Zelene Blancas, the teacher who touched the hearts of millions after posting a video of her students hugging each other, has died of COVID.
Zelene taught Spanish at the Dr. Sue A. Shook Elementary School in El Paso and was on a path to becoming a bilingual special ed teacher.
She gained national — even worldwide — attention back in 2018, after posting a video of students leaving for a weekend break. As they left, they hugged one and another in a showing of caring and love that produced 23 million views.
Zelene tested positive for coronavirus in late October and ended up in the hospital shortly after her diagnosis. She spent nearly 2 months in ICU and when things became financially desperate last month, her brother set up a GoFundMe account on her behalf.
She died Monday from COVID complications.
Her death affected much of El Paso. In addition to teaching, Zelene taught evening literacy classes to parents. During the pandemic, she delivered food and other items to the homes of some of her students.
Zelene was 35.