Sandra Santos-Vizcaino was a leader in dual language education, a longtime teacher beloved not just by her own family but by scores of children she taught over a 25-year career.
And now the public school system is mourning her as the first teacher to die from the new coronavirus.
"To Sandra and her family, we are incredibly, just incredibly thankful for her service and we are devastated by her death,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said.
Santos-Vizcaino began her teaching career in 1995, and came to P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn in 2016 as a bilingual third-grade teacher. She loved to cook Dominican food and bake cakes, and sang in her church choir. She leaves behind her husband, Felix, and two children, Victor and Viviana.
"She loved seeing her students grow, right, she loved to see them progress and learn and learn how to teach themselves things,” Viviana told NY1.
On a website set up by the school, students shared heartbreaking tributes to her, recalling her love of owls and her hugs.
"She loved owls and owls are very wise. Mrs. Vizcaino was like my owl," one student wrote.
"I am going to miss her warm hugs and sweet treats," posted another.
"The notion that we've lost a teacher, it's very painful,” Mayor de Blasio said. “These are people who devote their lives to our kids, and losing someone who is that good a person, who is giving that much, is just very very painful."
P.S. 9 held a virtual meeting for students in her class Thursday, and is offering counseling.
"Sandra Santos-Vizcaino, we know that she's made a lasting impact on her community and her family and we are going to work to make sure that we honor her work with her students,” Carranza said.
Her children say she had a dream of opening a school for children with disabilities in the Dominican Republic.
“Somehow, I hope my sister and I can still get that done for her.”
Sandra Santos Vizcaino was 54.