Amie Dean set out to fulfill her desire for writing a book with a specific focus in mind, but "Your Happy Heart" took a different path to reach her goal.
Dean worked as a special education teacher for 25 years, striving to positively impact every student she could.
Her focus eventually shifted to "a new personal mission."
Dean focused on a path "to help teachers implement positive, practical strategies in their classrooms to save our most challenging students and themselves."
"The book is my attempt to reach young students who may struggle to manage difficult emotions," said Amie Dean.
What initially began as "a book for teachers about classroom management" took a turn.
"The idea for 'Your Happy Heart' was actually in response to several school shootings that were being reported in great detail on the news. Over and over, we are seeing young men who turn what seems to be anger and sadness into violence toward others," she said.
Dean does not have first hand knowledge or involvement in those tragedies, but the losses made an impact on her.
"It made me ask myself, 'what are we doing for the young boys in our classrooms that have suffered trauma and are acting out as a cry for help,'" she said.
'Your Happy Heart' tells the story of "Richard" and "Javon," two young men who are brought together through a school reading program, but develop a bond much deeper.
"Richard and Javon are representative of many of my students over the years. One thing I noticed about the students I taught, who could be very aggressive and disrespectful, was how their demeanor changed when working with younger children. I was always amazed at how gentle, kind, and helpful they would be to younger students or siblings, versus the combative tone and aggression they could have with peers their own age," said Dean.
Her goal was to depict that with the two boys in the story, not just through words, but also illustrations.
While "Richard" is a real former student, the story is fiction.
"Richard was a very bright student I taught who found himself in trouble at school often. His mother told me I was the first person to make a positive phone call to her when he was in sixth grade," she said.
Dean expressed she that was "just unacceptable" and how she saw potential in Richard.
"I wanted him to know he was an awesome kid with many gifts, so I spent a lot of time building a relationship with him," said Dean.
She named the younger character in the book Richard, "to honor him and his impact he had on me as a teacher."
Dean was inspired by a TED Talk given by Rita Pierson called "Every Kid Needs a Champion."
"It has been my life’s work to be that for my students, but I have also seen students be champions for each other. It has a profound impact on both students, but almost always I have seen the greatest impact on that of the mentor," said Dean.
In her years of experience, Dean witnessed many "students who struggle academically or behaviorally, have a negative personal narrative about themselves that plays on loop.
Dean focused on breaking through that wall and helping the student see they could achieve positive things.
"Helping others not only gives them purpose, but it helps them realize they are more than that behavior or deficit. Helping another student helps them redefine who they are in a positive way," she said.
Dean feels that everyone "needs someone or something to aspire to."
"Having a real person, someone who is like you or has lived a similar experience, show interest in you and belief in you is very powerful," she said.
The power of mentorship, according to Dean, can help someone believe in themselves, even if they never did before.
"Javon," according to Dean, can "absolutely" be an example for teaching other children how to help others in other situations, not just those similar to his own.
"Javon showed children what real sacrifice looks like, he showed them what a true act of selflessness looks like. He gave away his most special and prized possession to help his young friend," said Dean.
She recalled crying not only when she wrote that part of the story, but also when reading it the first few dozen times.
"He is an example to all children that, even when you have very little to give, very few or no tangible 'things,' you always have something to give," said Dean.
She described "your time, your energy, your love, and yes, sometimes your favorite stuffed puppy" as some examples.
In this case, "Javon," in the story, gave many things.
According to Dean, the real Richard "has turned out to be an amazing and successful young man with whom I am still in contact."
"Your Happy Heart" is available for purchase through Dean's website, www.behaviorqueen.com/book.
Dean continues to share her mantra of "Rule Less, Teach More" and "Teach Hard, Love Harder," to many who work in the field of education; teachers, administrators, counselors, assistants.
According to her website, Dean has "built a great ‘toolbox’ for teaching, motivating, and managing even the most challenging students."
She hosts one-day online seminars through her website and also brings her teachings in person to schools.
More information is available at www.behaviorqueen.com.