"Abbott Elementary" star Quinta Brunson is advocating for teachers on and off our TV screens.
On the hit sitcom, 32-year-old Brunson, who also created the show, plays Janine Teagues, a quirky second-grade teacher passionate about the elevation of her students and the well-being of her fellow teachers.
The show provides a glimpse into the ups and downs of being an educator at an underfunded school and is inspired by real-life scenarios Brunson witnessed from impactful teachers in her life, like her mom.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Brunson partnered with Box Tops for Education to support and uplift today's educators. To give back to the school that helped mold her, Brunson and Box Tops for Education are donating $20,000 to the middle school she attended, Andrew Hamilton in Philadelphia, where 100% of students are from low-income households, according to GreatSchools.org.
Philadelphia teachers make about $52,879 a year, Glassdoor reports. However, to live comfortably in the city, the income for a Philadelphia homeowner should be around $82,439, according to personal finance site Go Banking Rates. And renters in the city should make $92,639 to have some breathing room.
In spite of this huge gap, many teachers at underfunded schools often have to use their own money for books and supplies, showing the need for higher compensation and more support, something Brunson says she's happy to provide.
"Any opportunity I get to support one of the schools that I went to is fantastic. With [the production] of Abbott Elementary, we were able to give back in a multitude of ways to various schools around the country. But helping Andrew Hamilton, a school I have such fond memories of, feels super special."
Brunson hopes the donation will allow teachers to get whatever they need to continue the academic growth of their students.
"I just hope that the teachers there use it for literally whatever it is they need. For some teachers that might be for books… others might hold off and see what their classroom needs or their students would like to get. But I think that one of the important parts about making donations like this is that they can decide how they'd like to use it."
Now more than ever, educators are fighting to keep themselves afloat. The pandemic hit teachers extremely hard, leaving many dissatisfied with their profession and contemplating resignation.
A recent survey from EdWeek found that teachers feel "overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated," with over four in ten teachers expressing they were very or fairly likely to leave their careers in the next two years. Coupled with increased "political and cultural battles" surrounding topics like vaccinations, masks, gender and sexuality, educators don't think their pay matches their work.
Fifty-one percent of Edweek's survey respondents said they strongly disagree that their salary is fair for the work they do, with the typical teacher working about 54 hours a week. Forty-five percent of teachers also said, if they could go back, they wouldn't advise their younger selves to pursue teaching as a career.
For others who'd like to help support teachers in their community, Brunson says there are several ways you can help out.
"People can always show up to meetings surrounding the schools in their community. And if they're a parent, understanding that a lot of teaching is a joint effort. That's what I saw with my mother throughout the years. She can do a lot in the classroom, but she can do even more when parents are instrumental at home with their children's education."