadelphia.

Brunson’s partnership with Box Tops is part of other initiatives Brunson has been involved in following the success of his ABC comedy, which showcases the highs and lows of being an educator in underfunded schools and neglected. Brunson redirected part of the show’s marketing budget to help teachers purchase school supplies. And she’s partnered with Scholastic to donate free books to students and teachers in need.

fast business spoke with Brunson about his new partnership, season two of Abbott Elementary Schooland the black creators who drive his work.

How was the partnership with Box Tops built?

I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to get everyone involved in helping teachers this Teacher Appreciation Month. I remember Box Tops was such an important part of my upbringing, and after reading more about their mission – which is to make sure children’s education is the foundation for reaching their full potential – it’s what I have always learned from this initiative. This really benefits the students and teachers who play such a key role in this development.

It’s great that you are giving back to these institutions that have shaped you. What new partnerships and stories should we expect for season two of Abbott Elementary School?

For the season, we just want to tell more nuanced stories from the lives of teachers for sure. There will be more laughter and fun, of course. As for other initiatives, we have this ongoing partnership with Scholastic that we really appreciate, and I’m sure we’ll have more initiatives with them next season. During this first season we walked around the teachers’ mobile room in different schools, carrying supplies but also giving them a place to rest. So I’m sure we can do more things like that this season.

Teachers across the country expressed their love for the show. How did their reactions impact you?

Honestly, that they have a great time watching with their families means the most to me. It was the purpose of creation Abbott, creating a fun show that people can watch with their families. And while it’s amazing that educators feel validated and seen, to me that’s just a byproduct of the work we do in the writers room. [We’re] just trying to make sure we’re doing really good storytelling. But also that [teachers] have something to watch after a hard day’s work, where they can relax and enjoy the show with their families.

I’ve spoken to a lot of teachers who really feel seen, but they have one criticism: the teachers of Abbott having way too much downtime.

We call it the magic of television.

As someone who has followed your work from the start, it’s a big deal to watch you go from being a viral internet star to working on network television. What was the hardest or most rewarding part of the transition?

I wouldn’t call it difficult per se, but you know TV is a bigger team. You’re not only playing with the team that physically makes your show, but you’re dealing with the studio and then a network. It requires more communication, more patience. I wouldn’t say it’s hard because I like doing it. What is most gratifying is that with network television, I feel like we can reach such a wide range of people. And it’s very gratifying for me to also reach people in the center of the country. Soon the show will hit different countries like Canada and Australia. I’m excited to see if they relate to it the same way Americans do.

What other black creators have influenced your way of creating?

I recently met Gina Prince-Bythewood. I think his work has always had such an influence on me and I almost didn’t realize it. Love & Basketball is one of my favorite movies and she directed and wrote that movie. But her ability to tell such nuanced stories with black women was very impactful to me. Love & Basketball was so simple and easy, yet compelling to me. It almost felt like a John Hughes movie but made for me. I found that really inspiring, like those stories about black people but not necessarily about being black. It was about someone’s everyday American life. She is a huge inspiration to me and continues to be.

You’ve already mentioned your goal of just telling stories about black people and avoiding trending topics on Twitter to tell a story. I think some creators can get carried away with public opinion or conversations in pop culture and that can dilute the story you’re actually trying to tell.

Absolutely. i mean for Abbott above all, it is in a very insular world facing these teachers in this school. It felt like it wasn’t necessarily fertile ground for the opinions we see online. It’s strange. It’s not like I necessarily intended not to trend topics on Twitter. It’s just that if we’re being punished, then those things don’t really come into this world. I think there are other shows where this plays a vital role in modern political programming. I read later when it came out that people really liked [Abbott] because it was an escape from it all.

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