'Model teacher:' Mesa Middle community remembers teacher who died of COVID
LAS CRUCES – The Mesa Middle School community is grieving the loss of one of its founding teachers who died on Monday.
Elizabeth Placencio, a 42-year-old media teacher at Mesa Middle School, passed away after spending nearly a month in the hospital battling COVID-19.
Placencio was a teacher with LCPS for more than 20 years, teaching film and broadcast at Mesa Middle since the school opened in 2010.
"She was the example and model teacher for our young teachers and veteran teachers because of her giving heart, she never thought about herself," said Mesa Middle School Principal Steve Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said that Placencio was among the few remaining staff members who had been with Mesa since its founding.
"The culture that … our staff have created Mesa is a family culture," Rodriguez said. "It's not a weakness that we have that family culture at our school. But it definitely makes it hard to lose any of our staff … but it's also our strength, because it's what's going to get us through this and knowing that she would want us all to continue with what we're doing at our school."
Placencio also recently became the school's librarian as well as the media teacher.
Charlene Ortega, who teaches computer science at Mesa Middle, was Placencio's friend for the past decade. Ortega said she has fond memories of Placencio working on fundraisers for the school, collaborating with club activities and volunteering at school dances.
"She just had this energy about her," Ortega said. "(She was a) helpful, giving person …. At the end of the day, we would just look at each other, we were tired, we were exhausted …. Everything that we did it was … for the school and for the kids."
Placencio built the school's media production course from the ground up, giving students at Mesa Middle the opportunity to compete in Student Television Network, a national competition for school broadcast.
"She worked tirelessly," said Casey Blazer, a physical education teacher at Mesa and friend of Placencio. "She made things happen for (her students) that they might not ever get another opportunity to do. She just always went above and beyond."
Ben Serrano, a former media teacher at Mesa Middle said that the school will always remember Placencio and what she's done for the community. He said he's received messages from former students saying how much they were impacted by Placencio.
He encouraged any students or community members to reach out so everyone can support each other through this loss.
"She was one of our pillars that kept our community together, and was always visible for anybody, and available for them," Serrano said. "We're just taking it day by day now. She's always gonna be a big part of Mesa Middle School, and a big part of our lives in general."
Serrano and Rodriguez both fondly remember pranks they pulled on Placencio throughout the years, saying she was always a good sport and joking around.
"Her laugh was contagious," Rodriguez said. "She brought joy to our school."
The two also started a Go Fund Me to raise money for the Placencio family. Search for "Eliabeth Placencio" at gofundme.com to learn more.
Placencio is survived by her husband and daughter.
"We just want everybody to know what kind of person that she was, and how much she meant to everybody," Blazer said. "She was a good friend, she was a good mom, a great wife, a daughter. She just was a magnificent person all around."
Placencio is the fifth educator in the district who has passed due to COVID-19.