"Students always responded positively to Mike," said Jeff Schmela, a fellow science teacher at Metea Valley High School in Aurora. "He was great at taking ideas and improving them, and refining things that have rough edges. At the same time, he never took himself super seriously."
A Winfield resident, Mr. Wegrzyn, 32, died Friday, June 6, at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield of a stroke, said his wife, Tribune reporter Kate Thayer Wegrzyn. He had suffered the stroke June 1.
Born in Winfield, Mr. Wegrzyn grew up in Wheaton and graduated from St. Francis High School. He earned a biology degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2004.
Right out of college, Mr. Wegrzyn started teaching science at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville.
"Mike had a passion for helping people and for learning, and teaching's just a perfect mesh of the two," his wife said. "He was really smart, and just loved people. Teaching really suited his personality and his zest for living."
In 2009, Mr. Wegrzyn shifted from Neuqua Valley to the newly opened Metea Valley.
"He loved what he did, and the kids knew it," said John Aister, a fellow Metea Valley science teacher who had worked with Mr. Wegrzyn since being an aide in his class at Neuqua Valley. "He brought enthusiasm every day, and every teacher who worked with him could see his enthusiasm for teaching. And he cared for the kids."
Mr. Wegrzyn met his future wife in 2007 at the wedding of mutual friends. They married in July 2010. They became parents to twin daughters, Elle and Aubren, in June 2013.
"Mike was a natural father," his wife said. "He loved nothing more than being a dad to those girls. And he was the best husband. He was always thinking of me. It's a cliche, but he treated me like a queen."
Mr. Wegrzyn was a staunch environmentalist, who "loved the earth and loved everything that was alive," his wife said. She recalled his love of recycling and his use of a rain barrel on their property.
"His favorite class to teach was an AP Environmental Science class," she said.
Mr. Wegrzyn also was the head coach of a women's lacrosse team known as the Tribe, which contained students from Metea Valley and from Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora.
"I really admired his patience and his love of the game and his whole outlook on life," said Morgan Weinstock, head junior varsity coach of the Tribe. "He would make time for everyone."
Weinstock also recalled Mr. Wegrzyn making efforts to watch his former players in their collegiate lacrosse matches.
"That just tells you what kind of a guy he was," she said.
Always athletic, Mr. Wegrzyn often biked the 12 miles from his home to his work, alongside Schmela. And Mr. Wegrzyn also completed two half Iron Man triathlons and ran the Chicago Marathon once with his wife.
In addition to his wife and daughters, Mr. Wegrzyn is survived by his father, Richard; his mother, Joan; a brother, David; and a sister, Sarah.
A visitation will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday at Williams-Kampp funeral home, 430 E. Roosevelt Road, Wheaton. A funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. John the Baptist Church, 0S233 Church St., Winfield.