Sixth graders at Polly Ryon Middle School in Richmond, Tex., clamored to get into a certain math class at the beginning of the last school year. That’s not because they’d heard rumors that the class was easy or that they’d get to watch a lot of movies between lessons. The reason: The class was taught by Deidre Kelly, a teacher with 1.5 million TikTok followers.
“Usually the kids before they even come to this school know who I am. They’re excited to see me,” Kelly, 34, said. “They’ll say they’re starstruck. I’m like, ‘I am just a teacher. I am so normal.’”
Kelly’s TikTok account is full of math-focused videos with tips and tricks for adding fractions, subtracting integers and multiplying by 8. She often stands in front of her classroom’s whiteboard, usually with a trending (but appropriate) TikTok song playing in the background. Sprinkled between educational videos are sponsored clips that Kelly films for advertisers such as Mastercard’s Girls4Tech STEM education program and fast-food chain Sonic’s donation campaign for local school projects.
Kelly, who has been teaching for 10 years, started posting videos during pandemic lockdowns in 2020 as a way to reach her students outside their virtual classes. “Knowing that they’re all going to get on TikTok right after we got off Zoom,” she said, she hoped that the TikTok videos would reinforce the lessons students were supposed to be learning in class.