LAKE STEVENS — Kindergarten teacher Mackenzie Adams posted the video to TikTok to see what she looked like while interacting with students through online learning.
She did not expect millions of people to see it.
In the 60-second clip, Adams enthusiastically raises her eyebrows and holds up four fingers during a counting lesson.
“What kind of pictures do we see over on our number four?” she asks before she calls on a student.
At first the child’s microphone is off. “For some reason it wasn’t working,” the kindergartner says off camera.
A few comments of the more than 20,200 under the video read: “The patience in this video is astronomical,” “BLESS YOU,” and “Can you be my college professor?”
Adams, 24, is a kindergarten teacher at Glenwood Elementary School in Lake Stevens. She started working there in 2018. Like other educators across the country, she has been teaching students online.
Adams didn’t intend for the video to get so much attention. She used the recording as a tool for herself. Now she has national recognition, even appearing on NBC’s “Today” show.
Adams downloaded TikTok to stay entertained during the pandemic. She had posted a few times before, but never reached more than a dozen views.
She shared what became the viral video Sept. 14.
“I was expecting to get those 12 views and then probably delete it later,” she said. “So it was definitely a shock when I got a text from my friend saying, ‘Hey, your video has gone viral.’ I was like, ‘What? The one I was going to delete?’”
Adams attended Snohomish High School and graduated in 2014. She then went to Central Washington University, where she earned a degree in early childhood education.
She grew up around teachers in her family and is the oldest of five siblings. She had known since she was little she wanted to become a teacher.
“Once I got to college, I just knew, teaching is for me,” she said. “I was definitely that 7-year-old who was lining up her stuffed animals to be a teacher, and having white boards and chalk boards and making them read, so I think I always just had it in me.”
She graduated from college in 2018 and soon after began working at Glenwood.
As of Thursday afternoon, her video had been liked more than 2.2. million times, and viewed 10.6 million times within the app. She has gained thousands of followers a day, now with around 125,000. Her handle is @kenziiewenz.
One of the most-liked videos on TikTok has about 35.4 million likes, and 425.9 million views within the app. In it, video creator Bella Poarch, @bellapoarch, bops her head and mouths the words to the song “M to the B” by artist Millie B.
The most-followed TikTok star is 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio, @charlidamelio, who has upwards of 88.5 million followers. She joined the app in June 2019 and often posts videos dancing by herself or with friends and family. Since finding TikTok fame, D’Amelio has earned at least $5 million, according to Forbes.
It’s not clear how many people use the app in Snohomish County, or who the most popular content creator is in the area. TikTok does not share demographics by region, but about 100 million Americans use the app, spokesperson Christine Alabastro said in an email.
Adams is one of many teachers who have turned to TikTok, the app’s head of content Gregory Justice said in a statement.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, it’s been inspiring to see the TikTok community embrace distance learning,” he said. “Not only are teachers like @kenziiewenz and @ChemTeacherPhil using the platform to showcase the creativity and boundless energy they’re bringing to the virtual classroom, but they’re also engaging with the community and congregating in the comments sections to show their appreciation for one another during this challenging time.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to ban Chinese-owned TikTok from United States app stores, an idea that has become somewhat of a joke among users. Many post videos asking followers to add them on Instagram or YouTube to stay connected, just in case.
On Wednesday, TikTok filed a request for a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration, to protect service in the United States against a potential ban, according to The New York Times.
TikTok’s future in this country is still not clear. It could be removed from app stores in the United States as soon as Sunday.
The attention has brought some fun to the school, Glenwood Principal Jennifer Johnson said. She’s glad teachers are being recognized for their hard work though the pandemic.
Adams interacts with her students just as she does on camera, Johnson said.
“She’s got a Disney-like quality to her, and it’s not fake and it works really well for kindergartners,” she said. “She has an expressive face and she has a kind, gentle way, but she can be direct and meet the needs of each of her kindergartners.”
Adams has posted two more times, and both of those videos have also been popular. She thinks she may keep posting, but her main focus is teaching.
One big reason she would continue is because other teachers have said it’s helpful to see how she interacts with students during online learning. Adams has gotten ideas from other teachers on social media, as well.
“It’s also just showing the public how hard teachers are working, and how much energy we have to keep up for the online learning,” Adams said. “Obviously it’s hard to tell in a 60-second clip, but there is so much that goes into just into those 60 seconds, the planning the curriculum and everything.”
As for her students, one said they saw her on TV, but most don’t know her video has gone viral.
“We’ll keep it that way,” she said. “They can just think of me as their teacher.”