ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)– Jill Helsel and Jill Lane never thought that a TikTok challenge from students would turn them into a famous duo on the platform.
Helsel and Lane work at the Altoona Area Junior High School as Physical Education teachers. But after school, they keep up with their 153,000 followers on the platform where they post TikToks that are positive and fun.
Helsel said that the students were the main reasons she started the account. She said it provides another form of connection between the students and staff.
“The students every day would tell me about it,” Helsel said. “It actually gave us a connection with our students, not just me, but our entire staff.”
Helsel said she asked Lane to do TikToks with her because she didn’t want to do it alone. Lane thought Helsel was crazy when she asked because Lane doesn’t think she has the best rhythm.
However, the pair are icons nationwide. They have over six million likes. Then, they received multiple comments from verified accounts such as the Miami Heat, Portland Trailblazers, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Some of their videos crossed over 3 million views. Recently, the pair was featured on the Instagram account of ESPNW.
Neither of them understands how they are viral on the platform. The teachers are happy that the students are delighted when they post them.
“We’re glad the students enjoy it, and now we’re doing it because of our students,” Helsel said. “But we always say we really don’t get it.”
“I don’t get,” Lane said. “I really don’t understand the whole thing, but if the kids like it, then it’s just awesome.”
Their popularity soon started a Positive Behavior Challenge within the school. Each marking period the duo will post rules or positive behaviors to initiate around the school. Then, the committee will pick TikToks from students that best matches Helsel and Lane. Students from there can receive a custom Altoona Junior High TikTok shirt.
Student Grace Stadtmiller said she’d noticed a difference since the pair went viral. Stadtmiller noted that because the social media app is popular among junior high students, it encourages them to follow the rules more.
“Ever since they went viral, I’ve seen a whole lot of things changed within the school,” Stadtmiller said. “I see kids walking on the right side of the halls instead of the left. So, I think it really made a change.”
“We are really trying to spin the negativity that TikTok can have,” Helsel said. “It can be a positive platform as well, which is what we really presented to the kids.”
The duo receives comments from people about how much their TikToks made their days. However, it makes them feel good that the students love what they do. Many students think it’s the best thing that the viral teachers on the platform are theirs.
“Everyone in the comments is ‘Oh, they’re so cool. I wish they were my gym teachers,” Stadtmiller said. “And knowing that they’re our gym teachers, it’s just nice to have them.”
Helsel and Lane said that as long as the students enjoy their TikToks, they’ll continue to post.
“We’re doing it to make people’s days,” Lane said. “We’re doing it to make the kids do positive things, and we’re just doing them. No, we don’t get it, but if it’s good and it’s going to work for other people, then that’s great.”