'Stand and Deliver' maths teacher dies, aged 79

Friends, family and former students were yesterday mourning the death of Jaime Escalante, an eccentric maths teacher from East Los Angeles who transformed a troubled inner-city school by teaching advanced algebra to disadvantaged teenagers and inspired the hit film Stand and Deliver.

Mr Escalante died at his son's home near Sacramento, California, after a long battle with bladder cancer. He was 79. He was thrust into the public eye in 1982, when 14 of his students from Garfield High, one of the toughest schools in one of Los Angeles' toughest neighbourhoods, passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam, the US equivalent of an advanced maths A-level, with flying colours.

Officials suspected that they had been cheating and, amid howls of institutionalised racism, forced them to resit the exam, under controlled conditions. Twelve of the 14 agreed; all of them sailed through.

Public fascination with Mr Escalante, a balding, middle-aged Bolivian immigrant, swiftly turned him into one of the most famous teachers in America. Educators would travel from around the world to learn about the Garfield programme, which became one of the biggest and most successful in the US.

"Jaime exposed one of the most dangerous myths of our time – that inner-city students can't be expected to perform at the highest levels," said actor Edward James Olmos, who won an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Escalante in the 1988 film. "Because of him, that destructive idea has been shattered forever."

Escalante also became a campaigner for school reform. He pushed for high standards and accountability, and upset the political establishment with maverick takes on issues such as bilingual education for Hispanic students, which he opposed. More recently, he was an educational advisor to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Mr Escalante was born in Bolivia, and arrived in California at the age of 33 with only $3,000. Though barely able to speak English, he studied furiously while working a succession of manual jobs. A decade later, in 1974, he was taken on as a teacher at Garfield High where he placed heavy demands on students and had a "zero tolerance" policy for misbehaviour. Pupils called him "Kimo", after Tonto's nickname for the Lone Ranger, Kemo Sabe.

"Teaching is an art form. There's a lot of practitioners and very few artists. He was a master artist," said Elsa Bolado, one of the students forced to retake the exam in 1982, who is now a teacher. "To this day, I still think of the example he set ... How not to give up. I revert back to that every time things get rough."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high