Jaime Escalante may be gone, but his legacy will always live on. In 1974 times were hard let for anyone let lone a Bolivian immigrant, but Jaime Escalante took a job at one of the worst, most poverty stricken violent schools in East Los Angeles, “Garfield High School”. What started out as a computer class teacher ended up being instructor of a Math class due to the lack of funding for computers and other educational aids that would enable students to learn better.
Garfield High’s reputation was less than scholarly and the students took pride in being rebellious and street wise. These students were less than enthusiastic about learning anything that didn’t consist of violence, drugs or being street wise, ut their new teacher had the “Gadas” or desire to educate these students that many had given up on. The majority of these students were of Hispanic background, as was Escalante so this was a foundation he felt he could start building a class and relationship on.
Gaining the trust of this group of per say “bad kids was also a huge factor where accepting the new teacher was concerned, kids like these were not used to anyone caring about them, let alone have faith in them and encouraging them that once applying themselves they could succeed , if only it had been that easy… Teaching was omething Jaime Escalante was familiar with as both his parents were educators in Bolivia, although becoming an educator with Garfield High School was quite a challenge at first.
Jaime was so upset by the lack of support, initiative and all around desire to learn from the students he actually decided to attempt to get his old job as a computer programmer back. Fate has a way of intervening and before he could make the decision to go back to his old job, 12 students signed up for an Algebra class. This opened the door for what no one thought could be possible. These students were rebellious nd less than focused but Jaime had a unique and special teaching manner that actually helped these kids understand and keep their attention as to what he was presenting to them.
He found ways to break things down in manners they could easily understand, for example when teaching them fraction he brought fruit into the classroom, cut the fruit into pieces using the pieces as examples as to how many were missing using them in fractions which enabled his students to comprehend things better. Jamie felt learning could be better accomplished visually than by lecturing the class, Escalante lso had a very unique sense of humor and made jokes, spoke of funny things and tried to be a friend as well as educator to his students, and in return they knew that he genuinely cared about them.
He encouraged and worked with his students to take the Advanced Placement Calculus Exam, he even invited them over to his home for dinner and to study together the night before the exam In 1982 Jaime’s hard work paid off as all 18 of his students took the Advanced Placement Calculus Exam and defied all odds by passing! Cheating was declared due to all students missed the exact same question and all roblems were solved using the same formula. 14 of the 18 students were asked to retake the test over, 12 of the 14 students agreed to retake the test, and once again passed with flying colors!
Source: (Biography. com/people/ Jaime-Escalante) This accomplishment amazed people and put Garfield High School on the map and earned national recognition, the Calculus class doubled and Jaime was a personal hero, mentor and admired by many. His success also included tension and hard feelings within the school system and in 1991 after receiving threats and hate mail, Jaime left Garfield High and took a teaching osition at another school leaving behind a record numbers of students taking the Advanced Placement Calculus Exam.
Teaching at other schools just wasn’t as fulfilling for Jaime, and he decided to leave the United States and return to his native Bolivia in 2001 teaching at a college part time. This too was not as fulfilling to Jaime. Jaime had left behind a legacy at Garfield High that earned him numerous forms Of recognition and awards, the name Jaime Escalante was a name that most people had heard mention of and admired by everyone. All his awards were nothing in comparison to the lives he hanged and the hope, desire and encouragement he bestowed upon his former students, he never gave up on them even when they had given up on their selves!
Unfortunatley Jaime was diagnosed with bladder cancer, he fought a courageous battle but the disease eventually took his life March 30th, 2010. During his long battle with cancer, his former students, and even movie stars came to his aid so he would be able to afford the expensive cancer treatments they donated money and did what they could to ensure the one that had changed their lives would get the treatments he needed, but he disease won in the end.
Jaime Escalante may have passed on, but his legacy and contributions will live on for many generations, he was a true educator to be looked up to,if anyone questions what type of educator he was, I encourage them to watch ‘Stand and Deliver” the movie that was written about his life. This movie deplicted Jaime Escalante from life in Bulgaria to his accomplishments and awards. Jaime Escalante brought hope to students that society had given up on, he took these kids under his wing, giving the attention, support and encouragement they needed to succeed and o beyond High School.
Until watched the movie about his life I had never even heard ofJaime Escalante, but one watching it, reading about him and viewing you tube videos Jaime himself is in speaking about being a teacher, I never realized exactly what a remarkable man he really was. Teaching was just not a job to him, it was a mission, he was determined that those he taught would succeed, there would be no slackers or those that gave up, he was the only hope some had for a future. He was a true advocate for the underprivledged and accomplished what others couldn’t nor had the desire o . … elieve in poor racially discriminated young people and give them the education they deserved.