An elementary school teacher visited all of her students' houses after their school shut due to the coronavirus pandemic

  • Texas elementary school teacher Brandy Hurtado decided to drive by her students' houses with a sign saying "I miss you" after their school closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Hurtado told Insider that she got the idea after one of her students said he missed her and asked if she could visit him. 
  • She asked all the parents to keep her visits a secret, and said the best part was seeing her students' faces light up when she surprised them. 
  • Teachers in California, Indiana, Michigan, and more have also been doing these special drive-by visits for their students. 
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Before the coronavirus pandemic changed the world, Texas elementary school teacher Brandy Hurtado started every morning with a high five or a fist pump from each of her students. 

Now she can only see them through FaceTime after Gray Elementary School in Balch Springs decided to close for three weeks to help curb the spread of the disease. 

Hurtado, 39, told Insider that she speaks to her students on FaceTime every day

Her heart broke when one of the boys she teaches said he missed her and asked if she could visit him.

"I thought, OK, how can I adapt to everything going around us and accommodate his needs?" she said. "If I'm in my car, and he's on his porch, I'm still practicing social distancing." 

Hurtado visited her students with a big neon sign that read "I miss you."
Brandy Hurtado

So Hurtado came up with a plan: She would drive by each of her students' houses and hold up a bright sign with the words "I miss you" written in big letters, covered with hearts.

Hurtado asked her students' parents to keep the visits a secret, wanting to give them the ultimate surprise

She drove to surrounding cities and even a different county to see her students, often taking her 11-year-old son with her. Hurtado kept in constant contact with her students' parents before the visits, sending them a text when she was five minutes away so that they could get the big reveal ready. 

"They'd bring their child to the front porch with their eyes closed," she said. "And as soon as my students would see me, their eyes would light up." 

Hurtado said the best part of the visits was seeing her students' faces light up.
Brandy Hurtado

Hurtado said the best part of each visit was seeing the look of surprise on all of her students' faces

"One of my students, I remember he actually caught me driving up," she said. "He was sitting on his couch and saw me in the window and his face completely lit up. I could see he was looking back at whoever was with him like, 'My teacher, is she really here?'" 

Hurtado said many of her students don't understand social distancing yet, and tried to run up to her car much like they would run off the bus to give her a hug every morning at school. 

"It made me happy that they were that excited to see me, and that they were OK," she said. "I think I needed it as much as they did." 

Hurtado's school shared photos from her visit on its Facebook page, where they were shared tens of thousands of times.
Brandy Hurtado

Hurtado's students are already asking when she can come visit again, with some even requesting that she bring her dogs along. But, on Monday, a shelter-at-home order went into effect in Dallas County until at least April 3. 

Hurtado said she plans to talk to her principal and see if she will still be allowed to do drive-by visits. 

"At my school, one of our core values is students first," Hurtado said. "I want them to know that I care, and that I'm there." 

Hurtado still starts each day at 8 a.m., using Google Classroom to upload videos, documents, lessons, and activities for all of her students

She also sets aside time for each student to FaceTime her every single day so that they can "work on lessons, talk about anything that's bothering them, and ask any questions they have." 

Hurtado hopes to do more visits, but now her county is under a shelter-at-home order.
Brandy Hurtado

"I know that I could voice call them but, with FaceTime, that gives them the ability to see me and I know I'm still there," she said. "And I like to see them, too." 

While she still gets to see her students — in some capacity — every day, Hurtado said there is so much about them that she still misses

"I went to the school to pick up supplies and went to my classroom and it made me very sad," she said. "Because I don't know when I'm going to walk in again and tell my students 'good morning.'" 

"My day starts with them giving me a high five or a fist pump," she added. "We start our mornings together, we eat breakfast in our classroom together. I miss things like recess and lunch. Watching them play, just watching kids be kids." 

Hurtado's love for her students has warmed hearts across the nation after photos of her visits were shared on Gray Elementary School's Facebook page, racking up tens of thousands of shares.

One of Hurtado's students sends her a hug from his driveway.
Brandy Hurtado

Social media has seen similar pictures from teachers across the country, who want to make sure their students know that they're still there for them — even if they have to keep a safe distance. 

Teachers from Johnson Elementary School in Forney, Texas, had a "parade of cars" as they all drove to students' houses together. Over in Denton, Texas, the principal of McNail Elementary School led 43 educators on a "staff parade" to visit students as well. 

These heartwarming teacher visits have also been spotted in the likes of Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, California, and more

Hurtado said she's surprised the visits have received so much attention on social media, as she and her fellow teachers are just doing what they love. 

"This is just what we do for our students," she said. "Every single teacher on my campus would do something like this for our students."

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