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El Paso teacher’s video of her students goes viral

El Paso Times

Zelene Blancas, a bilingual teacher in Texas who posted a social media video of her students giving each other friendly greetings two years ago that captured national attention, has died from COVID-19, according to a former co-worker.

Blancas, who taught at Dr. Sue Shook Elementary School in El Paso, died this week, former Socorro ISD colleague Patty Flores said on social media. 

“Ms. Blancas was a dedicated teacher who loved her students and provided a positive, loving environment for them. She had a light that shined from within and was a positive influence on all those around her,” Flores said in an email.

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In her social media post, Flores said, “She was my colleague and friend and simply a beautiful person all around. She will be greatly missed but her legacy of kindness, love and joy will carry on with all those who were blessed to have known her.”

Zelene Blancas, a first-grade bilingual teacher at Dr. Sue Shook Elementary School in far East El Paso, shows the Twitter video she posted of her class that has gone viral with more than 13.6 million views. (Photo: Rudy Gutierrez)

According to a GoFundMe page seemingly started by her family to raise money for her treatment, Blancas tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 20, had to be hospitalized on Oct. 24 and was remanded to the intensive care unit.

An update was posted to the GoFundMe page this week, stating Blancas was still fighting in the ICU as of Dec. 26. The campaign had raised $18,250 of its $15,000 goal with more than 400 donors as of Tuesday afternoon.

Hundreds of people were still donating money to the fund on Tuesday, some writing comments praising Blancas for her character and her work teaching children. 

Ms Blancas was a dedicated teacher who loved her students and provided a positive, loving environment for them. She had a light that shined from within and was a positive influence on all those around her. She was my colleague and friend and simply a beautiful person all around. She will be greatly missed but her legacy of kindness, love and joy will carry on with all those who were blessed to have known her.

Flores said she worked with Blancas three years teaching fourth grade, before Blancas began teaching first grade and Flores moved to teach at another elementary school in the district.

“Regardless of the grade level she taught she was an inspiration and motivation for her students,” Flores said. “What she taught all of us about creating that positive environment, even during long distance learning, will never be forgotten.”

The video showing Blancas’ students giving high fives, hugs and handshakes received more than 13.6 million views in November 2018 and had 22.2 million views as of Tuesday.

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“I want them to go home feeling like I’ll be waiting for them here the next day, or for them to feel like they’ll have a safe place to come back to and learn in a safe environment,” Blancas said at the time.

Cristina Carreon can be reached at ccarreon@elpasotimes.com or found on Twitter @Cris_carreon90.

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/12/29/texas-teacher-social-media-video-covid-19-zelene-blancas/4081732001/



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