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How Sheryl Lee Ralph Teaches the Importance of Strong Love in ‘Abbott Elementary’ as Barbara Howard – Black Girl Nerds


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How Sheryl Lee Ralph Teaches the Importance of Strong Love in ‘Abbott Elementary’ as Barbara Howard – Black Girl Nerds


School is officially in session with ABC’s latest comedy, Abbott Elementary, which introduces a cast of dedicated West Philadelphia teachers and one, let’s say, interesting principal to the screen. 

Created by and starring multi-talented actor, comedian, author, and social media icon, Quinta Brunson (A Black Lady Sketch Show), the comedy focuses on the optimistic teacher Janine Teagues (Brunson) who’s working to improve the broken education system.

Alongside her, the show stars Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris) as Gregory Eddie, Janelle James (Black Monday) as Ava Coleman, Chris Perfetti (The Virtuoso) as Jacob Hill, Lisa Ann Walter (The Parent Trap) as Melissa Schemmenti, and Sheryl Lee Ralph (A Black Lady Sketch Show) as Barbara Howard. 

While Ralph’s role as Barbara may seem to present a character who is rough around the edges, especially when it comes to delivering some harsh realities about the education system, within her tough exterior is an educator filled with love. 

Since Ralph comes from a background of educators herself, her portrayal of Howard comes fully equipped with a variety of real-life experiences that helped her develop the character. Plus, Ralph is no stranger to bringing her roles to life with both an on-screen and Broadway legacy under her belt. 

BGN spoke to Ralph about her role as Barbara, including some insight into her educational inspirations and true admiration of dedicated teachers.

“When I look at her, I think of my dad, who was an educator, my Auntie Carolyn, an educator,” Ralph shared. “Both of them were those teachers that people never forgot or they always loved. I would go places, even on social media, and people would sometimes hit me up, and they’d say, ‘You’re Dr. Ralph’s daughter — Dr. Ralph changed my life!’ I just think about what it’s like to be the kind of a teacher who has that kind of an impact on students. I really respect that. So, I was really just playing into those educators that meant so much for so many.” 

For Ralph, Barbara is a person who teaches her students…



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