Beloved Valley educator loses battle with COVID-19

As a final goodbye, staff and students Vikki Cha taught released white balloons into the air.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Vikki Cha brought happiness to so many students and staff at Burrel Elementary School.

"I remember the project when she made me the princess mask," said kindergartener Sofia Iniquez.

Less than a month ago, the after-school educator lost her battle with COVID-19.

She worked at the school for less than a year, but her presence will never be forgotten.

A mural of the beloved teacher now watches over the students she cared for so deeply.

"The Burrel Community really, really embraced her and she just really stepped up with our students in expanded learning," said Emma Chavez, project specialist with the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools.

Cha started working with the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools right before the pandemic hit.

Staff said she moved to the Central Valley from Sacramento to start a life with her fiancé.

Because of the coronavirus, much of her work was done virtually.

Those who worked closely with her say she always kept students on their toes.

"She would surprise the students," said site lead Daisy Martinez. "The kids would come here with excitement looking forward to what she was going to do with them."

Burrel Union superintendent Elizabeth Runyon said Cha was one in a million.

"We will miss her," she said. "She was a hard-to-find rare gem and she was very special."

As a final goodbye, staff and students she taught released white balloons into the air with a unified message, "Those we love never go far, but live forever in our hearts."

Cha was laid to rest in Fresno Wednesday.
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