Heidi Kreger, a second grade teacher at Evergreen Elementary, died Tuesday, just nine days after she was diagnosed with Leukemia. She was 40.
Kreger, who was just married last year, has been with the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District for 16 years, most recently at Evergreen. She also taught at Goldridge Elementary until it closed.
Teachers and students were shocked Tuesday when they heard the tragic news — her condition was not expected to be life threatening. Kreger’s friends and colleagues said doctors quoted a 95 percent cure rate. Things were looking up. She started a chemotherapy regimen days after she found out she had blood cancer, and was planning to return to work this week. But, Kreger’s health condition took a turn for the worse early Tuesday morning; she passed away later that afternoon.
Teachers, parents and students Wednesday grew more distraught as word spread. At Evergreen, teachers spent most of the day counseling and consoling students, who later put up an ad hoc memorial for Kreger. They wrote messages and memories for the teacher that they said loved the kids more than anything, and pasted them outside on the school’s wall.
“We will miss you, you’re still part of the Evergreen family,” wrote one student.
“I feel so sad, I miss you Mrs. Kreger,” wrote another.
“She was a beloved teacher and friend, and her loss affects our entire community,” wrote Principal Gaylene Rosaschi in a letter that was sent home with the kids. “I want you to know that you can come and talk to me if you’re feeling sad or if you want to talk about her.”
“She was a very kind person, and a compassionate, supportive teacher,” said Sara Crouthers, a parent whose daughter Alana was in Kreger’s class. “She once told me something I’ll never forget, she said ‘I don’t have any children of my own, so these kids are like my children.’"
“You measure the strength of community when tragedy strikes, and where the rubber meets the road, this district is rich,” said Susan Adams, a Rohnert Park resident who also has kids in the district.
“The principal and administrators came into the classroom this morning, and they cried right with the kids, it was amazing,” Adams said.
Tech High Principal Adam Littlefield was the principal at Goldridge when Kreger worked there.
“She was a wonderful lady; the had a tremendous ability to help others and a huge heart,” Littlefield said.
Even in her ailing condition, up until she passed, Kreger worried about her students, friends said.
“She was like a mother hen, she took care of those kids and always had a smile on her face. She will be missed,” Littlefield said.
Editor's note: There will be a candlelight vigil for Heidi Tatum Kreger tonight —Thursday, May 12 at Evergreen Elementary at 7 p.m.