Abbott Elementary “Teacher Appreciation” Review: What’s Right and What’s Fair

ABBOTT ELEMENTARY - “Teacher Appreciation” - It’s Teacher Appreciation Day. When the district gives Abbott two courtside tickets to a 76ers game, the teachers must decide who deserves them. Later, Janine invites the teachers to her house for game night and her sister, Ayesha, comes to visit. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8 (9:00-9:32 p.m. EST), on ABC. QUINTA BRUNSON, DARRYL-LEE CANYON, TYLER JAMES WILLIAMS, LISA ANN WALTER, CHRIS PERFETTI, JERRY MINOR, SHERYL LEE RALPH, JANELLE JAMES, NICOLE DELE
(ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

Abbott Elementary “Teacher Appreciation” Spoilers Ahead

It’s rare for a network comedy to excel this brilliantly in its second season, yet here we are. Abbott Elementary Season 2, Episode 18, “Teacher Appreciation,” further reminds us that everything this show stands for is about honorably exhibiting why we do our jobs. It’s about the teachers who show up and the teachers who make a difference simply by being there, as well as how unfair districts are in rightfully rewarding them.

But with five more episodes remaining, Abbott Elementary’s “Teacher Appreciation” sets up the kind of bombshell we’ve been waiting for since “Attack Ad.” The petition to change Abbott into a charter school is coming through, and while the teachers have made progress in their personal lives, there’s a lot they’ll have to grapple with in fighting for what matters here. Still, if anything, the episode proves that there’s nothing they can’t accomplish, even while they’re at each other’s throats.

Abbott Elementary “Teacher Appreciation” and Fights

SHERYL LEE RALPH as Barbara Howard in Abbott Elementary 2x18 "Teacher Appreciation"
(ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

It’s a dark and cruel world when work wives and best friends Barbara and Melissa are fighting, but it makes complete sense to showcase that deep frustrations get to everyone. It’s also proof that great things can happen when the two women put their minds together. Sure, it must be a little unsatisfying when everyone and their mother bring lotions and pens as gifts. (Lotions expire, parents. How many times can one moisturize?) But what’s most frustrating is that, at the end of the day, these teachers are entirely on their own in more ways than one. While Ava isn’t as reliable as a principal, she still listens when necessary, and that final look might just be scarier than everything we got in “Ava vs. Superintendent.”

But what so much of this comes down to, especially after an episode like “Mural Arts,” is the detail that these frustrations and lacks force people to lose their agency. These teachers will not be able to put their best foot forward when Charter systems test their abilities and focus only on uplifting the school instead of the individual students. And that’s where Abbott Elementary’s “Teacher Appreciation” shines best because, as Barbara says in the end, with an impeccable performance by Sheryl Lee Ralph making me cry: It’s about the people who show up here every blessed day. It’s why Gregory chooses to stay even though he isn’t rising at the moment because everything he’s building and cementing with his peers matters in a life-changing way. Because it’s true, we do remember the great teachers who believed in us, but we also recognize the ones who broke our spirits and made us feel like we were nothing. 

Board Games

(ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

There’s nothing quite like board games unleashing familial trauma in front of the people we’re closest to, and for Janine, this is an excellent thing because it forces her to confront her sister, Ayesha (Ayo Edebiri). While it results in an uncomfortable scene around her friends, it’s comforting to get a moment of sheer vulnerability with the women where they both allow themselves room for transparency to break some of the barriers between them. Janine needed to say the words “it felt like you abandoned me too” aloud because that’s something that’s been following her like a shadow throughout the show’s run thus far. We know that she has issues with her mom, but we can also tell how deeply Ayesha’s absence in her life wounded her.

The sisters are clearly willing to meet each other halfway here, and it’s easy to hope that this won’t be the last time we’ll see Ayesha. So much of the reason why this show works is that it proves that patching things up with honest, heartfelt conversations matters. (Unless you’re the Schemmenti sisters, then you gotta yell a bit.) Still, Season 2 has done a great job thus far of showing that when people are willing to meet in the middle, there’s far more potential than when they each stand on opposite ends, hoping that something will change. Change starts from one move, then another, until people find themselves in a rhythm that works.

Abbott Elementary’s “Teacher Appreciation” is indeed about the teachers, but it’s about the detail that they’re now ready to prepare for the fight of their lives. While they don’t yet know what’s coming, reiterating how much they care about each other beyond the silly arguments allows them to stand firm in a place where they’re immovable. 

Further Thoughts

  • Janine is the last person to mock Gregory’s hat and I love it.
  • Mr. Johnson rocking the hat is EVERYTHING
  • All Barbara wants is a $50 for Buffalo Wild Wings. She isn’t asking for too much here.
  • Ava: “Don’t give Jesus my credit!” YELLING.
  • Gregory loves board games! And this is why he and Janine are soul mates.
  • Bone Town. Again.
  • Bring your own baby giraffe?
  • Janine: “People had hopes in you.” Oh, this hurt. She’s people.
  • Barbara making me cry the way that she did? I LOVE HER.

Now streaming on Hulu or ABCWhat are your thoughts on Abbott Elementary‘s “Teacher Appreciation?” Let us know in the comments below.


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