Emmy-award-winning actress, producer, writer, and comedian Quinta Brunson will deliver the 2023 Commencement speech for Penn’s Graduate School of Education.
Brunson, a West Philadelphia native, is best known for creating, executive producing, and starring in ABC’s “Abbott Elementary." She has been named to Time’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People of 2022” as well as The Hollywood Reporter’s “2022 Women in Entertainment Power 100.”
“We are thrilled to have Quinta Brunson as the Commencement speaker to speak to the next generation of educators,” GSE dean Pam Grossman wrote in the school's announcement. “Brunson puts a human face on teachers and elevates the work of teaching through the characters of Janine, Barbara, and the rest of the staff at Abbott Elementary."
"Even though we tune in each week for 22 minutes of laughter, Brunson never fails to remind us of the serious consequences of failing to invest in our public schools and the inspiring efforts of teachers across the country," Grossman added.
“Abbott Elementary,” which first premiered in 2021, revolves around a fictional, under-resourced Philadelphia public school, highlighting the challenges teachers face as they work to help their students succeed. The series is partially based on Brunson’s mother’s experience as a public school teacher in Philadelphia and is named after Joyce Abbott, a former real-life teacher of Brunson's who spent 25 years working in Philadelphia public schools.
Brunson portrays the character of Janine Teagues, a Penn alumna and an eager, new-to-the-job second-grade teacher who is optimistic that the school district will provide resources that Abbott Elementary needs.
Brunson studied journalism and communications at Temple University before leaving school early to pursue comedy. She first rose to fame in 2014, then worked at Buzzfeed for four years before turning her focus to creative projects and animated shows, and finally to the creation of “Abbott Elementary.”
“I thought there was something really significant about going into teachers’ lives in a real way,” she said in a 2022 interview with Today. “That's what was compelling to me about doing this kind of show, because there's so much more to show: real people who are choosing, most times, to do the most underpaid job in the world.”
Now, Brunson will bring her perspective and advice to the GSE’s Class of 2023 at their Commencement ceremony.
The Graduate School of Education’s Commencement ceremony will take place Saturday, May 13 at 9 a.m. at the Palestra.