TOPEKA (KSNT) – Meet Kraig Westhoff, a teacher from northeast Kansas who has taken his history lessons to the next level through his viral TikTok channel.
Westhoff has found a new way to get his students and others interested in learning about the history of the Sunflower State by engaging with them on TikTok. The social media outlet has given him a unique way to help others get interested in Kansas.
For his pioneering efforts with education, he received recognition in the Kansas Statehouse where he was presented with a certificate from Representative Tory Blew. It reads: “Be it hereby known to all that: Sincere commendations are offered honoring Kraig Westhoff in recognition for all your hard work as an educator, finding new, exciting ways to make Kansas History interesting for your students…”
KSNT 27 News spoke with Westhoff, a junior high social studies teacher from the Kaw Valley Unified School District, who says he started tinkering with TikTok early last year while his family was stuck in quarantine.
“I started seeing everything that other people were making and thought, ‘I can do this,'” Westhoff said.
A lack of educational content on the platform made Westhoff start looking at ways to inject his lessons into the social media outlet. Things began to pick up speed when one of Westhoff’s students spotted his content. The student shared it and Westhoff says “it blew up from there.”
Westhoff’s channel currently has around 8,600 followers, which he hopes to see rise to 10,000 in the future. While some of these followers include his students, others are tuning in from other places across the country.
“I have followers as far as Liberal, Kansas,” Westhoff said. “There’s some people from Missouri and Illinois who comment. They want to get a taste of home.”
Westhoff says his videos mainly consist of lessons about Kansas and U.S. history. One of his projects involves making a video on all 105 counties in the state. He’s completed around 60 so far.
In August of last year, Westhoff received an email from Blew inviting him and his class to the Kansas Statehouse. Westhoff says they got to tour the building, visit with legislators and sit in on a session of the House before being treated to pizza.
“For a middle school kid, getting free pizza is about the coolest thing that could ever happen to you,” Westhoff said.
Blew then presented Westhoff with the certificate, which turned out to be an emotional moment for the teacher.
“It was just really cool to have her present that to me in front of my students,” Westhoff said. “They all clapped and I felt immense pride that being smart and doing hard work pays off.”
“I want to keep using this [TikTok] as a way to promote Kansas history and tell stories about our state,” Westhoff said.
For Westhoff and his students, this was one visit to the Statehouse they are unlikely to forget anytime soon.
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