It’s Teacher Appreciation Month, and General Mills’s initiative Box Tops for Education and Abbott Elementary creator and star Quinta Brunson are trying to make sure people are doing just that.
Through the Box Tops for Education app, shoppers can scan receipts showing their purchase of Box Tops labeled goods. New registrants of the app can donate $5 toward the school of their choice from their first receipt using code “TeachersMakeUsBetter.” After that, it’s Box Tops normal donation of 10 cents per label. Box Tops will also be donating $20,000 to Brunson’s former elementary school Andrew Hamilton in Philadelphia.
The partnership between Brunson and Box Tops falls in step with other initiatives Brunson has been part of following the success of her ABC comedy, which showcases the highs and lows of being an educator at underfunded and overlooked schools. Brunson redirected some of the show’s marketing budget to help teachers buy school supplies. And she linked up with Scholastic to give free books to students and teachers in need.
Fast Company spoke with Brunson about her newest partnership, season two of Abbott Elementary, and the Black creators who inform her work.
How did the partnership with Box Tops come together?
I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to get everyone involved helping teachers this Teacher Appreciation Month. I remember Box Tops being such a big part of my education, and after reading more about their mission—which is to make sure that children’s education is the foundation of achieving their fullest potential—that’s what I’ve always gotten from this initiative. It really benefits both students and teachers who play such an instrumental role in that development.
It’s great that you’re giving back to those institutions that have molded you. What new partnerships and stories do we have to look forward for season two of Abbott Elementary?
For the season, we just want to tell more nuanced stories of teacher life for sure. There’s going to be more laughs and fun, of course. As far as other initiatives, we have that running partnership with Scholastic that we really value, and I’m sure we’ll be having more initiatives with them next season. During this first season we went around in the mobile teacher’s lounge to different schools, carrying supplies but also giving them a place to rest. So I’m sure we’ll be able to do more stuff like that this season.
Teachers around the country have been very vocal about their love for the show. How have their reactions impacted you?
Honestly, that they’re having a good time watching with their families, that means the most to me. That was the goal in creating Abbott, making a funny show that people can enjoy watching with their families. And while it is incredible that educators feel validated and seen, to me that’s just the byproduct of the work we do in the writers’ room. [We’re] just trying to make sure we’re doing very good storytelling. But also that [teachers] have something to watch after a hard day’s work, where they’re able to take a load off and enjoy the show with their families.
I’ve spoken to a lot of teachers who definitely feel seen, but they do have one criticism: The teachers on Abbott have way too much downtime.
We call that TV magic.
As someone who has followed your work from the beginning, it’s a big deal to see you transition from a viral internet star to working on network television. What’s been the most difficult or rewarding part about the transition?
I wouldn’t call it difficult per se, but you know television is a bigger team. You’re playing with not only the team who physically makes your show, but you’re dealing with the studio and then a network. That requires more communication, more patience. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult because I enjoy doing it. What’s most rewarding is that with network television, I feel like we get to reach such a wide range of people. And that feels very rewarding to me, reaching people in the middle of the country as well. Soon, the show will hit different countries like Canada and Australia. I’m excited to see if they relate to it in the same way Americans do.
What other Black creators have influenced the way you create?
I recently got to meet Gina Prince-Bythewood. I think her work has always been just so influential to me and I almost didn’t realize it. Love & Basketball is one of my favorite movies ever and she directed and wrote that movie. But her ability to tell such nuanced stories with Black female leads was very impactful to me. Love & Basketball was so simple and easy, but compelling to me. It almost felt like a John Hughes film but made for me. I found that really inspirational, like these stories about Black people but not necessarily about being Black. It was about the everyday American life of someone. She is a really huge inspiration to me and continues to be.
You’ve mentioned before about your goal to just tell stories about Black people and avoiding trending Twitter topics to tell a story. I think some creators can get swept up in audience opinion or conversations in pop culture and it can dilute the story you’re actually trying to tell.
Absolutely. I mean for Abbott especially, it’s in a very insular world dealing with these teachers in this school. It felt like it wasn’t necessarily a breeding ground for the opinions we see online. It’s weird. It’s not like I necessarily intended to not do Twitter trending topics. It was just that if we’re being grounded, then those things don’t really come into that world. I think there are other shows where it does play a vital part in modern day political shows. I read later when it was out that people really liked [Abbott] because it was an escape from all that.