When classes start at Bartlett High School in two weeks, staff members and students will return to a community changed by the loss of a beloved dean.
Ann Kallenbach, who joined the staff in 1998, died Friday at age 50. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 after the disease had already spread to her bones but fought it for three years, rarely missing a day of school.
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Even when her chemotherapy became more aggressive in April, Kallenbach declined to go on disability leave, running Bartlett High School's graduation ceremony in late May and finishing out the school year.
"Over the course of the last three years, Ann's really been an inspiration for a lot of people in the community," said former Bartlett High School Principal Suzanne Colombe. Colombe said Kallenbach approached her illness with quiet strength, choosing to celebrate the positive in life instead of focus on the negative.
Kallenbach headed up the special education department for part of her tenure at Bartlett High School and ended her career as dean of students, a job her husband said she loved.
"That can be a rough office to be in day after day, but she seemed to make quite a connection with the kids and made quite a positive impact," Dan Kallenbach said.
Ann Kallenbach taught at Wheaton North High School and served as dean at Batavia High before joining the team in Bartlett, where she met her future husband. Dan spent his entire career in Elgin Area School District U-46, first in Streamwood and later in Bartlett. The couple worked together for years before they began a relationship and then married in 2005.
Dan said his wife had a passion for gardening at their Cary home and loved to travel. They spent three weeks in Europe this summer before her death.
U-46 school board members had a moment of silence for Kallenbach during their meeting Monday.
"Her outstanding leadership shaped the Special Education Department, and her passion and expertise for helping children with special needs made a world of difference in so many lives," said board President Donna Smith, reading from a prepared statement.
Kallenbach was known as warm and loving by her colleagues as well as students, who were most often sent to the dean's office because of behavioral or attendance problems.
"Ann was … capable of disarming even the most challenging young person with her smile and kind spirit," Smith said.
Visitation will begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Laird Funeral Home, 310 S. State Srt., Elgin, and continue until a 7 p.m. memorial service in the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Heartland Animal Shelter in Northbrook.