‘I will forever hold her in my heart’

Mrs. Niki Stage, an art teacher at LFHS since 2020, passed away on May 19 after experiencing a medical emergency and being hospitalized on May 1.

“It is going to take a very long time for all of us in the Art Department to process this. She was a very close friend to all of us. It was very sudden and unexpected,” said LFHS art teacher Mrs. Herget.

Illustration created by Stage featured in the book “Big Truck Day”

Mrs. Stage taught various art classes, including Drawing & Painting, Art Foundations, Photography 1, and the Business of Fashion. Her students say they fondly recall their time spent with her.

“When I first heard that Mrs. Stage passed away, I was so shocked and I still cannot process it. I had her for the entire year, and she was always willing to help me with whatever I needed. I will miss her bright and kind attitude in the classroom that no teacher will be able to replace,” said sophomore Kacey Busam.

After Mrs. Stage taught the Business of Fashion class this past year, she had the courage and determination to design a new course: Fashion Design. More than 40 students registered, which some students say is a testament to Mrs. Stage’s talent and reputation.

“I loved how willing Mrs. Stage was to help everyone understand what she was teaching. I had her for Fashion and you could tell that she loved her job and was so excited to share her interests with us,” said sophomore Molly Clark.

Mrs. Stage will be remembered for her unwavering passion for art and her commitment to the art department. Principal Dr. Lenart said that Stage was “a unicorn in that she had a business and art degree, and she succeeded as an independent artist in the industry.” 

Niki was so positive and talented, but above all else, she was kind, and she cared

— Dr. Lenart

“Niki was so positive and talented, but above all else, she was kind, and she cared,” said Principal Dr. Lenart.  

Mrs. Stage, who grew up in Mount Prospect, was married for 20 years to her husband, Jason. They have two sons, ages 17 and 13.

She had dedicated herself to pursuing art as a career beyond her role as a teacher. Stage illustrated her first book, Big Truck Day, during her time at LFHS.

Cover of Big Truck Day Book illustrated by Niki Stage

In addition to creating illustrations for a book, she actively contributed to a digital printing company that prints custom fabric, wallpaper, and home decor, Spoonflower

Spoonflower allows independent artists worldwide, including Mrs. Stage, to express their ideas and creativity through a web marketplace. She even planned on having her students in the upcoming Business of Fashion class create their own designs for Spoonflower.

While Mrs. Stage’s passing will leave a void in the LFHS community, the administration is working to commemorate her legacy and impact. Currently, a yearbook page is in the works and the school has offered moments of silence at meetings. 

“Mrs. Stage was always super bubbly and always had something to add to conversations; there was never a dull moment with her. Sometimes I would go into her room during lunch while my friends and I worked on our assignments, and she was always someone fun to talk to and had such close relationships with her students,” said sophomore Maggie Jarvinen.

Visitation will be Friday from 9:30 a.m. until the time of funeral mass at 11 a.m. at St. Nectarios Greek Orthodox Church in Palatine. Interment will be held privately.

Mrs. Stage’s classroom was not only a place for creating art, but additionally a space for students to connect with her on a personal level. Students and teachers saw Mrs. Stage not only as a teacher but as a confidant as well.

Mrs. Stage’s impact extended not only to art but to the colleagues, who she considered friends.

Several teachers hold dear memories of Mrs. Stage, depicting her as a spirited individual who attempted to bring positivity into every moment possible.

“I will never forget the “LaCroix League” we started in the Art Department last year. We would all bring in a new flavor of LaCroix each week and would rank them. Mrs. Stage would always make her husband go out and find new flavors for us. We tried over 20 different flavors! It was a great way for our department to have fun and bond….Blackberry Cucumber was the overall winner and also Mrs. Stage’s favorite flavor,” said Mrs. Herget.

Illustration created by Niki Stage

When thinking of Mrs. Stage, many students and teachers recall her trademark, “Let’s do this, people!” Either hyping teachers up before going to teach or the students in her class before having them get started on something, Stage always exuded enthusiasm and excited people about the tasks in front of them.

A common observation made by those closest to Mrs. Stage was her remarkable ability to bring calm and fun to any situation. It was agreed upon by the art department that she was an “incredibly easygoing person” and that one of her best qualities was being able to enjoy life while not taking the little things too seriously.

“We’ll miss her joyful, upbeat personality. We’ll miss her infectious smile, her can-do attitude, and her incredible talent as both an artist and educator. She has made me a better educator and person. I will forever hold her in my heart,” said LFHS art teacher Mrs. Jen Thomas.

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