HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The ABC show “Abbott Elementary” is taking the network by storm. The sitcom centers on a struggling Philadelphia school.
While “Abbott Elementary” might not be a true story, it’s hitting close to home for many real teachers right here in the Midstate.
Mrs. Howard is a dedicated teacher on ABC’s smash hit, and while she may be fictional, the emotions she evokes are real.
“‘Abbott Elementary’ is one of, is the show where we get to glorify and raise up the work of some of the hardest working unappreciated people in America, teachers,” actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, who plays Mrs. Howard, said.
The mockumentary highlights the struggles of an inner-city school using comedy, discussing issues like underfunding, lack of school supplies and teacher shortages.
“You know there’s some people who say we shouldn’t be laughing at this but we need to talk about it because it’s been going on far too long,” Ralph said.
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Ralph comes from a family of educators and draws on them for her inspiration.
“Mrs. Barbara Howard is that person, that teacher she might have been rough on you, she might have been hard on you but you know she did it because she saw the potential in you,” Ralph said.
She also says it’s especially important for kids to see people who look like them in strong roles, both on and off-screen.
“It gives children, all children, something to aspire to. They can look up and say I can do that. They don’t have to be a reporter such as you or an actor/activist/performer such as myself but they can learn, they can be educated, they can offer what they’ve got to the world,” Ralph said.
Sheryl Lee Ralph has strong ties to Pennsylvania, as she’s married to Pa. Senator Vincent Hughes.
“Have you heard from any actual teachers since doing this show?” abc27’s James Crummel asked. “I hear from teachers every day, and every day they say ‘thank you,'” Ralph responded.
Harrisburg’s Scott Elementary could be a real-life Abbott Elementary.
“It is hilarious. There are a lot of things that do happen on the show where I can emulate or associate with. It is just hilarious yes,” Scott Elementary third-grade teacher Stacey Benton said.
Ms. Benton has been teaching for 15 years.
“My main reason for teaching is giving back to the community I grew up in,” she said.
And she says just like on “Abbott Elementary,” Scott has its challenges.
“Sometimes you know we’re a counselor, sometimes we are a mother and a father, we’re a friend, we’re everything,” she said. “We’re a family. That’s what we are. We are a family. We help each other out.”
Harrisburg School District fourth-grade teacher Nicole Smith is also a big fan of the TV show.
“Of course, I see Ms. Benton. Ms. Benton is Ms. Barbara,” Smith said.
“She portrays tough love and I see myself in her,” Benton said.
Both teachers say they love the attention the show is bringing to their profession.
“What I also like about the show is that it just brings solutions to problems. We’re not going to dwell talking about negativity when there’s so much positivity going on,” Smith said.
“Abbott” captures the real-life truth, teachers are the heart of the school.
“I love how much they’re loving the show, and how much they’re letting us know that they feel seen,” Ralph said. “It is us, a predominantly black cast of talented people who deserve this moment right here, right now. On TV for everybody to see, love and enjoy. ‘Abbott Elementary,’ everybody’s new favorite tv show. Now that’s some good black history.”