Education

Keri Stromski, beloved kindergarten teacher in Riverhead, dies at 48

Keri Stromski, a longtime kindergarten teacher at Aquebogue Elementary School who instilled a love of reading into generations of students while becoming a strong advocate for education in the Riverhead community, died Tuesday at her Jamesport home from breast cancer. She was 48.

Riverhead interim superintendent Christine Tona said she “was saddened by the news of Keri Stromski’s passing.”

“She was incredibly dedicated to her family, her students, the Riverhead Central School District and the Riverhead community and will be greatly missed,” Ms. Tona added. “We can all learn from Keri’s example of strength during the most difficult of circumstances.”

Ms. Stromski, a mother of three, continued to teach while undergoing treatment, even via remote learning this past year during the pandemic. She documented her journey on a blog titled “Faith over Fear.” In her final post on Feb. 2, she described what her oncologist called “the rogue outlier,” a new enhanced lesion in the liver.

She was first diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and used the past five years to advocate for funding and research for stage 4 cancer patients.

She never lost a sense of humor while undergoing treatment, posting videos on TikTok where her upbeat personality shined through and provided hope to all of her students and fellow community members.

Community members rallied in support of Ms. Stromski last weekend with a “Glass Slipper Parade” along Route 58 to Aquebogue Elementary School. Nearly 100 cars formed the caravan from the former Walmart to the elementary school. Some young students also dressed as superheroes in honor of their own superhero, Ms. Stromski.

A “Stromski Strong” sign outside Aquebogue Elementary School in support of teacher Keri Stromski. (Courtesy of Christine Springer)

In a Facebook post last Saturday, Ms. Stromski wrote: “Words cannot express the gratitude and love I feel for the Riverhead community. Thank you for helping me make today about the children and our Blue Wave family. I love you all and feel your prayers every day. Thank you for respecting the space we have taken and are taking to rest and heal.”

Christine Springer of Baiting Hollow, who helped organize the parade, said earlier this week she felt inspired by Ms. Stromski’s social media and posts published.

“No matter what she’s going through, she’s always there for everybody in Riverhead,” she said. “She’s all about this community.”

Ms. Stromski was the News-Review’s 2013 Educator of the Year, an honor she earned for advocating for equitable and quality education at a time when the state appeared headed down a path for new high-stakes testing that was highly criticized by educators. In 2012, she lobbied for her district invest in a reading program called Reading A-Z Kids that become popular among Riverhead’s elementary students.

https://twitter.com/Kstrom13/status/1373380853070503937

In 2019, Kait’s Angels held a fundraiser for Ms. Stromski and Nick Coutts of Mattituck, who was injured in a motorcycle crash. The yard sale raised $6,800, and Mr. Coutts donated his proceeds to Ms. Stromski after learning what she had endured.

“I can’t imagine what she, her kids and husband are going through,” he said at the time.

Ms. Stromski is survived by her husband, Rob, and their three children, Madison, Morgan and Quinn.

Visitation will be held Saturday from 1-4 p.m. and Sunday from 3-6 p.m. at McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Isidore R.C. Church in Riverhead.

Donations can be made to Stony Brook University Cancer Center’s Alison Stopeck Research Fund.

Correction: The date of death was Tuesday, April 6, not Wednesday, according to the funeral home.