Music teacher Miguel Jaramillo didn’t set out to become a social media influencer when he joined TikTok.
He just wanted to join in on the latest trend and have some fun.
Less than a year later, he has thousands of followers from around the world.
TikTok is an app that allows users to upload short videos, including dance skits, comedy pieces, cute animal videos and bizarre trends. The platform is sometimes even used as a tool for political grassroots movements. It also has a group of people, who are experts in their field, posting educational content.
Jaramillo, 30, who is a choir teacher at Rio Rancho and Eagle Ridge middle schools, said he downloaded the app during the pandemic when he was bored and had little to do. He initially tried the comedy approach.
“Honestly my original intent on TikTok was to join the crowd and try to be funny,” he said. “It wasn’t taking off. I said ‘This is really hurting my self-esteem. I guess I’m not that funny.’ Then I discovered the teacher TikTok community.”
He saw the way others were using the app as an educational tool. He posted his first rhythm lesson – which featured him holding flashcards with four notes and music – in November of 2020. Then he immediately left to a staff meeting, thinking nothing of it.
“My smartwatch kept going off with notifications and I was thinking ‘What is this?’ ” he said. “I looked and the video had 500,000 views. It went crazy.”
So crazy it became a viral video and currently has 2.9 million views. Jaramillo’s followers have grown to 45,000 since then on his account @haunterhunter91.
In 2019, the New Mexico Music Educators Association named Jaramillo the New & Emerging Teacher of the Year. Kurt Schmidt, executive director of fine arts for the school district, said Jaramillo is a great teacher who knows how to connect with his students.
“They gravitate toward him,” Schmidt said. “He’s well orchestrated. He has good humor and is an all around wonderful teacher.”
Jaramillo himself was once a student in the Rio Rancho school district and it was a guitar teacher that encouraged him to go into teaching.
Initially, Jaramillo didn’t use his TikTok lessons in his class and didn’t tell his students he had joined.
But they found him.
The first email rolled in: “Mr. J, is that you on TikTok?”
The momentum grew. During the pandemic, he would hold online office hours and he had one student he hadn’t heard from all year.
“She showed up to those Google office hours,” he said. “She said she had been waiting all night to talk to me and find out if that was really me on TikTok.”
He said the two spoke for a long time, with the student asking questions and telling him about a recent vacation she took with her family.
He does have a rule, though. He allows his students to follow him on TikTok but he does not return the follow in order to keep the relationship professional. People who follow each other are able to send private messages. He also does not interact with his students on other social media platforms.
He said he has teachers as far away as Qatar using his short video lessons and he has student followers from far away, too.
“I have learned to say hello in so many different languages,” he said.
Schmidt knew Jaramillo as a student.
“One thing I love about Miguel is he chose to come back to the district that raised him,” Schmidt said. “It’s a testament to the support for arts and great teachers we have here.”