A 35-year-old first-grade teacher from Texas known for a viral video teaching her students about kindness died of COVID-19

Zelene Blancas

  • Zelene Blancas, a 35-year-old first-grade teacher in El Paso, Texas, died Monday following a more than two-month battle with COVID-19, local media reported.
  • In 2018, Blancas went viral on Twitter for sharing a wholesome video of her students embracing each other as they exited her classroom, part of a school an imitative to teach emotional intelligence.
  • More than 340,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19, according to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University.
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A 35-year-old first-grade teacher in El Paso, Texas, died of COVID-19 on Monday after battling the disease for more than two months, local media outlets KTSM and the El Paso Times first reported.

Zelene Blancas spent nine weeks in a COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) prior to her death this week, Nick Adkins, founder of Pinksocks Life, a nonprofit focused on promoting human connection and supporting other charitable organizations, partially through the spreading of pink socks with mustaches on them, told the outlet. 

Blancas had been involved in the Pinksocks Life community prior to her death, according to KTSM. Members of the community had previously come together to support Blancas while she was hospitalized by raising funds for her medical expenses through GoFundMe, according to KTSM.

The GoFundMe has so far raised more than $19,000 as of Wednesday afternoon. According to the fundraiser, created by her family, Blancas was diagnosed with COVID-19 on October 20, despite taking precautions, and was hospitalized just four days later. The fundraiser described Blancas as a "beloved daughter, sister, and aunt" and a "dedicated teacher with 10 years of experience."

Blancas, a bilingual educator at the Dr. Sue A. Shook Elementary School in El Paso, had even once gone viral in 2018 for a wholesome video that showed how she was teaching her students to be kind to one another. In the two-year-old video, which Blancas shared to Twitter at the time, her young students were seen excitedly embracing each other with hugs, handshakes, or high-fives as they exited the classroom. 

The video has been liked more than 83,000 times since she uploaded it. It depicted a new initiative Blancas' school had taken on at the time, which aimed to educated students on how to handle their emotions, according to a report from the El Paso Times following the viral video that year.

"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," Blancas' colleague, Patty Flores, told The El Paso Times.

More than 340,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19 this year, according to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University.

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