'Stand and Deliver' maths teacher dies, aged 79
Thursday 01 April 2010
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."
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
UK weather: Warning for more snow and ice as freezing temperatures and gales hit Britain
UK weather: Travel chaos continues as King's Cross train delays add to snow on roads
The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
North Korea calls Barack Obama 'a monkey' in latest attack as 'The Interview' row festers
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 1 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 Sussex couple die in suspected Christmas Day 'suicide pact'
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...
£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...