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San Antonio based teacher sings tunes on TikTok to increase student engagement

Sarah Kagenski makes parodies to popular songs for math lessons

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio based teacher is singing and making moves on TikTok to help students retain math equations and keep them logging in to her virtual class.

Sarah Kagenski is a 7th grade math teacher at Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville based in North Texas.

After one year in a traditional classroom, Kagenski decided a virtual school was her best option as a military spouse and for her family’s health.

“It’s a fully online school and this is my second year teaching overall,” Kagenski said. “My husband is in the military so, last year we were living in California. We’ve been in San Antonio since June (after being stationed here).”

During the start of the quarantine in the Spring semester of 2020, Kagenski noticed students had lost interest in school so, she took matters into her own hands.

“I had a hard time getting students to come in to class because we were just in the beginning of the pandemic, still figuring everything out,” Kagenski said. “I remember that a lot of my students were obsessed with TikTok, and the whole time I thought, I was too old for that app.”

However, the educator was determined to see more faces through the screen.

Sarah Kagenski is a 7th grade math teacher at Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville based in North Texas. (KSAT)

“I (later thought) maybe I can do something with this, and so, I downloaded the app and was so amazed,” Kagenski said.

She makes parodies of popular songs including Ariana Grande’s 7 Rings, the holiday favorite by Mariah Carey All I want for Christmas and even spoofed a song by hip hop royalty. Some videos are based on lessons others are simply to encourage students not to give up.

“This year is when I really got going with (the app),” Kagenski said. “My students were working with inverted operations and they were having a really hard time remembering what was inverse of the other, multiplication and division and things like that. And I was like, this kind of reminds me of a Missy Elliott song. That’s when I came up with (the parody lyrics of) ‘Is it worth it? Can I work it, flip it and reverse it?”

The strategy has been a hit among her 170 students.

“They’ll tell me like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is stuck in my head’,” Kagenski said. “I’m like, that’s the point!”

Through her use of the app, the 7th grade math teacher has found a community for feedback and inspiration.

“I’m actually part of a professional learning community on TikTok called School House Tok,” Kagenski said. “It’s just this incredible community of educators (across the world).”

As for the quick videos, she says you just need a smart phone and to download the app.

“I don’t have any fancy camera equipment or anything (like that),” Kagenski said. “It’s not really hard. I mean, if you can press the button that says record just a big red circle that you can do that you can make a TikTok.”

Already, she’s working on her next math tune, but isn’t fully set on the beat.

“I’ve got bulletin boards (in my office), and I do actually have a song right now that (I’ll use) for our next unit about mean, median and mode,” Kagenski said. “This one’s not a pop song, although I could change it.”

She hopes her TikTok reaches a wider audience and that teachers are encouraged to try this approach.

“I think of my TikTok page as an extension of the classroom,” Kagenski said. “Although not all of my content is specific to school or math, it’s all quite appropriate and school appropriate.”

Kagenski has also opened a YouTube account for students without a smartphone or TikTok account. Click here to see her YouTube page.

Check out her parodies on TikTok here.


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