LAKE STEVENS — At the start of the school year, teacher Mackenzie Adams posted a TikTok video from her Lake Stevens kindergarten class.
It was a lesson Adams gave ever-so-patiently over an online video call, teaching the kids both how to identify the number “four” and how to unmute themselves on Zoom.
More than 14 million people watched the 60-second clip, and Adams became a face of teachers across the country who were forced to move classes online with little warning or training, due to the pandemic.
On Wednesday evening, Adams spoke to a national audience on a TV special for the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
“Like many educators, my passion is engaging young minds, whether in the classrooms or through a computer screen — I happened to go viral because of it,” she said. “It’s been a difficult year for our students, and I am so proud of all the teachers, parents and students across the country who have adapted and made the best out of a tough time.”
The Glenwood Elementary School teacher was on screen for about 40 seconds before introducing a musical performance by Dave Grohl, who is known for playing in two bands with Seattle roots — Nirvana and Foo Fighters.
“Mackenzie Adams reminds me of another outstanding teacher who holds a very special place in my heart,” Grohl said. “My mother, Virginia, who was a public school teacher for 35 years.”
“This year, our teachers were faced with unprecedented challenges, but through dedication and creativity they faced those challenges head-on,” Grohl continued. “So this next song is for Mackenzie, and all our unshakable teachers that continue to enlighten our nation’s kids every day.”
Adams, 24, did not expect that.
He then played the hit song “Times Like These” from the 2002 album “One by One.” Adams was in elementary school when it came out.
“When I heard Dave Grohl say my name I was ready to pass out,” Adams said Thursday. “I was like, ‘No way!’ That part was actually very unexpected, to get a shout out from him. I was running around the house super excited. I watched the clip like 10 times. I was like, ‘Did he just say my name?!’”
Adams continues to post on TikTok and has almost 391,000 followers. That original video is still her most popular one, though others have also been viewed millions of times. Her handle is @kenziiewenz.
Adams grew up in Snohomish County and graduated from Snohomish High School in 2014. She earned a degree in early childhood education from Central Washington University in 2018. She started at Glenwood later that year.
In early January, over winter break, she received an email asking if she would be part of the special. At first she didn’t see the message.
“My principal had to text me and was like, ‘Please check your email I think an important person messaged us about you being part of the inauguration,’” Adams said. “It didn’t even occur to me when she said inauguration, I was like ‘Huh, I wonder what that could be?’ Then I click on my email right away and I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, the presidential one?’”
Her segment was recorded at Kerry Park in Seattle, with the city skyline glowing against the night sky behind her.
The Wednesday night program aired on six major networks and ran for about 90 minutes. She shared the bill with Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and John Legend.
It was hosted by Tom Hanks, who introduced Adams as “a viral sensation.”
Even now that Adams has been on national television, she does not think her students know the kind of recognition she’s received. Some kids’ parents have reached out to share their support.
Her focus is still on teaching.
“I’m feeling super blessed to be in this position and super lucky to have this job, and to have this job recognized in this type of light,” she said Thursday. “I’m really proud to represent teachers across the country and I’m happy we’re getting recognized for the hard work we’re putting in not only this year, but all the time.”
Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stephrdavey.