A Hillsborough middle school teacher’s dance-off goes viral on social media

Hillsborough County middle school teacher Yolanda Turner became a celebrity for the random way these things are happening on the cusp of 2023:

Dancing on Twitter.

During a break between exams at Sumner High School in South Hillsborough, students played games in the cafeteria.

A game called “Dance Phone” became a dance-off, and an eighth-grader challenged the 51-year-old AVID study skills teacher.

Unknown to the students, Turner is a longtime vibe dancer. As a child, she danced in talent shows. Her daughter is now a professional dancer.

“In the last few years, as I’ve gotten older, I don’t move as fluidly as I used to,” Turner said.

But that day in the cafeteria, she brought the house down.

A video posted to Twitter by a deputy principal at the school shows Turner slamming and snapping to the song “Lose Control” by Missy Elliott. Children can be seen in the video screaming, cheering and keeping the beat.

“My song was playing. I love this song,” Turner said simply when asked about her moves.

“Oh my god, Ms. Turner, you killed that,” the students said after her.

She said they told her she had “ate.” (“When they say ATE, that’s a term that means, ‘You killed that. You didn’t leave any crumbs,'” Turner explained.)

For a seasoned educator who spends her days preparing children for success in high school and beyond, this was a unique feel-good moment.

Or so she thought.

The video was retweeted by the Hillsborough County School District. Turner’s daughter, the dancer, put it on TikTok.

Ten thousand views turned into 24,000 in one day.

TV stations soon started calling. Turner received email requests for licensing. The director called her “a superstar,” and she saw links to the video on black culture websites.

Music star Missy Elliott responded to the tweet with four fire emojis.

Now tens of thousands Views turned into millions.

Turner said she didn’t want to be inattentive. She started reading the comments one by one so she could thank the people who had posted kind comments about her dancing and teaching.

Some weren’t so nice, and there were occasional snide remarks about the demise of education.

But these commentators were the rare exception.

“People flushed them away very quickly and redirected their negativity,” Turner said.

And she stopped feeling insecure.

She said to herself, “Yolanda, nobody looks at your butt but you. These people are watching your dance. I know they see the joy. You see the reactions, you see the relationships.”

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She admits to feeling overwhelmed at times. As the new year approaches, she is conducting interviews with national reporters and preparing for more attention when school resumes on January 9.

She assured Deputy Principal Natalie McClain, who posted the video and is handling the aftermath, that they will weather this avalanche of attention.

“It’s slowing down,” Turner said. “I don’t know if it will ever stop. But it will slow down.”