The cast of ABC's 'Abbott Elementary.' Jacob (white man - played by Chris Perfetti, Janine (Black woman - played by Quinta Brunson), Melissa (white woman - played by Lisa Ann Walter), Barbara (Black woman - played by Sheryl Lee Ralph), Gregory (Black man - played by Tyler James Williams), and Ava (Black woman - played by Janelle James) sit/stand around each other in a huddle in a school hallway as janitor Mr. Johnson (Black man - played by William Stanford Davis) looks on in the background.

The Real-Life Inspiration for ‘Abbott Elementary’ Just Got a Philadelphia Street Named After Her

Teachers can change the world. Abbott Elementary has shown us that time and time again. Inspired by a real teacher named Joyce Abbott, the show reminds audiences what one teacher can do for the life of a student—that and fill the hole in our hearts that shows like Parks and Recreation left behind. Now, the show is bringing a gift to Abbott herself.

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Created by Quinta Brunson and set in her hometown of Philadelphia, the show is very much based on her real experience. At a ceremony on September 26 at her alma mater, Overbrook High School, Abbott was honored by her Philadelphia school district, which dubbed the day “Joyce Abbott Day.”

“When I went into this work, I did this work not for the recognition but to truly make a difference in the life of a child,” Abbott said at the ceremony, Good Morning America reported. Mallory Fix-Lopez, the vice president of Philadelphia’s Board of Education, did not underplay the importance of Abbott, saying, “While the show is fictional, the impact you have had on Philadelphia is very real.”

At the ceremony, Philadelphia Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. announced that the street outside the high school would be renamed Joyce Abbott Way in her honor. “It means just so much. Who would’ve ever thought? It’s something that I never imagined ⁠— a street named after me,” Abbott said. She went on to give advice to fellow teachers. “Just know that every day that you’re going in, even though every day may not be great, you are making a difference,” she said.

Abbott retired in 2022, and while the show is just now getting back into the writers’ room after the WGA strike came to an end last week, it is clear how much Abbott’s work impacted her students, seeing how the show celebrates teachers and its characters.

Celebrating those who pave the way

Sheryl Lee Ralph as Barbara Howard smiling on Abbott Elementary

We all have those teachers. Whether it’s a high school teacher or someone who just paid attention to something we liked in school and helped us with that love, those educators are special. For me, it was English and Theatre teachers who gave me space to grow in my nerdy ways. They never told me to stop or relax or be quiet. They praised my excitement and let me thrive. Those are the kinds of teachers who let kids explore those things that make them special, and I thank them every day for letting me grow into the person I am now.

Seeing the enduring love that the Philadelphia community has for Abbott shows that her impact extended far past Quinta Brunson and Abbott Elementary. The community and those she taught were there for her because they loved her, and honoring her in this way is beyond sweet. So, if you ever want to go on a tour of Abbott Elementary landmarks while in Philadelphia, you can go to Joyce Abbott Way and pay your respects to the woman who helped to inspire the show that inspires us all.

(featured image: ABC)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.