Elgin school mourns loss of teacher who 'poured her heart and her soul' into job

  • St. Thomas More Catholic School eighth-grade teacher Missy Craig died unexpectedly last weekend. She's pictured waving at students during a car parade in the school parking lot in April, 2020, so teachers could get a little face-time with their students during the early stages of the pandemic.

      St. Thomas More Catholic School eighth-grade teacher Missy Craig died unexpectedly last weekend. She's pictured waving at students during a car parade in the school parking lot in April, 2020, so teachers could get a little face-time with their students during the early stages of the pandemic. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Andrea Rivera, a former student at St. Thomas More Catholic School, signs a memorial sign near the entrance of the Elgin school for eighth-grade teacher Missy Craig, who died unexpectedly last weekend. "She definitely shaped me to be the student I am today," said Rivera, 17, a senior at St. Edward Central Catholic High School.

      Andrea Rivera, a former student at St. Thomas More Catholic School, signs a memorial sign near the entrance of the Elgin school for eighth-grade teacher Missy Craig, who died unexpectedly last weekend. "She definitely shaped me to be the student I am today," said Rivera, 17, a senior at St. Edward Central Catholic High School. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/4/2021 5:40 PM

Students and staff of a small Elgin school are mourning the loss of a beloved teacher.

St. Thomas More Catholic School principal Sonja Keane said they were "devastated by the unexpected loss" of Missy Craig, an eighth-grade teacher for 35 years.

 

Craig died Feb. 27 in her South Elgin home. She was 69. Her daughter Marcie Berry said they believe the cause was a previously undiagnosed enlarged heart.

"It's like she gave all her heart that was so full of love," Berry said. "She gave all she had."

Berry said her mom had a lifelong love of history, taking great pride in the many students she had guided to the national finals of the National History Day contest. She also loved travel, baking, sewing and animals.

"She would adopt all the dogs in the world if she could," Berry said.

Keane said the first day of school on Monday was "rough."

"It's really hard," she said. "As a community we mourn a great teacher, but the staff and teachers are also mourning a great friend."

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Former students and colleagues described Craig as someone who allowed degrees of freedom to kids who were at an awkward age and developing their identities, but was still able to keep them reigned in and excited about learning.

"She expected the best from her students, and they strived to reach that because they wanted to make her proud," Keane said.

Matt Wojtas, a former student of Craig's, said his experience with her was part of the reason he and his wife, Meg, sent their kids to St. Thomas More.

"She poured her life and her soul in to her job, and kids knew when they got to eighth grade, they were going to get Mrs. Craig and they were going to get something special," he said. Wojtas graduated from St. Thomas More in 1990. His daughter Frankie was in Craig's eighth-grade class last year. He has two sons still at the school

"She was an institution inside the institution," Wojtas said. "She had a way of seeing a kid's abilities and talents and character better than they could."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mike Aydt, another former student (Class of '89) and now a teacher at St. Edward Central Catholic High School in Elgin, always makes sure his new students from St. Thomas More know he had her as a teacher.

"She was always a great teacher, but an even better person, as cliché as that sounds," said Aydt, who stayed in contact with Craig and has worked with her judging the school's history fair. "She's probably one of the reasons I am the way I am today -- just the way she was as a teacher -- very supportive of her students, very kind and outgoing. Strict but fair."

Craig taught English and history, but Keane said her involvement at the school wasn't limited to the classroom.

It included the yearbook, history fair competition, safety patrol, the fun fair and craft fair, countless fundraisers and organizing several end-of-year activities for her eighth-graders.

"She was beloved, that's an understatement," Keane said.

A visitation will be Friday, 3 to 9 p.m., at Laird's Funeral Home. Masks and social distancing are required. A limited number of guests will be allowed for her funeral mass Saturday at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, which will be livestreamed at stthomasmorechurch.org/.

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