A Passion for Connection: Teacher’s ‘Gen Z History’ Goes Viral on TikTok

Iced coffee? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Gen Z History class is about to begin, and the vibes are immaculate. There are fewer than 1,000 students at McFarland High School, but history teacher Lauren Cella’s lessons have reached millions thanks to her popular TikTok channel, where she dishes about Cleopatra’s queen era, Henry VIII’s side chick, and the real chisme about Cinco de Mayo. 

Cella, who has been teaching at McFarland for several years, had been sharing videos about teaching on social media for a few years when the COVID-19 pandemic began. But while schools were closed, her students encouraged her to try something new, and asked her to post a few history lessons on TikTok. 

Cella decided to give it a try, and the results have been astounding. Just a few years later, many of Cella’s videos have gone viral, receiving local, national and international media attention. But the viral video star said her biggest cheerleaders and sources of inspiration are right in her own district. 

“I’m very lucky that I work in a community and a district that has been very supportive,” she said. “The main reason I do it is to show my passion for history, to support other teachers and just to spotlight all the amazing things that are happening at our district.”

“We appreciate when our teachers go the extra mile to connect with our students, and make learning and interaction a priority,” McFarland Unified School District Superintendent S. Aaron Resendez said in praise of Cella’s enthusiasm. 

And that energy is evident in Cella’s videos. Whether she is poking fun at herself in a video about setting up her classroom for a new school year, showcasing a clever Spirit Week outfit, or breaking down the development of the nuclear bomb, she does it with playfulness and positivity. 

But beneath her humor is a message — even if it’s delivered in a slightly different way than what you might hear in a typical classroom. 

“It is humorous, but the information is correct,” Cella said of her Gen Z History videos. “I think people enjoy it, but they’re learning — maybe for the first time if they’re younger, or maybe they’re older, but they didn’t understand it or feel they were part of it the first time.” 

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On Cella’s viral Cinco de Mayo video, one commenter said it was “seriously the 1st time in my 49 yrs that I understand” the topic. A former educator commented on Cella’s Instagram, saying, “I’m impressed that she was able to relay this in a way that today’s students would understand and retain. Teachers need to take note and reformat how they are teaching.” 

Whether it’s on TikTok or in the classroom, Cella’s goal is the same: engagement.  

“I can’t sing, I can’t dance, but the one thing I can do is tell stories — tell people stories in a way that makes people understand,” Cella said, adding that she is “blown away” and honored by how many people have watched, listened, and shared positive feedback with her. 

“There’s no point in speaking to a group of 30 teenagers for an hour if they don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cella noted. “Being able to speak to them in a language they understand can really help them see the connections between the past and the present.”