Texas Teacher Known for Viral Hugging Video Has Passed Away from COVID-19

Zelene Blancas, a teacher in El Paso, Texas, who went viral in 2018, has sadly passed away from COVID-19 complications.

Last week, school officials confirmed with ABC News that Blancas died Monday at age 35.

Per her GoFundMe page created last month, the Dr. Sue A. Shook Elementary School educator tested positive for the coronavirus on October 20 and was hospitalized October 24.

Over the weekend, Blancas’ family released a statement about her tragic passing.

“Zelene was a beautiful person who spread love and positivity everyday and that is even more evident now. We are grateful to everyone who donated to and shared this campaign,” her family wrote on the GoFundMe page.

Her family also notes that there will be a memorial January 8 and that “her legacy of love and kindness will be with us forever.”

“We will forever be grateful to each and everyone of you who supported us through these most difficult of times and for remembering our Zelene with so much love.”

While speaking to ABC News, Principal Cristina Sanchez-Chavira described Blancas as “a very, very loving person.”

“She always made an effort to share kindness, whether it was with a message or a note or just reaching out to her colleagues,” Sanchez-Chavira said.

The principal said she hopes to honor Blancas once the school returns to in-person learning.

“It’s very easy to find teachers that can teach,” Sanchez-Chavira added. “But to find teachers that carry this passion and love for children, and the spreading of kindness, that in itself is irreplaceable.”

Back in 2018, Blancas — an El Paso native who taught at the school for four years — went viral after posting a touching video of her students giving each other hugs.

In the clip, the students selected from a “Good Morning or Goodbye” menu where they could give their fellow student a hug, handshake, high five, or a fist bump.

“What a nice way to end our week!!” Blancas wrote at the time.

Following the video’s success, Blancas told the El Paso Times in December 2018, “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.”

As of this writing, the heartwarming clip has amassed over 24 million views.

Additionally, Blancas’ GoFundMe page, aimed at covering her medical expenses, has raised over $33,000.

Our condolences go out to Zelene’s family, colleagues, and students for their loss.


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