By: University of Maryland Eastern Shore
When looking back at her time as a University of Maryland Eastern Shore student, Joyce Abbott had nothing but great things to say about her experience.
As a member of the Soul Explosion March Marching Band under the guidance of Rev. Kenneth Martin Sr., the Philadelphia native and 1983 graduate recalled the excitement and campus unity the band provided on the days of football games.
“I was a majorette, and we used to slow down the parades we were in, and everyone would just follow us,” said Abbott, who graduated with a degree in business administration. “I met several wonderful people and built really good friendships.”
During her time in Princess Anne, Abbott— the namesake of the hit ABC show Abbott Elementary — took lifelong lessons from her instructors, shaping her into the teacher she would become for three decades.
“The professors I had were great,” she said. “They went above and beyond to ensure I was successful.”
Abbott shared her experiences on campus and her career in education during the event “An Evening with Joyce Abbott,” hosted by the Baltimore Banner at The Garage at R. House in West Baltimore. UMES was the lead sponsor of the event.
UMES president Heidi M. Anderson, who gave opening remarks for the event, praised Abbott for her impact on her students, including Abbott Elementary creator Quinta Brunson, whom Abbott taught as a sixth grader.
“Teaching is a challenging task, but it is also meaningful, valuable, and can be life-changing, not only for our students but also for every one of us,” Anderson said. “What you achieved from your time at UMES and in your subsequent teaching career reflects the support, commitment, and effort to help change the trajectory of people’s lives.”
Abbott was part of a panel of educational experts that included former Maryland Superintendent of Public Schools Nancy Grasmick, Brianna Ross, the 2021-2022 Maryland Teacher of the Year, and Derek Chavis, a Baltimore City school teacher. The discussion was moderated by Baltimore Banner education and DEI reporters Kristen Griffith and John-John Williams IV.
During the panel segment, Abbott emphasized her passion and pride in education regarding whether teachers should be paid more or given incentive pay. Abbott said that while teachers should be paid more, there must be more accountability for the poorly performing educators.
“Some teachers had students whose performance was below the basic learning level for years but kept their jobs,” she said. “If they’re not learning, then you as a teacher must make sacrifices. I made sacrifices by working weekends, getting to school at 7 a.m., tutoring until 6:30 p.m., staying after school until 4:30 5:00 p.m., and going out to see students during COVID because I wouldn’t be a teacher who did below basic work.”
UMES professor Dr. Richard Warren, the 2018-19 Maryland Teacher of the Year, closed the event by echoing Abbott’s statement as he recalled lessons he learned throughout his teaching career.
“My mother told me, ‘Never do anything and leave it the same way you found it.’ We have to leave it better,” Warren said. “When you hear the stories, our stories, that capture the essence of why we choose to show up in these educational spaces and why an education professional should be valued. We know we cannot approach this haphazardly. We have to leave it better.”
Abbott added that while she hadn’t returned to campus in a while, she looked forward to attending a homecoming soon.
“My time at UMES was an amazing experience,” she said. “This is why I’m a firm believer in HBCUs.”