Menomonee Falls — To her it's nothing little. In fact, to Menomonee Falls children's book author Heidi Stacy, it's quite the opposite.
"When you feel good, you do good," said Stacy, a former kindergarten teacher who is currently working on her fourth children's book. "And, at least in my opinion, it's never too early to start learning how to feel good."
It makes sense after all her years in the classroom bringing to life her passion for children that Stacy would strive to continue teaching through her self-described "little books with big meanings." But in 2011, she found a whole new kind of inspiration when her husband suddenly passed away after a lifelong struggle with mental illness.
"It became so apparent to me, this need to learn to cope in healthy ways is so important," said Stacy, who had just published her first book a few months before losing her husband. Stacy took to her books as a means to help children learn about emotions and how to deal with feelings. With the help of a friend Dale Jackson, she published "Hoppy Feelings" in 2013.
Jackson, who is a widower himself, has also found solace in his work illustrating Stacy's books. After a chance meeting over some tomato plants at Stein Gardens and Gifts, the two have become close friends working together on both "Hoppy Feelings" and "The Unlucky Lucky Duck."
"In life you've either got a half full glass or a half empty glass," said Jackson, who lost his to lung cancer four months after Stacy lost her husband. "After my wife passed away I told myself I as going to turn around and have a full glass."
His optimistic take on life reflects the nature of the books, which feature stories of a frog and a duck who learn what to do when they are feeling down or unlucky.
"I truly believe in emotional health and that fostering it from an early age will result in happier, healthier adults," said Stacy. "When our emotions are positive, we're basically more in tune with them and understanding how to identify the way we feel enables us to do something about it."
Though she is retired, Stacy still spends time in the classroom whenever possible doing what she calls "Hoppy Talks" in local schools.
"My kindergarten students loved listening to her and responded very well," Ben Franklin kindergarten teacher Kelly Hietpas said of Stacy. "She sends such good messages to parents and kids through her books."
The message is one Stacy has always been passionate about, Hietpas explained, and was among those she first imparted on her 15 years ago when she became Heitpas' mentor.
"She was definitely a one-of-a-kind teacher," Hietpas said of Stacy, who was recognized with a Betty Brinn Teachers of the Year award in 1997. "She was a teacher all others looked up to and admired for her abilities, techniques and passion for working with children."
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