Zelene Blancas, El Paso, Texas, teacher whose video of students hugging became a national sensation dies from Covid-19


Zelene Blancas, a first grade teacher at Dr Sue A. Shook Elementary School in El Paso, Texas, died on Monday, her family told CNN. She was 10 years into her teaching career.

Blancas tested positive for the coronavirus on October 20 and a few days later she was hospitalized, her brother, Mario Blancas, told CNN. After weeks of showing signs of healing and taking action on her own, her oxygen levels dropped and she was intubated on November 22.

The otherwise healthy 35-year-old has never come out of the ventilator, her brother said. She spent two months in hospital before dying of complications from Covid-19, her family said.

“She was like my Wonder Woman,” Blancas said. “She was my backbone, and she was like my second mother even though we were only four years apart. “

The way she lived her life and how she conveyed a message of kindness to her students and everyone around her is how her family wants to remember Zelene, he said.

“Even though sometimes being a teacher is a bit difficult… she always looked in a positive way,” Blancas said. “I didn’t know until now, but she was a walking angel.

Zelene Blancas leaves behind her parents, Gloria Luna and Victor Blancas, her brother and niece, Natalia. Her babies were her two dogs, Rocky and Chico.

The family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for their medical expenses during their extended stay in hospital. The family plan to hold a funeral for Zelene on January 8, her brother said.

She taught her students to be nice

The bilingual teacher gained national attention two years ago when she video of students saying goodbye got over 22 million views. She taught her students to be nice, school principal Cristina Sanchez-Chavira told CNN.

Chavira said she remembered when Blancas captured the video right before the November 2018 vacation. The video showed a line of students saying goodbye to a classmate, after choosing a hug, a handshake, a high five or a punch.

“It was his class every day. It wasn’t anything she was doing special or something new, ”Chavira said. “The culture in her classroom was very caring, very loving. She taught her children to be kind to each other and to really see each other as family.

The video provided an overview of the kind of classroom environment Blancas encouraged and represented who the teacher was.

“That was her in itself,” Chavira said. “That in itself tells you the culture she has created in her classroom. ”

Beloved teacher wore oxygen mask for virtual lessons before losing battle with Covid-19

Blancas was a bilingual teacher and most of her students were learning English, Chavira said. Some of its students were new to the country and others were new to the area. It was up to Blancas to put parents and students at ease.

“Teachers do more than teach,” she says. “The success she had in her classroom, with her students, with her family, was because she had this passion to make a difference and to take it beyond academics to students.

Blancas was the first to help new colleagues and the first to help anyone who needed it, Chavira said.

“We are all suffering because we know what a great future she had ahead of her,” said Chavira. “She was a shining star. Our community, our students, her family, are short of this smile, this love, this warmth that she has contributed. ”

Chavira said you can see Blancas’ passion “the moment you meet it”.

She spread love and kindness with pink socks

This passion has spread around the world in Blancas’ many tweets about his students, his class and his work with a non-profit organization meant to spread kindness.

Nick Adkins met Blancas on Twitter in 2018 when he saw his video of his students hugging and leaving the classroom.

Adkins gave the teacher pink socks for the 32 students in his class, he said in a blog post. He is the co-founder of Pinksocks Life, a nonprofit that promotes human connection and kindness, according to his website.

The idea is that whoever gets the pink socks becomes part of the mission to spread love and empathy and Blancas “lived the ethic of the gift every day,” he said.

Zelene Blancas was

“Zelene Blancas was the best of mankind,” Adkins wrote. “The ripple effect of the love and kindness that she has brought into the universe teaching her children over the years is immeasurable. ”

Blancas lived the mission and his legacy is the mission, Adkins wrote to CNN.

“Ms. Blancas, all of the staff and students at Shook are what we should all be striving for every day, every moment. She lives in the love that she taught and spread, ”he wrote.

Blancas also helped her school progress towards recovery after the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso in August 2019. She hosted a big event at the school to get pink socks for every student and staff member, his brother said.

Pinksocks Life raised the money and donated 1,337 pink socks to the school, Adkins wrote in a blog post.

“Her idea was basically to promote kindness because lately there’s been a lot of bullying, so she wanted to reverse that and make these students change and believe in kindness,” her brother said.

Blancas said his sister is working on his own passion project, one he hopes he can bring to light. She was writing a children’s book and had already drawn the illustrations, he says.

It was his sister who also inspired Blancas to become a teaching assistant and follow in her footsteps, he said.

“She has been a mentor to me in a personal and professional way,” Blancas said. “Thanks to her, I will follow her heritage and I will become a teacher. ”


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