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Kansas teacher goes viral on TikTok, receives state honor

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 engage his students and others in learning about the history of the Sunflower State by interacting with them on TikTok. Social media has given him a unique way to help others get interested in Kansas.

For his pioneering efforts in education, he was recognized at the Kansas Statehouse, where he was presented with a certificate by Representative Tory Blew. It reads, “Let it be known to all that: Sincere eulogy is offered in honor of Kraig Westhoff in recognition of all of your hard work as an educator, finding new and exciting ways to make Kansas history interesting to your students…”

KSNT 27 News spoke with Westhoff, a junior high school social studies teacher at 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 other people were doing and thought, ‘I can do this,'” Westhoff said.

The lack of educational content on the platform caused Westhoff to start looking for ways to put his lessons on social media. Things started picking up speed when one of Westhoff’s students noticed its contents. The student shared it, and Westhoff says “it just blew 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 her students, others are tuning in from other places across the country.

“I have followers as far away as Liberal, Kansas,” Westhoff said. “There are some people from Missouri and Illinois commenting. They want to have a taste of home.

Westhoff says his videos consist mostly of lessons about Kansas and US history. One of his projects involves making a video about all 105 counties in the state. He’s completed about 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 lawmakers and attend a House session before being treated to pizza.

“For a middle school kid, getting a free pizza is the coolest thing that could ever happen to you,” Westhoff said.

Blew then gave Westhoff the certificate, which proved to be an emotional moment for the teacher.

“It was really cool that he was presenting it to me in front of my students,” Westhoff said. “Everyone cheered and I felt immense pride that being smart and working hard pays off.”

“I want to continue using it [TikTok] as a way to promote Kansas history and tell stories about our state,” Westhoff said.

For Westhoff and his students, this was a visit to the Statehouse they are unlikely to soon forget.

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