Every Main Character In Abbott Elementary, Ranked

We're cruising through Season 2 of Quinta Brunson's "Abbott Elementary" — one of the funniest and most moving workplace sitcoms. My goodness! The Emmy-award-winning series has continued to be on a hot streak throughout this latest season with excellently calculated comedic chaos. In season 2, the underpaid and overworked teachers are back, and their plight to educate the children of this Philadelphia school district makes for some of the best television in 2022.

As an avid fan of "Abbott Elementary," I can't help but find unbridled joy in every quirky character interaction. However, I do have my favorites. There have been many tribulations at Philidelphia's Abbott Elementary school — ranging from the "desking" incident to the destruction of every toilet on the premises. Through it all, I have gotten to familiarize myself with the eclectic cast of characters, and I'm just itching to see how they stack up against each other. Take a seat, and let's see who gets the highest honors.

Superintendent Collins

Kicking this list off is Derek Collins, the oh-so-serious superintendent. Played by Reginald C. Hayes, he arrives in the show firmly underneath the blackmailing thumb of Abbott Elementary principal Ava Coleman (Janelle James). What's the incriminating incident? Infidelity. During season 1, Ava shamelessly threatens to air this guy's dirty laundry to fund her vanity projects. She has the perfect form of job security, and there's nothing this man can do about it.

Well, except remarry, which is exactly what Collins conveniently happens to do. When it's Ava's turn to present Abbott's progress to the school board, his new marriage status causes a scramble to save Ava's job and secure much-needed funding for the school. I deeply appreciate the superintendent's potential to be an agent of chaos, but I think he still has some more surprises cooking. I can't help but wonder what other forms his vengeance may take. So far, we haven't seen much, so he's at the bottom of my list.


Next up is Janine's ex-boyfriend, Tariq (Zack Fox). At first, he seems easy to write off as the stereotypical incompetent oaf. But it's important to note that he'd been dating the main character since high school, which explains the goofy antics of this couple throughout season 1.

Tariq doesn't do much more than act a fool, so his character is a direct foil to Janine. As her new job as a teacher morphs into a calling, her desires conflict with Tariq's immaturity. We see them grow apart gently. The relationship reaches a natural conclusion as Tariq heads to New York to pursue his rap career.

In letting him go, Janine lets a piece of herself go too. We immediately experience this at the beginning of season 2. Even though he's a secondary character, Tariq's absence signaled a significant change for Janine as it represents her losing a childish but endearing innocence. Janine needed to be with Tariq to learn to be without him. While I think that's still tangential, Tariq means a bit more than a comically stoic blackmail victim.


Zach's (Larry Owens) introduction occurs during the iconic "Desking" episode from Season 1. Not only do most of the cast learn that Jacob (Chris Perfetti) has a boyfriend, but they also notice how his personality basically mirrors Jacob's. He arrives at Abbott and demonstrates his obsessive knowledge of sneakers to find out who's been running on the desks in the classroom.

I enjoy the dynamic between Jacob and Zach. They're both observant while simultaneously lacking self-awareness. They finish each other's sentences and gently correct each other when either of them over-share. Jacob has spent the entire first season being an unstoppable vehicle of hilariously awkward non-sequiturs, and his boyfriend is one of the only characters who can tame those tendencies.

Zach definitely plays a more involved role in the show than Tariq by his occasional direct involvement in the happenings at Abbott. However, I think more can be done with Zack's character on the series. I'm interested in seeing if any large personality differences with Jacob emerge in season 2 of the mockumentary series.

Kristen Marie

Kristen Marie (Lauren Weedman) is a powerhouse of a character. Like Melissa's (Lisa Ann Walter) coworkers, I'm just as desperate to see her more often in "Abbott Elementary." Unfortunately for everyone, there's a borderline implausible amount of bad blood between the two sisters.

