Solutions: How a principal’s using TikTok to engage students -- and recruit teachers

The use of social media to communicate and relay what’s going on at school can reach students where they are.
TikTok screen grab of a middle school principal.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

TikTok screen grab of a middle school principal.


As part of our solutions-oriented focus, The Atlanta Journal- Constitution partners with the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous reporting about social issues.


  • A Louisiana high school principal has garnered social media fame by using TikTok videos as part of his educational work.
  • The TikToks are intended to help improve school culture and share knowledge using a medium students respect.
  • Teachers and parents say the use of TikToks can engage students and make them feel like adults around them understand their world.
  • The use of TikToks can be part of a strategy to help students recover from pandemic-related learning losses.

Louisiana principal David Schexnaydre has a unique way of communicating with students and fostering a sense of community at his school — creating viral TikTok videos.

Whether he’s hopping on the latest dance trend or filming a PSA to encourage students to take care of their Chromebooks, Schexnaydre uses TikTok to improve school culture at Harry Hurst Middle School as students recover from pandemic learning loss.

With over 2 million views, one of which garnered 212,000 likes, Schexnaydre has been able to leverage his social media presence to build trust with students.

Louisiana Middle School principal David Schexnaydre dances in a screen grab of a TikTok video.

Credit: contributed

icon to expand image

Credit: contributed

“Whether it’s academics, test scores or mental health, your initiatives will not work unless the school culture is right,” Schexnaydre told The 74.

Schexnaydre’s strategy has not only strengthened his connection with his students, but has also helped him retain and recruit new teachers.

With a 95% teacher retention rate, Schexnaydre’s TikTok videos have created a positive learning environment for the 107 faculty members at Harry Hurst.

However, when there are vacancies, Schexnaydre often uses his social media presence as a way to entice prospective teachers.

Schexnaydre said his TikTok often became the “conversation starter,” noting that his videos engaging with students and faculty give applicants a clear picture of the school community they’d be joining.

“It’s been a good tool for us,” Schexnaydre said. “We’ve had really good applicants where four or five schools want them but they pick us because they saw our TikTok and how great of a school we are.”

Katie Martinez, a 7th grade English teacher at Harry Hurst, said teachers rarely ever leave.

“He’s definitely a fun boss and just fabulous all the way around,” Martinez told The 74. “He even involves the teachers in his TikToks and really brings together this school culture and community that people want to come work at.”

Martinez noted how much her students adore Schexnaydre’s TikTok videos.

“It might seem like a silly thing and it might seem like no one cares, but the buy-in from the kids is monumental and it means the world to them,” Martinez said.

“They idolize David because he takes the time to figure out what’s important to them and it makes them more willing to do what’s important to him.”

Martinez also said Schexnaydre’s initiatives show how useful TikTok can be in schools.

“There’s definitely a way to use TikTok effectively and David has shown that it can grow a positive school culture among students and faculty,” Martinez said.

Brandy Dufrene, a 6th grade science teacher at Harry Hurst Middle School, agreed with Martinez.

“Especially in the middle school environment, students already think their teachers aren’t cool and we don’t understand them at the social-emotional level,” Dufrene told The 74. “So I feel like if we can relate to them and build those relationships through their interests, TikTok can be helpful.”

Jenny Bouler, the parent of a 6th grade student at Harry Hurst Middle School, supports Schexnaydre’s TikTok presence as a way to connect with students.

Bouler said Schexnaydre’s TikTok video encouraging students to take care of their Chromebooks by chasing after one he tossed in the air is one of many examples of the positive effect it can have on students.

“My initial thought was that it was brilliant and he’s a very creative principal,” Bouler told The 74. “He brings topics that can be a little bit bland or dry or boring and really puts a spin on them that catches the kids’ attention and gets them more engaged.”

Jane Chauvin, the parent of a 7th grade student at Harry Hurst Middle School, agreed with Bouler.

“Are there things on TikTok that are inappropriate for children? Absolutely. But our kids are smart and canny and denying access will make them want to use it more,” Chauvin told The 74.

Chauvin said Schexnaydre’s TikTok videos, such as his lighthearted tease of students who forget to bring their school IDs, reflects how other school administrators should approach the social media platform.

“His videos help him connect with our students in this digital world,” Chauvin said. “Our kids need to know that their teachers and administrators know what’s relevant to them.”

Schexnaydre believes having access to TikTok is ultimately up to students’ parents.

“I’m not trying to encourage students to make a TikTok, but a lot of them have it already,” Schexnaydre said. “So if you really want to reach people you have to go where they are and that’s where our kids are.”

Because of the overwhelmingly positive response, Schexnaydre said he has more TikTok ideas in the works.

“Just being able to do that extra little thing has made such a big difference,” Schexnaydre said. “And if I can get the kids to be happy and excited to come to school on a Monday morning, the proof is in the pudding.”

This story first appeared at The 74, a nonprofit news site covering K-12 education.