Mar 27, 2023 - Culture

Viral Charlotte elementary teacher joins TikTok to defend app on Capitol Hill

Nancy Bullard TikTok creators listen to speakers during a news conference outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. The TikTok chief executive officer plans to tell Congress on Thursday his app does more to protect young users than rival social media and that Beijin

Nancy Bullard TikTok creators listen to speakers during a news conference outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. The TikTok chief executive officer plans to tell Congress on Thursday his app does more to protect young users than rival social media and that Beijing has no authority over its data. Photographer: Nathan Howard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Charlotte science lab teacher with 3.1 million followers on TikTok headed to D.C. last week to talk with reporters and lawmakers about the benefits of the video app.

  • TikTok invited Nancy Bullard, known online as @mrs.b.tv, to join the company on Capitol Hill as CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress.

Driving the news: U.S. lawmakers are proposing banning TikTok over concerns about its ties to a Chinese company and national security threats.

  • Opponents of the ban argue shutting down a single platform isn’t the solution to security concerns.
  • Several teachers and more than 20 creators who were in D.C. to share their stories about the good TikTok can do.

Why it matters: TikTok has exploded in popularity in recent years. Supporters say the app can be used to find therapy, engage young voters and promote small businesses. For many creators, it’s a livelihood. The hashtag #LearnOnTikTok has more than 530 billion views.

  • “That number shows that people do come to this app in order to learn things, whether that’s cleaning hacks, or recipes or educational content,” Bullard said.

Zoom out: Bullard, a Huntingtowne Farms Elementary teacher, rose to TikTok stardom by posting short clips of her science experiments and lesson ideas. She started the account in March 2020 while schools were closed for COVID.

  • “We are able to educate millions more students than ever before thanks to TikTok,” she told me by phone from her D.C. hotel room Thursday. “We’ve been sharing how devastating it would be for America to lose a resource that has become a place where people learn.”

State of play: Since most U.S. lawmakers do not use TikTok, Bullard says creators want to emphasize the app’s benefits.

  • U.S. Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-N.C.) has gained national attention for his presence on TikTok. By explaining in easy-to-understand terms what Congress is dealing with — like most recently, the Silicon Valley Bank closure — he’s amassed a following of 1.4 million. Jackson prefers a sale of TikTok to an American company but also fully supports a ban, his spokesperson told Axios.

The other side: Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis has called on members of Congress to stop using the app over privacy concerns.

Bullard says she has heard pushback from lawmakers while sharing her message on Capitol Hill, mainly about security.

  • On Wednesday, she stood behind Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), one of a handful of politicians publicly defending the app, and influencers in a pro-Tik Tok press conference.

Zoom in: The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools community has so far supported Bullard’s videos, she says. She describes her TikTok as a glimpse into her classroom, where she uses a collaborative and hands-on approach to teaching. Bullard hopes her platform sparks an interest in science among young girls, who may later choose to pursue STEM careers.

  • She told me the story of the time Kellie Gerardi, an astronaut in training, filmed a video of herself talking about space for Bullard’s students.
  • Later that year, students were choosing a notable person — typically, figures like Babe Ruth or Martin Luther King Jr. — to research and dress up as for a living history project.
  • A third-grade girl in Bullard’s class chose Gerardi.

“Of all the people in the world that she could have been, she chose this astronaut scientist lady who nobody had really heard of, and she wanted to be like her when she grew up,” Bullard says. “I thought that was really beautiful.”

Nancy Bullard DC
Photo: Courtesy of Bullard
avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Charlotte.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Charlotte stories

Charlottepostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Charlotte.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more