In the rare cases where Melissa and Kristen Marie occupy the same space, their confrontation is explosive on a cellular level. These Philadelphians will not hesitate to bring up every single instance of a "ruined" family recipe. Being enemies is like a second full-time job. Their chemistry becomes amplified by the fact that Kristen Marie is a teacher at a fancy charter school just down the street from Abbott Elementary.

Weedman makes the most of every appearance on the show. She's magnetic. Thanks to her, I've pointed my finger at the screen howling in laughter on more than one occasion. My only complaint is that I want her to appear more often. Fortunately, Melissa is slowly opening up to mending some sisterly wounds this season, so I'm extremely excited to see more of Kristen Marie.

Jacob Hill

Now, we arrive at the first character of the main cast on this list. Jacob has the unfortunate task of being the punching bag for all the other characters at any given time. However, a wimp is only what his character appears to be.

The dorkiness of Jacob is a well that's so deep it becomes its own strength. He singlehandedly ended the nationally viral trend of students sneakily leaping on top of desks. All it took was a single "desking" attempt from the dorkiest teacher to shut that student-run operation down. This element of his character goes beyond utility as well. "Abbott Elementary" is extra careful not to dismiss Jacob's humanity while developing his wackiness. Yes, he may be ridiculed endlessly. But out of all the characters Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph) chooses to garden with in her free time, she chooses Jacob. That is no accident, and I'm sure there will be more to his character as the show progresses.

Ashley Garcia

In the latest season of "Abbott Elementary," Melissa has to teach the 2nd and 3rd graders in her class. Quickly, she becomes overwhelmed by the task and reluctantly requests a teacher aide. This help arrives in the form of Ashley (Keyla Monterroso Mejia), a newcomer to season 2.

In the short time since her arrival, Ashley has been a minor whirlwind of chaos. Much like Ava, this lady is quite aloof. Unlike Ava, Ashley behaves like a taller version of an elementary school student. This element of her personality can be a detriment from an administrative standpoint. However, Melissa learns it's helpful in the classroom — as she can grab the kids' attention. I think Ashley has a lot to offer comedically — even more than Jacob — because her character is one of the few who can easily influence the children. Combined with her tendency to avoid mundane responsibility, Ashley's actions (or inactions) entertainingly escalate situations from bad to worse.

Gregory Eddie

Gregory (Tyler James Williams) is not okay. At first, I thought Gregory's damage stemmed from Ava having the job he was supposed to have. Now, it's clear Gregory has many specific and unusual traumas that I, as a viewer, have no idea how to navigate — like this man uses a stopwatch to time himself when he goes on bathroom breaks. He had to learn to like Gritty.

For me, Gregory Eddie's coolest element is that he takes the comedy archetype of the "straight man" to its utmost extremes. He is so straight-laced that any unexpected challenge causes an implosion. His outbursts erupt in odd verbal meltdowns that never fail to amuse. Doubly funny are his interactions with Jacob because they are polar opposites. Gregory's quick, quiet punchlines have admittedly caused a spit take or two on my part. He's great. I don't understand him, but he's great.

Janine Teagues

Next up is the protagonist of the show who definitely sees herself as the star of Abbott Elementary — even though she unintentionally is a constant source of chaos. Janine is so convinced she can fix every situation that her aspirations often feel like foolish fantasies to everybody else. But I think Janine is the hardest worker by leaps and bounds. However, being the hardest worker does not make her the most intelligent one.

What I like most about Janine is how easy she is to root for due to her idealism and can-do attitude. Her spirited attitude is contagious, even if it's often unrealistic and leads to unintended problems. In addition to being easy to root for, Janine is easy to ridicule. There's a stubborn little imp underneath that amiable smile. In any Abbott Elementary episode, there is always a point where Janine has to choose between the sensible option of backing away from a situation or getting further involved. Does she take the clue to back away? Usually not. Hilarity always ensues.


