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Article updated: 6/28/2011 3:52 PM

Palatine schools mourn "exceptional educator"

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Palatine Township Elementary District 15 is mourning the loss of a well-respected principal who helped turn her school into one the highest achieving in the state.

Dana Petersen passed away Sunday after a long battle with cancer. The former 10-year principal of Marion Jordan School in Palatine, and a Cary resident, was 49.

"She was one classy lady," said Mike Carmody, principal of Virginia Lake School in Palatine. "She brought class to everything she did."

Mrs. Petersen served as an assistant principal under Carmody for six years, while both were at Gray M. Sanborn School in Palatine. She was named principal at Marion Jordan in 2001.

Under her leadership, Marion Jordan earned impressive academic awards.

For the last seven years, the school received the Academic Excellence Award on the Illinois Honor Roll, a distinction saved for the highest achieving schools in the state.

Mrs. Petersen also led faculty members and administrators at Marion Jordan as they were named a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School in 2005 by the U.S. Dept. of Education.

"Dana was an exceptional educator who dedicated her career to teaching children and making a positive difference in their lives," said Superintendent Scott Thompson.

"She will be greatly missed, as her contributions to the education of our community's youth were far-reaching," he added. "She touched the lives of countless students over the course of her nearly 20-year career in District 15."

Carmody credited Mrs. Petersen's experience in the classroom, as a former primary grade teacher, for giving her the ability to keep in perspective all of the constituents she served as principal.

"She was a terrific listener," Carmody said, "and she had tremendous people skills."

Serving the needs of students was a family affair for Mrs. Petersen. Her husband, Tom, serves as community relations director for Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211.

The couple met in Iowa, before moving to Colorado, where Mrs. Petersen taught primary students while her husband worked in the media relations department of the University of Colorado.

They ultimately returned to the Palatine area, where Tom Petersen had grown up and attended local schools. He began working in District 211's publications office, while Mrs. Petersen accepted a second grade teaching position in District 15, at Kimball Hill School in Rolling Meadows.

It would lead to a nearly 20-year career serving students and their families in District 15. Her illness had sidelined her for the last year, however, with Jennifer Grosch serving as interim principal.

Mrs. Petersen is survived by her husband, as well as two daughters, Emily and Carli.

Visitation will begin at 11 a.m. Friday before a 4 p.m. memorial service, both at Lutheran Church of the Atonement, 909 E. Main St. in Barrington.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the District 15 Education Foundation in memory of Dana Petersen for the benefit of Marion Jordan Elementary School, 580 N. First Bank Dr., Palatine, IL 60067

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