There were few reasons for Toni Johnson to miss a day of work at Gifford Street High School in Elgin. Cancer certainly was not one, nor were the grueling treatments.
"She always said, 'As long as I got breath and I am able to walk up the stairs -- I expect the kids to be there -- and I am going to be there until the last day of school," said Ken Arrington, assistant dean of students at Gifford Street, the alternative high school in Elgin Area School District U-46.
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Johnson, of Batavia, was at school through the end of the 2011-2012 school year and into the first summer session before she lost her 8-month long battle with pancreatic cancer on Aug. 6. She was 49.
"She was just so loving and wanted the best for the kids she worked with," said Lieryn Johnson, her 22-year-old daughter. "She was sitting on her hospital bed talking about the kids at the school and how they need her. She was talking about getting out of bed and going back to school in August."
Born in Gary, Ind., Johnson also taught in Pennsylvania and Michigan. She spent five years as a daily substitute and business teacher in U-46, before taking on the role of dean in August 2011.
Arrington said Johnson's disciplinarian ways were often mistaken for her being mean or stern.
"She was there every day to greet the kids and make sure they were all tucked in," Arrington said. "Toni followed our guidelines to a T and was forthcoming about the rules that we abide by. One thing kids knew about her was that she meant business. But she was also very giving and would give you the shirt off her back."
Johnson is survived by Lieryn and a 15-year-old son, Matthew.
A memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, at Moss-Norris Funeral Home, 100 S. Third St., St. Charles.