Nathan Anderson is a second generation agricultural teacher, but a first generation TikTok star.
The Watertown-Mayer High School teacher was a bit of a naysayer to the popular social media platform at first, but then seeing how much his students used it and trying new, digital ways to connect once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he saw an opportunity.
“I started making a couple videos in the winter of 2019-20 but it really took off during the COVID shutdowns in the spring of 2020,” Anderson said. “I kept trying to make funny videos as a way for myself to stay sane and lighthearted during that stressful time. As school started up again, I started making videos that related to the classes I was teaching as well. My followers skyrocketed in the fall and now I have over 73,000 followers.”
Anderson said his students really love following his TikTok account and word has spread throughout the school, which in turn has increased interest in his classes.
“I was thinking about offering a new class next year called ‘Cowboy Cooking,’” he said. “I made a video about it asking my TikTok followers if it sounded like a class they would take and then decided that we would offer it. We had around 100 students pre-register to take it next year, so we are going to have to offer it three times to fulfil the demand.”
Not only does he use the videos in fun ways, he has also found them to be practical classroom tools.
“In a class this fall, we were building fishing rods,” Anderson said. “In order for me to still follow COVID guidelines and maintain social distancing, I made a series of videos showing step by step how to do it so I would not have to get right next to my students and show them. They could just pull up the videos and see what to do.”
Anderson’s new take on student engagement has also piqued the interest of other educators, including an opportunity to present at a national conference last January.
“I have had a couple virtual meetings with ag teachers from my region and they have commented that the videos are providing them and their students with much needed laughter,” he said. “I am also able to connect with teachers from all over the country, which I find amazing. I have received countless messages from beginning ag teachers and soon-to-be ag teachers asking for my advice on certain topics or for curriculum.”
Being asked for advice by younger teachers feels a little strange, as Anderson considers himself new to the field yet. He is in his sixth year of teaching. He spent four years at Breckenridge High School before coming to Watertown-Mayer.
“I look to my dad and the other teachers for advice and the fact that people look to me for guidance still baffles me,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s dad is an ag teacher, so while he considered a few other subject areas to teach, he knew he couldn’t give up Future Farmers of America and ag education just felt right.
While TikTok may be the popular new social media platform of the moment, Anderson hopes that the student connection to the content won’t be a fad.
“I get students who normally would avoid the ag classroom coming in and saying ‘Hey, aren’t you TikTok famous?’ and then we get chatting about that and it can lead to bigger class sizes for me,” he said.
Check out Nathan Anderson at www.tiktok.com/@mnagteacher.