Meet a true teacher's pet! This Corgi mix graduated from shelter dog to Professor Ginger in record time.
When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic started last year, Riverside, California, kindergarten teacher Jessie Bekkedahl desperately needed something — or someone — to help her keep the wandering minds of her young students focused on their virtual classroom lessons.
"I tell people you haven't lived until you've had a kindergarten Zoom or Google Meet," Bekkedahl, 40, tells PEOPLE. "They show you their pet or put their face WAY into the screen. Or they'll just go off on a tangent and talk about their grandma and Sea World and random stuff."
Bekkedahl turned to Ginger, 3, the personable pup she adopted at a Riverside animal shelter a few years ago, for classroom support. Last March, after Bekkedahl's Emerson Elementary School abruptly shut down, the dog went from everyday pet to Professor Ginger.
Ginger and her costars — Hannah the dog and Axel the cat — eagerly jumped paws first into teaching, patiently posing and acting in Bekkedahl's video lessons covering words, letters, shapes, and more.
A favorite clip among Bekkedahl's students has Professor Ginger helping kids learn to count by sticking her snout into different numbered boxes. It's not exactly Criss Angel level magic, but Bekkedahl says it's a good enough trick to get "ahhhs" and "oooohs" from kindergartners.
"I noticed anytime I make a video where it's interactive, where they have to guess along with Ginger, they're engaged a lot more," Bekkedahl says. "They pay attention to her way more than they do me."
According to the teacher, the children also think Ginger is "super smart."
"They're like, is she in kindergarten?" Bekkedahl says.
Like a good student, Ginger loves following directions, and sometimes she jumps in her teaching chair without even being asked. For the trickier bits, Bekkedahl can always rely on Ginger's favorite toy.
"If I need her to run off camera, I'll take the tennis ball and just chuck it," Bekkedahl says. "She just gets really excited. When I'm talking to her, she focuses her eyes and her ears go up."
Thanks to Bekkedahl's Professor Ginger YouTube page, where she posts the dog's lessons, the rescue canine has won over a legion of fans. But Professor Ginger's top pupils are still Bekkendahl's kindergarteners.
For more on Jessie Bekkedahl and other amazing teachers, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.