When one of her first TikToks went viral last year, FGCU alumna Meghan Mayer was so shocked that she took her phone to the classroom next to hers and showed her colleague the view numbers that her comical video racked up. She couldn’t believe her own eyes.
“I asked him, ‘Am I reading these numbers right?’” she recalls. “Within a day it was like a million views.”
That was February 2020. As of June 2021, the North Port, Florida, middle school instructor known by the handle @thecrazycreativeteacher has amassed 700,000-plus followers and boasts several TikToks with multiple millions of views. One of her lighthearted clips about teaching remotely during the pandemic school shutdown was featured on “The Greatest #AtHome Videos,” a network television show hosted by Cedric the Entertainer.
All the attention is paying off.
Her fanatical flair with Cricut, well-chronicled in TikToks showing her designing labels and decorations for her classroom, caught the attention of the manufacturer of the computer-controlled printing and cutting machine. More importantly, the company noted her TikTok metrics and offered a deal for sponsored content featuring the product. In fact, so many other high-profile brands have come calling that the 2013 FGCU grad is considering hiring representation to handle the business side of her snowballing social media influence.
“That didn’t really cross my mind at first. When one of my first videos went viral, I just thought, well, that was cool,” Mayer says. “It wasn’t until a year ago that I thought I could make money off of it. Now, it’s almost overwhelming the number of brands contacting me.”
She’s quick to add that she turns down offers to promote products she wouldn’t use or that would be inappropriate for her self-described following of “mostly teachers and middle school-age students.”
Nevertheless, the hobby-turned-side hustle has become a welcome supplement to this public-school teacher’s salary. Like many educators, she ends up spending her own money on classroom amenities like parties, prizes and décor to enhance the learning environment for her exceptional-education students. She readily admits that teaching brings out the event planner in her, a nod to her degree in resort and hospitality management. After a few years working in the industry, she realized that the classroom was a better fit for her passion for working with children.
“This is where I was meant to be,” she says.
So Mayer earned certification to teach and now is going into her seventh school year. Still, she found some of her hospitality training transferrable to the classroom.
“The way I deal with students and parents is a lot different from other teachers because of my background,” says Mayer, who actually started her FGCU journey as an education major. “Hospitality is so centered on being professional and making sure people’s needs are met. Students and parents are like members of my club, and I have to develop good relationships with them.”
She’s not the only teacher using social media, of course, to entertain, enlighten or inspire peers and pupils in the academic trenches. After starting out on Instagram, Mayer took @thecrazycreativeteacher to the younger, trendier platform of TikTok, the video-sharing app that allows users to create and share 15-second clips. Most of her students were using it, and she wanted to catch up with their inside jokes and the latest TikTok dance memes she saw them imitating.
After dipping her toes in TikTok by watching cooking tutorials and music clips, she dove into developing #TeacherTipTuesday posts around universal topics in the field: building positive student relationships, organizing the classroom and the ups and downs of remote teaching, to name a few. Her TikTok on laminating vocabulary cards garnered 9 million views. Yes, you read that number right.
Mayer didn’t see many other teachers doing this on TikTok at the time, so it seemed like an opportunity to fill a niche.
“I definitely got in at the perfect time and claimed my spot,” Mayer says. “It’s just blown up now. Teachers really got into TikTok during lockdown. People started doing more tips. It’s harder to grow now in that particular category.”
Yet @thecrazycreativeteacher has enjoyed steady growth in views, engagement rates and organic reach — people who view her videos without boosted distribution. Those are critical numbers for potential sponsors, she says.
The pairing of practical teacher hacks with a relatable, self-deprecating style appears to be a fan-winning formula. Comments like this, from an education major, are not uncommon: “The (online) classes are kind of rough but I watch your TikToks and they remind me why I am excited to be a teacher and to just keep pushing through.”
The over-the-top gag that got her TikTok on national television seemingly showed the mother of two trying to teach remotely from an empty bathtub and to hold a parent-teacher conference from inside a closet. These were ostensibly the only quiet corners of her home while her daughters Ellie, 4, and Kennedy, 7, were learning remotely down the hall. Husband and fellow FGCU alum Thomas Mayer (’09, Professional Golf Management) also is a teacher and high school golf and baseball coach.
Hamming it up with a camera is nothing new. She made home videos as a youngster, costuming and directing her sisters. In the classroom, she might break into a Russian accent at any moment just to lighten the atmosphere. On TikTok, she doesn’t shy away from busting out her dance moves.
“The TikTok stuff is fun – it’s not really work,” Mayer says. “I try to be very real with everybody. Humor is definitely a family trait. My dad was a huge goofball, and my mom’s the same way. When I was growing up, especially in middle and high school, when most kids stifle that a little bit to be cool, I was just like, ‘This is me.’ It’s kind of cool that TikTok has taken to that.”