Quinta Brunson at the TIME100 Gala: Teachers Deserve to Be Paid More

6 minute read

Quinta Brunson—the writer, producer, comedian and actor behind the breakout hit Abbott Elementary—called for higher salaries for teachers to applause at the TIME100 Gala Wednesday evening. “I play a teacher on TV, but every day I wonder if I’d be strong enough to be one in real life,” Brunson said. “You all deserve to be paid more!”

Brunson praised teachers in a brief toast at the Gala after appearing on the 2022 TIME100 list of the world’s most influential people. Brunson’s ABC show is about teachers at a Philadelphia public school. It premiered last year and garnered critical praise for highlighting public education and the uphill battle of teaching at underfunded schools—all while being refreshingly funny.

That humor shined through in Brunson’s toast. As she listed the challenges teachers face, she mentioned the “big babies” teachers deal with: the ones who don’t do their work, who start fights and who make the teachers’ jobs harder. “And I’m not talking about their students. I’m talking about politicians,” Brunson added, to laughs.

Brunson also spoke to the enormous influence teachers can have on their students, and the many hats they have to wear in their roles. Her own former middle school teacher, Ms. Abbott, inspired the name—and spirit—of the show.

“Your job is vital, immense and crucial. As we say in my show, Abbott Elementary, many of you are not only teachers but social workers, second parents and sometimes first,” Brunson said. “You’re incredible.”

At the end, the toast took a personal turn: Brunson thanked many of her own past teachers, starting with Ms. Abbott and ending with her mother, for their positive influences on her life. She concluded by calling for the toast to teachers and echoing her previous assertion: “May you one day make more money than me.”

Returning after two years on pause, the TIME100 Gala is TIME’s annual celebration of the TIME100 list of the world’s most influential people, released this year on May 23. The Gala brings together icons, leaders, change-makers, and celebrities from across industries and nations for one lively evening of meaningful dialogue and celebration. This year’s Gala features live performances from Miranda Lambert and Mary J. Blige, two honorees on the 2022 TIME100 list. Further attendees from this year’s list include actors Andrew Garfield, Ariana DeBose, and Amanda Seyfried, musicians Jazmine Sullivan, Jon Batiste, and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, athlete Eileen Gu, director Taika Waititi, and legal activist Chase Strangio,

TIME is teaming up with ABC to bring viewers inside the exclusive TIME100 Gala for the first time with a special television event. TIME100: The World’s Most Influential People airs Sunday, June 12 at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC, featuring host Simu Liu, Ukrainian journalist Sevgil Musaieva, and more.

Read the full text of Brunson’s toast at the TIME100 Gala:

What kind of creator of a show about teachers would I be if I didn’t make my toast about teachers? I’d be a bad one, the answer is really bad.

Deciding to toast to teachers wasn’t hard and yes, because of the reasons you all are thinking. They worked through a pandemic in person and on zoom and on Zoloft I’m assuming, because how? They deal with Big Babies who don’t do the work they’ve asked them to do and get into fights and make their jobs harder—and I’m not talking about their students. I’m talking about politicians.

They spend eight hours or more with your children. Think about your child for a second and how insane they are! How they yell and cry for no reason. Now think about your child times twenty. Yeah—you’re picturing hell aren’t you. Teachers deal with that. And on top of that, they teach them how to read! All of them—most of them—how to read! No but seriously, I don’t get it. I play a teacher on TV, but every day I wonder if I’d be strong enough to be one in real life.

You all deserve to be paid more! So, I stand here tonight in front of a lot of powerful people, using my clout to voice my support for making that happen.

Your job is vital, immense and crucial. As we say in my show, “Abbott Elementary,” many of you are not only teachers but social workers, second parents and sometimes first. You’re incredible.

Ms. Abbott: Thank you for making me confident and teaching a lesson where our class sold pretzels. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure selling pretzels and selling TV shows correlate because I am good at both.

Mr. Ruth: Thank you for making your hall pass a toilet seat. That was silly and funny and made me think twice about if I really had to go or not.

Ms. Casanas: Thank you for introducing me to artists like Frida Kahlo in high school, and teaching me I could be any kind of woman I wanted to be. And thank you for letting me show the class an obscure unknown movie called “Napoleon Dynamite” on movie day.

Mr. Vasquez: I’m sorry I never learned to speak fluent Spanish, but thank you for telling me I should join the Delta sorority in college. While I didn’t join, your belief that I could changed my life. It maybe saved my life. You saw an upstanding woman in me. And for that I’m grateful.

Mr. Connor: God, I hated calculus. But, boy did I love you. Thanks for teaching me about having good character, But nothing about calculus. not because you weren’t a good calculus teacher, but because I refused to learn it. because it is dumb.

Ms. Oniel: Thanks for keeping in touch with me via Facebook. You’re the only reason I still have an account. And thanks for doing the best you could for all your students. I promise, I will take you to a Phillies game soon!

Umi and Mwongozi: I don’t know where to start. Thank you for teaching me Black history at such an early age. Because of you, I firmly believe that the sooner we know who we are and where we came from, the easier it is to navigate this world.

And to my mom, my first teacher, my kindergarten teacher—thank you for everything. And although I didn’t follow in your footsteps and become a teacher, I hope my tv show proves how much I wanted to be just like you. I love you.

And now to all of the teachers of America—a toast! May you one day make more money than me!

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Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com