Here, we have a secondary character who is much cooler than the protagonist of the show: Courtney (Lela Hoffmeister). Throughout "Abbott Elementary," she's a menacing presence that threatens the organizational integrity of all she touches. There is no getting around her. She first exhibits her unrelenting power when transferred into Janine's class. Once there, she instantly takes over the classroom without a second hesitation, introducing herself as Janine Teagues.

Courtney's insubordination leads to an impeccably choreographed Pledge of Allegiance to Courtney by the entire classroom. I find this very suspicious. How did this young lady effortlessly manipulate all of her classmates in a single prank? She just transferred in, so I find it difficult to rule out the possibility of telepathy. Courtney is plenty stronger than Janine and can even go toe-to-toe with the principal in a battle of wits. Courtney is the secondary player I'm most excited about because there really is no telling what else this criminal mastermind has planned.

Mr. Johnson

Speaking of underestimating capabilities, Mr. Johnson (William Stanford Davis) is an absolute wild card. He emulates the energy of a jester in a royal court. His best lines are the ones that sneakily punch at the situation any given character is going through in the series. Mr. Johnson's other best lines are unrelated non-sequiturs that may (or may not) be Chekov's guns in disguise. Mr. Johnson is the type of character who tells you he was a nude model in a past life but then never mentions it again.

In the season 2 Halloween special, he's genuinely threatening a child with a lawsuit for taking his likeness and simultaneously scamming Jacob into believing there's a janitor ghost in the school's basement. His role at Abbott distinguishes him from the rest of the crew: He's an onlooker to the events of the classroom and a contributor to the logistical chaos of running an underfunded school. I'm a sucker for unpredictability, and this man's full of surprises!

Ava Coleman

Kicking off my top three is the principal of Abbott Elementary, Ava Coleman. At first, Ava wasn't a personal favorite of mine. She read as a self-centered older lady who is desperate to retain youthful relevance. Over the first couple of episodes, she felt like a tired archetype without many nuances to her character.

But as the first season continued, she demonstrated qualities I didn't expect to appear. Over time, the audience learns Ava loves her role as principal. She loves the kids. Ava sees how hard the teachers work daily and is often willing to do her part to help them. In reframing the archetype she embodies, the audience sees that a lady can be simultaneously vain and honorable — a rare and beautiful balance.

Oh, and she has a secret fully furnished private bathroom with a marble toilet hidden in the basement of Abbott Elementary. No, I did not see that reveal coming, but I love its strangeness.

Melissa Schemmenti

Melissa is your typical rough-and-tumble stereotype of the Italian lady with "connections" who lives in Philly. Most of her jokes have devastating implications, and I cannot resist a chuckle if I tried to. Nearly every detail we learn about Melissa is dangerous. What's even funnier is how her rapport with Barbara involves a mutual understanding of these traits.

Barbara knows why Melissa keeps a baseball bat under her desk, but the audience sure doesn't. The humor of this escalates further in Melissa's interactions with the documentarian. We see it play out hysterically in instances where Melissa begins to describe a personal story. However, she then glances at the camera and clumsily stutters a bogus cover story. (That gets me every single time!) Yes, she's standoffish. Sure, she's playing an archetype that feels ripped out of a Martin Scorsese mobster film. But the seamless comedic performance of this Philly archetype is admirable and excellent.

Barbara Howard

Last but never least is Barbara Howard. This character is the reigning queen of Abbott Elementary, and it's a cardinal sin to believe otherwise. When she speaks, every sentence ends in a period. Barbara's the most experienced person in that school. She commands every space she enters with her cutting wit and infinite wisdom. Barbara never breaks a promise and always follows through on a threat.

Barbara's status as a veteran teacher gave her the skills to navigate a broken education system flawlessly. While she is less likely to (literally) twist an administrator's arm like Melissa, she will commit perfect acts of political sabotage for her students.

So it's unsurprising that Sheryl Lee Ralph's outstanding portrayal of this character won her an Emmy. When I first exposed a close friend to "Abbott Elementary," they immediately assumed Barbara was the school principal. Honestly, she might as well be. That's how powerful her presence is on screen.