One kind teacher decided to make learning more fun for her students. The third-grade teacher wanted to engage her students in the subjects instead of just lecturing. So she got the idea to allow her students to write their books and create illustrations of their main characters.

Then, she transforms those characters into custom stuffed animals that look just like their drawing! Called Budsies, the adorable stuffed animals are handmade replicas of any picture submitted. Pretty cool, right?!

In this way, the students’ stories come to life, allowing their imaginations to blossom. Instead of just reading a book, the students can visualize it with these cute stuffed animals. It makes learning an interactive experience rather than just a passive one.

Shannon Anderson, an author and third-grade teacher at Van Rensselaer Elementary School in Rensselaer, Indiana, wanted to share her experience with Budsies. The unique end-of-year project that she does with her students makes their stories seem more real. The pages genuinely jump out at them with the addition of the stuffed animals.

“As an author, I love writing, and I love to instill a love of writing in my students. So, every year I have my students write a story. And this isn’t just, you know, like a little one-page story. They’re writing a whole book.”  -Shannon Anderson

Then I have that story that they’ve written sent to a publisher who makes it into a hardcover book for them to experience what it’s like to be a published author. But then, I do something extraordinary with the illustrations. I send off the illustration of their main character to a company called Budsies, and Budsies makes them into a stuffed animal,” she explains.

kind teacher
How this kind teacher got the idea for this unique publishing project

Ms. Shannon has been an educator for 25 years, teaching first grade through college-level classes. She’s had her students write their books for most of her teaching career. However, the kind teacher didn’t get the idea for the publishing project until she taught first grade. The children would each contribute one page, which would then become a book.

Then, when she switched to teaching third-grade, she allowed the students to write their books. When she came across Budsies, she knew she wanted to incorporate them somehow into the writing projects. So for four years now, she’s been gifting the stuffed animals to students when they complete their books.

Ms. Shannon says,

“They’re custom made, and I’m telling you, they look just like the drawing that the kids drew.”

Ms. Shannon says the kids truly cherish these unique keepsakes. The characters they’ve created come to life as 3D beings, making the project real and exciting. The kind teacher says she takes advantage of several grants to help cover the costs of the Budsies and publishing.

She’s got another surprise up her sleeve as well. Before the book reveal party, Anderson lets the students draw their characters on a white dress. On the day of the party, she wears the dress to school and presents their books and stuffed animals. It’s a special day where the students get rewarded for their hard work.

However, with the schools closing this past year due to the pandemic, Anderson had to develop a Plan B. So, when the Budsies arrived, she reached out to the parents to ask their permission to come to their homes. Then, she put on gloves and a mask to deliver the stuffed animals. She says, “it was the best day ever.”

The students still got to celebrate with the personal Budsie deliveries

“I felt like Santa Claus showing up at these homes and getting to hand them this bag that had their Budsie inside. So I was still able to capture and enjoy the moment of them opening up the bag and seeing the Budsie for the first time,” Shannon said.

“So I would come up to a house, and in almost all cases, the child was already waiting for me, looking out the window, waiting for me to pull up. I would go up to the door and set down the bag, and then step away. And of course, I videoed their reaction because I wanted to be able to share with all the other students so they could see each other reacting to these special character reveals.”

It took her three days to deliver all the Budsies. The kind teacher enjoyed getting to see all her students. It had been two months since she’d seen them in person. For her, visiting them was the best part of the whole thing. Getting to watch them open their Budsie bag and see their reaction was also excellent. They’d been looking forward to it for a while and had worked so hard on the end-of-year project.

Ms. Shannon says that the most rewarding part of teaching is getting to bond with her students. She also loves watching them grow emotionally and academically. To get them excited to learn, she enjoys coming up with engaging projects like this one. Not only do the kids get to write their book, but they also get to see it come to life.

Budsies helps make this happen with their personalized stuffed animals, providing the students with lifelong memories. The cute characters help students believe in themselves and encourage their creativity. This kind teacher has a long history of making learning fun for her students. If you’d like to see more of her work, check out her website.

Final thoughts on the kind teacher who brings her students’ book characters to life

One third-grade teacher goes above and beyond to help her students learn. She not only publishes their books but orders custom stuffed animals of the main characters. This allows students to connect more to their work and get excited to learn. She’s well-loved and admired at the school, and it’s easy to see why. It’s not every day you come across a teacher who cares about her students as much as Ms. Shannon does.