Fremd teacher, counselor dies just before becoming assistant principal at Palatine High
Friends and colleagues at two high schools in Palatine have been shattered by the sudden death of longtime teacher and counselor Antonette Minniti, just as she was moving from one to the other to become an assistant principal.
Minniti, 43, who began her teaching career at Fremd High School in 2001, died of natural causes on Memorial Day just after her last day there before becoming an administrator at Palatine High School.
Colleagues in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 agreed she had the right combination of passion and skill.
"She was respected by everyone. She was a class act," friend and fellow English teacher Dorothy Koller said. "She loved teaching English and connecting with students. She was a great listener. Counseling was perfect for her. She would listen to you, give you good advice and then not tell anyone about it. She was a lockbox. She was trustworthy."
During her time at Fremd, Minniti had successively headed both the English and guidance departments - a rare occurrence, district officials said. But she was on her way to her first true administrative role.
"We were struggling to envision a Fremd without Antonette, knowing she'd be moving over to Palatine High School after two decades at Fremd," social studies teacher Courtney Billittier said. "It is incomprehensible to think of a world without her."
Retired English teacher Gary Anderson was the department head in 2001 when he met Minniti at a College of DuPage job fair.
"I knew immediately that this was who we needed to bring in to our school and our department," he said. "She was special and exceptional."
Tracy Bafia, director of student services at Fremd, said Minniti was a true trailblazer.
"You throw her an idea and she will run with it," Bafia said. "We probably would not have made it through COVID without her. ... Everything that she did was for kids."
Anderson shared a recent Facebook post he'd seen from a former student who credited Minniti and her encouragement for the person she became as an adult.
Though Fremd Principal Mark Langer worked directly with Minniti for only a year, he said she helped him make the same transition to an administrative role at a different school that she was about to make herself.
"She was a cornerstone of my team," he said. "She welcomed me in."
Psychologist Caryn Bova also spoke about the strong connection Minniti had with her students.
"She set the gold standard for professionalism, hard work and compassion, with natural care-taking tendencies, a great sense of humor and one of the most infectious laughs you've ever heard," Bova said. "She was especially passionate about working with LGBTQ youth, and we ran our student support group together for many years. She was a fierce advocate for all students."
Minniti is survived by her husband and children.