June 8, 2022 10:29 PM EDT

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:

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

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