Teacher whose video of first-graders greeting each other went viral dies of COVID-19

U.S. & World

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The El Paso teacher whose video of children hugging and high-fiving became a national sensation in 2018 has died from COVID-19.

Zelene Blancas died Monday after a two-month battle with the virus. She was 35 years old.

Two years ago, Blancas, a first grade dual language teacher at Dr. Sue A. Shook Elementary, recorded her students using a “good morning or goodbye” menu to give each other high-fives, hugs, fist-bumps and handshakes. Nearly all the students opted for the hug, embracing each other with big smiles – the touching video went viral with tens of thousands of likes on Twitter.

Blancas first became ill in October and was hospitalized shortly thereafter. According to Nick Adkins, founder of Pinksocks Life, she spent nine weeks in the ICU before her death on Monday.

“The ripple effect of love and kindness that she put out into the universe through teaching her kids through the years is immeasurable,” said Adkins. “Ms. Blancas and the entire staff and students at Shook are what we should all strive for each and every day, each and every now. She lives on in the love that she taught and spread. I am grateful for her. We all are.”

Adkins said Blancas’ brother notified him of her death early Monday morning. A GoFundMe account that was initially set up to assist her family with medical expenses went viral among the Pinksocks Life community, a group of people who aim to spread kindness, compassion and empathy through gifting bright, pink socks with mustaches on them. Blancas was a member of the Pinksocks Life community and, with Adkins’ help, gifted hundreds of pink socks to students at Sue Shook Elementary.

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