Westfield Community School teacher Amy Calinski never let her illness define her. Her friends and relatives said Amy happened to be a person who had breast cancer.
Calinksi, 36, lost her battle with the disease on Aug. 21.
"She had the best attitude of anyone I ever met," said Melanie Gnutek, Calinksi's best friend and co-worker at Westfield, a K-8 school in Algonquin. "Each time she would get the bad news, she would have a little adjustment time and then was like, 'lets go off to the next battle.'"
A seventh-grade literature teacher, Calinski began teaching at Westfield 11 years ago as a fourth-grade teacher. Westfield Principal Bill Doran said Calinski had a great rapport with students.
"She was very engaging with the students and was able to build strong relationships with them," Doran said. "I received a number of emails from parents and students who wanted to share their condolences."
Born in Elgin, Calinski was a 1994 graduate of Elgin High School. She attended the University of Illinois and later National Louis University where she earned her master's degree in education.
Dave Calinski, her husband of six years, said Amy Calinski was passionate about her work.
"She wanted to make a difference in her students' lives," Dave Calinski said. "She inspired youngsters to read. She knew she could not inspire all of them, but the few she did inspired her to do her job well and to love her job."
Dave and Amy Calinski have one daughter, Sophie, who is 4. They live in Gilberts.
In addition to her teaching, friends and relatives remember Amy Calinski as someone everyone loved. Amy Calinski loved to laugh and when she did, the rest of the room usually laughed with her, Gnutek said.
"It was just like a really deep belly laugh that made you feel good," Gnutek said. "Her laugh was just really sincere and it was nice to hear and know that she could be OK."
Throughout her illness, Amy Calinski maintained a brave face. Doran said most people were unaware that Amy Calinski was ill.
"She maintained a high level of poise and demonstrated a high level of character everyday," Doran said. "She never missed a beat in providing a high-quality education for her students."
A memorial fund has been set up for Calinksi's daughter, according to Doran.
In an emailed statement, Doran wrote, "I have had individuals inquire about whether a memorial has been set up in Amy's name. Memorials may be made to the Sophia Calinski Educational Fund. If you desire to contribute, send your check to Westfield Community School and we will forward the funds appropriately. Please contact Darice Latowicz at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions."