Abbott Elementary “Educator of the Year” Review: What Success Looks Like

ABBOTT ELEMENTARY - “Educator of the Year” - Gregory is named Educator of the Year. Later, Janine deals with a difficult student, and it’s revealed that Barbara hasn’t completed her teaching requirements. WEDNESDAY, APRIL. 5 (9:00-9:31 p.m. EDT), on ABC. CHRIS PERFETTI, LISA ANN WALTER, QUINTA BRUNSON, TYLER JAMES WILLIAMS
(ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

Abbott Elementary “Educator of the Year” Spoilers Ahead

Abbott Elementary Season 2, Episode 20, “Educator of the Year,” brings the show back from hiatus with emotionally thrilling arcs that leave nothing unsaid. Instead, it reinforces why the show is so unique by reminding viewers that success isn’t a linear path but that the effort to continue trying is monumental in showcasing what a win looks like.

Gregory Eddie is nominated for educator of the year, Janine feels discouraged after a parent questions her teaching abilities, Melissa is overwhelmed, and Jacob helps Barbara complete a course. Yet, in true Abbott Elementary fashion, the episode’s best moments come from the quiet conversations that reiterate the closeness established in these grounds and why that matters moving forward. While this writer is still set on the idea that we’ve yet to see the end of Charter (despite “Festival“), this episode shows that we can trust every process the show brings in our paths. 

Abbott Elementary “Educator of the Year” Gregory Eddie

ABBOTT ELEMENTARY - “Educator of the Year” - Gregory is named Educator of the Year. Later, Janine deals with a difficult student, and it’s revealed that Barbara hasn’t completed her teaching requirements. WEDNESDAY, APRIL. 5 (9:00-9:31 p.m. EDT), on ABC.
(ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

Gregory’s nomination does a number for his character, primarily continuing to reveal that he’d be perfect for the principal role someday. We might not get there anytime soon, and he might not even be as qualified right now, but the recognition still matters. And it matters primarily because it allows the rest of the staff the opportunity to tell him how they feel about his presence, as well as giving Gregory a chance to speak his mind in earnest.

It’s a clear exhibition of the idea “started from the bottom; now we’re here”—because when he first shows up, few believed in him, but today, they all do. And so much of this boils down to the fact that despite his reservations, Gregory is the kind of person who shows up for others. A detail that comes to light most beautifully through his relationship with Janine as he tries to comfort her when he learns she’s upset. If nothing else, Abbott Elementary’s “Educator of the Year” proves that every teacher here is a caretaker in some way. When one of them is down, the others will jump (however begrudgingly) to help. Still, we need to excavate the softness in Gregory’s tone because how Tyler James Williams brings a whirlwind of emotions to life in that brief scene is a tremendous accomplishment. 

Gregory and Janine walking together in Abbott Elementary Season 2, Episode 20
(ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

He outright shows us not only how much he cares about Janine but how much it hurts him to see her this upset. We know there are feelings here bigger than what they can both grasp at the moment, and the manifestation of it occurring here is both heartwarming and agonizing. So much of the emotions Gregory conveys carries through the utter sadness he feels, knowing that there’s nothing he can do to make her feel better. It’s why he later turns the award to reflect all the teachers because it’s an exhibition of how much they make him better—day by day.

Yet, so much of it is specifically for Janine and the warmth she brings into his mundane hours with a simple knock on his wall. With each passing episode, it’s becoming beautifully apparent how much they both appreciate having one another next door to confide in or find comfort with safely. They might continue denying the love brewing within, but the audience can see their stunning impact on each other grow by the minute.

Success is Continuing to Try

Barbara gives Janine a pep talk in Abbott Elementary 2x20 "Educator of the Year"
(ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

But what would an episode of Abbott Elementary be without Barbara walking us weeping millennials through life? After Gregory takes Janine to talk to Barbara and she hears her out, Barbara opens up about the fact that students’ parents have called her worse things. The words might’ve initially destroyed Janine, stemming into a breathtaking performance by Quinta Brunson, but Barbara’s comfort reminds her that she shouldn’t internalize them.

“Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Come back here tomorrow and do your job!” In Abbott Elementary’s “Educator of the Year,” these very words by Barbara enunciate exactly what it means to be an educator. And it touches on human complexities astoundingly by acting as a stark reminder we could all use to understand that sometimes, you just have to shake those emotions off. So much of Barbara’s wisdom works because it comes from a sincere place of understanding as well as an honest adoration to continue uplifting people. It’s why everything Sheryl Lee Ralph does feels so organic because it emanates from an evident desire to see people rise to their highest potential.

(ABC/Gilles Mingasson)

And as a series, Abbott Elementary continues to improve with episodes like “Educator of the Year” because it spends ample time showing viewers how profoundly everyone in this school cares, even when they don’t. Melissa could grumble about presenting Gregory the award, and she could throw Jacob’s phone across the room because she disapproves of Androids. Still, at the same time, if anyone dared to threaten them, she’d step to their defense without hesitation. It’s fitting that an episode like Abbott Elementary’s “Educator of the Year” would come after a spectacle like “Festival” because here, they each showcase why the school remaining as is, matters not just for the students but the teachers as well.

As Melissa says, “You can’t choose when people acknowledge you,” and this is the very cycle that simultaneously breaks and heals people. Because sometimes, acknowledgments help in the situation, but other times, when it feels like a person isn’t seen, it makes matters more challenging—worse, perhaps. Yet, it’s essential at the moment, and taking those words to heart matters in the long run. 

Further Thoughts

  • PSA: Jacob now has an Android. 
  • The slim, the sensual, the strange!
  • Janine and Gregory talking through doors is everything!
  • “I hate to break up this love fest.” / “What love?” / “There is no love here!” oh, kiddos.
  • Barbara’s highlight is on point!
  • She just destroyed me. Oh my God, Quinta Brunson destroyed me!
  • Janine thinks she’s failing a student. Barbara tells her she has to.
  • “It’s all a garden to me.” This line works because of Barbara.
  • “Don’t give up on yourself or that student–that is not failure. That’s what success looks like.”
  • I am a weeping millennial–how do I go to Barbara???
  • Melissa: You can’t choose when people acknowledge you.
  • The performative speeches. I can’t!
  • Seeing Janine helps him talk. I can’t do this.
  • It’s the showing up that counts.
  • Dr. Johnson is teaching IGAL. I also can’t.
  • Lowkey deadass! Hop off, bro. This is the best show.

Now streaming on Hulu or ABC: What are your thoughts on Abbott Elementary’s “Educator of the Year?” Let us know in the comments below.


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