HYATTSVILLE, Md. — Coronavirus has stolen the life of a second beloved educator at a Prince George's County school.
Annis Creese took two buses every day to get to her students at Northwestern High School, where people called the 72-year-old "mom."
"She touched a lot of lives," her daughter, Michelle Hyland, said.
Education was everything to the Spanish teacher. It was the way she climbed out of poverty in Trinidad, studying on the bus to and from school, and reading by candlelight in the dark bedroom of a relative's home.
"When my aunt discovered she was lighting a candle to read, she would blow the candle out, because she said it was going to catch the curtain on fire," Hyland said.
And Creese raised her two children to love learning. Her son recalls a particularly difficult conversation they had when he was in college.
"I called her up, and I said, 'mom, I think I'm going to just drop out,'" Michael Hyland said.
Creese asked him about his next steps. He said he hadn't really thought about it, but told her maybe he'd try stand-up comedy.
"You're not that funny," she responded. "You need to stay in school."
He went on to earn a PhD in chemistry and became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force.
"Viruses don't discriminate," Lt. Col. Hyland said. "They don't care what country you're from. They don't care about your age. All they care about is finding a host and replicating."
Most of all, education was a pathway to success that Creese shared with her students.
"She would effectively just adopt students," Lt. Col. Hyland said. "Especially if she could see that flash or that glimmer of potential."
Hyland said he felt like his mom just disappeared when she went into the hospital last Tuesday with a dry cough that would not stop. Within days, she was on a ventilator, and then she was gone. Her children were only able to talk to her by phone.
"I haven't even got any hugs, because everyone is in their own enclave," Creese's grieving daughter said. "Just please, it's very serious. It took my mother's life."
Creese's children said their mom's former students have been calling and writing, talking about how Creese had guided them towards a career. The memories have made Michael and Michelle feel less alone.
Creese had planned to retire this year after a boisterous student knocked her down with an over-exuberant hug.
But her son said she kept putting off her last day at work, because she just couldn't get enough of "her kids."