Laura Crawford was passionate about reading, writing and sharing her love for those subjects with students at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School, where she spent 20 years teaching second grade, third grade and literacy.
This week, the school and Community Unit District 300 began mourning the loss and celebrating the legacy of the beloved teacher and author, who died Monday of complications from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, according to a statement from Superintendent Michael Bregy.
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Crawford died at Delnor Hospital, surrounded by family and friends. She was 46 and had been battling the disease since 2008.
"I cannot begin to tell you how saddened I am to share news of the passing of a D300 family member," Bregy wrote in an email to faculty and staff. "Laura's legacy will stay alive within the walls of Sleepy Hollow Elementary School as much as it will persevere in public libraries and children's homes throughout our community and the world."
The district will remember Crawford with a moment of silence during the Oct. 15 school board meeting, district spokeswoman Allison Strupeck said. Officials have also displayed copies of some of her books at the district office.
Crawford, of Geneva, graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees from Northern Illinois University, and she started her career in the school district as media center director at Dundee Highlands Elementary School in West Dundee.
At Sleepy Hollow Elementary School, Crawford went beyond the basics, Principal Jason Lentz said.
Besides working with kids in smaller groups so they could receive additional literacy support, she also helped coach teachers on literacy efforts -- there are 466 students and 45 staff members at the school.
In her role, Crawford worked with everyone in the building and got to know so many different students and families, Lentz said.
She also worked with students who wanted to be authors by hosting an author night in which she would tell them how she became an author, and how to write, research and put books together.
Kevin Dispensa, 19, of West Dundee, now majoring in environmental science at Northern Michigan University, said he had the good fortune of studying under Crawford in both second and third grade.
"I remember that she was patient and energetic," Dispensa said, adding that he attended several of her book signings and went to breakfast with her at times. "I remember I always had fun in her class. I was excited when I found out I had second year with her and she was excited that she had me and a lot of the friends I had right now."
Crawford is the author of several children's books, including "The American Revolution from A to Z," "Benjamin Franklin from A to Z" and "Postcards from Chicago."
She ensured students read over the summer and during seasonal breaks by opening her classroom once a week during those periods and inviting parents to come and check out books. And she gave incentives to students who read over the various breaks, Lentz said.
In her off time, Crawford contributed to a blog for writers and teachers who love nonfiction picture books. She also belonged to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
"Reading and writing were her whole life, it was just a gift that she had that naturally led her to become a teacher and also write books of her own on the side," Lentz said. "And that was a gift she shared with everybody that knew her."
Crawford's wake will be held 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Malone Funeral Home, 324 E. State St., Geneva. Funeral prayers will be said at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Malone, and a funeral Mass follows at St. Peter Catholic Church, 1891 Kaneville Road, Geneva.
Crawford's family is compiling a book about her for her nieces and nephews. For those who would like to email a note about what Crawford meant to them, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.