PEOPLE talks to one lucky fan who got a holiday package from the pop star

By Michele Corriston
December 20, 2014 04:20 PM
Courtesy Katie Mullins

‘Tis the season of Taylor.

This winter, it’s all about Swiftmas. Taylor Swift is giving Santa Claus a run for his money, sending her biggest fans packages full of holiday cheer.

Sure, her new album – and first real swing at pop – is at the top of the charts, she’s Billboard‘s Woman of the Year and she’s gearing up for another international tour, but the Grammy-winning artist has never been more connected to her Swifties.

From inviting social media followers she “cyber-stalked” online to her homes for 1989 listening parties to surprising a superfan by hand-delivering her toddler son a mini Mercedes, Swift is adding real people into her circle of celeb BFFs.

Since everybody – seriously, everybody – loves her music, how can you possibly stand out as worthy of her secret gifts?

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Katie Mullins, a third grade teacher in Tucson, Arizona, has loved Swift ever since her country days.

“From the very beginning, her first song, they’ve always been the kind of songs that you can dance with your girlfriends to and sing along with,” Mullins, 22, tells PEOPLE. “You can tell it’s really genuine, everything she writes. It’s not contrived in any way. She’s just so charming, her personality, the fact that she does stuff like this, it’s crazy. I think it’s great that she’s grown and evolved but it’s still her. All the songs have their own Taylor character.”

On Nov. 25, her “Wildest Dreams” came true: Swift’s elves left a giant package at her door. Inside? A letter, a Polaroid and more than a dozen perfectly personalized presents, all with handwritten notes. From bluetooth speakers, makeup, jewelry, a candle and cookies to a signed poster for her classroom and a box full of hair accessories (“I noticed that you love wearing headdbands so OOPS I bought you every one in the store,” Swift wrote), the swag made for one unforgettable Christmas miracle.

Katie Mullins and her gifts from Taylor Swift
Courtesy Katie Mullins

We spoke with Mullins to get the scoop on how she landed on the star’s nice list – and for tips on how you can try to make your Swiftmas merry and bright.

Mullins listened to 1989 every day while driving to and from school. And not just the singles: She even jammed to the bonus track voice memos, which chronicle Swift’s writing process for songs like “I Know Places.” All those car trips meant she eventually memorized every word on the album – and came up with an original way to show her appreciation for Swift.

She filmed herself lip-syncing to one of the memos and uploaded it to Tumblr, a site Swift has openly been obsessed with. The rest is history.

“It was so silly! I made this video, but I didn’t expect anything to happen. I have like no followers,” Mullins says. “A few people started re-blogging it, and I was like, ‘Oh, apparently this is funny!’ ”

Swift thought so, too. She re-blogged the clip, writing, “Standing ovation for Katie, as this is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.”

Swift later replied to two more of Mullins’s posts with what diehard fans now know as her Christmas calling card: a santa emoji. Mullins was contacted for her address, and days later, the presents arrived.

“It was the greatest thing in my life,” she says. “I’ll never understand why she picked me to send the package to, because I feel like there are so many incredible and devoted people that are online, and it was just amazing.”

How did Swift know Mullins well enough to ship her the perfect presents? Tumblr, of course. Mullins’s page is mostly an ode to all of Swift’s awesomeness, but she has also blogged about the joys (and yes, challenges) of educating a room full of 8- and 9-year-olds – and how 1989 has inspired her. That’s why, out of all the goodies, Swift’s letter is still Mullins’s favorite gift.

Courtesy Katie Mullins

“I know you’re working so hard right now and the first year has to be absolutely taking it out of you, but I have to tell you how proud I am of you,” Swift wrote. “I’ll never forget my 3rd grade teacher, and your students will never forget you. You didn’t choose an easy job, but you chose an important one.”

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Her lyrics are all about baring her soul, so fans should do the same.

“I think she’s probably one of the few musicians I would consistently always have gone and bought the physical album – I’ve always gone to Target, gotta get the deluxe version,” Mullins explains. (You hear that, Spotify?) “I love how she’s a storyteller.”

The speakers will come in handy for the dance parties Mullins throws her students throughout the day to reward good behavior, and the signed poster is sitting on her desk, facing outward.

“I tell my students that it’s a reminder for them to dream big,” she says.

Courtesy Katie Mullins

Plus, she plans to pay the present forward.

“I want to make a photocopy of it for each of my students as a Christmas present,” says Mullins, who’s working with the Alliance for Catholic Education, a teaching program out of her alma mater (and Swift’s brother’s current school), Notre Dame.

“After I got the package, they started bringing in drawings they made at home, or little signs that say ‘You love Taylor Swift,’ ” she explains. “I had a student draw a picture of Taylor Swift, and then she wrote the lyrics of ‘Shake it Off’ all along the page. It’s kind of amazing. I definitely have a little Taylor-dedicated corner in my classroom.”

Though Mullins says she’ll never be able to truly repay Swift for her generosity, she did return to Tumblr to post a YouTube video of her showcasing her vocal chops on an acoustic cover of “You Are in Love,” a bonus track sans voice memo. And there are only teardrops of gratitude on her guitar.

“I didn’t know how else to thank her. How can you possibly what can you send to a worldwide superstar who just sent all these things to you?” she says. “I’ve always loved music, and I love that song. It talks about trying to put something into words that you can’t, and it’s beautiful.”

And if she happens to catch Swift’s eye while she’s dancing in the nosebleeds at the Los Angeles stop of her tour this summer?

“It’d be so cool to thank her in person if I got the chance,” she says, “because it honestly was the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Check out more of Swift’s gifts below:

Courtesy Katie Mullins
Courtesy Katie Mullins
Courtesy Katie Mullins
Courtesy Katie Mullins
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