Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutierrez (December 31, 1930 – March 30,
2010) was a Bolivian educator known for teaching students calculus
from 1974 to 1991 at Garfield High School, East Los Angeles,
California. Escalante was the subject of the 1988 film Stand and
Deliver, in which he is portrayed by Edward James Olmos.
In 1993, the asteroid
Contents 1 Early life 2 Education 3 Early career 4 National attention 5 Later life 6 Death and legacy 7 Awards and honors 8 See also 9 References 10 External links Early life[edit] Escalante was born to two teachers of Aymara ancestry[3][4] in 1930 in La Paz, Bolivia. He was proud of his Aymara heritage and, as an adult, he would proclaim, "The Aymara knew math before the Greeks and Egyptians."[5] Education[edit] Unspecified Year: Escuela Normal Simón Bolivar, School Teacher Degree
1955: University Mayor de San Andres, Licentiate in Mathematics
1969: Associate of Arts, Pasadena City College
1973:
Early career[edit]
Escalante taught mathematics and physics for 12 years in Bolivia
before he immigrated to the United States.[4] Then, "he had to work
many odd jobs, teach himself English and earn another college degree
before he could return to the classroom."[6]
In 1974, he began teaching at Garfield High School. Escalante
eventually changed his mind about returning to work when he found 12
students willing to take an algebra class.[7]
Shortly after Escalante came to Garfield High School, its
accreditation became threatened. Instead of gearing classes to poorly
performing students, Escalante offered AP Calculus. He had already
earned the criticism of an administrator, who disapproved of his
requiring the students to answer a homework question before being
allowed into the classroom. "He told me to just get them inside,"
Escalante reported, "but I said, there is no teaching, no learning
going on."[8]
Determined to change the status quo, Escalante persuade a few students
that they could control their futures with the right education. He
promised them that they could get jobs in engineering, electronics,
and computers if they would learn math: "I'll teach you math and
that's your language. With that, you're going to make it. You're going
to college and sit in the first row, not the back because you're going
to know more than anybody."[9]
The school administration opposed Escalante frequently during his
first few years. He was threatened with dismissal by an assistant
principal because he was coming in too early, leaving too late, and
failing to get administrative permission to raise funds to pay for his
students' Advanced Placement tests. The opposition changed with the
arrival of a new principal, Henry Gradillas. Aside from allowing
Escalante to stay, Gradillas overhauled the academic curriculum at
Garfield, reducing the number of basic math classes and requiring
those taking basic math to take algebra as well. He denied
extracurricular activities to students who failed to maintain a C
average and to new students who failed basic skills tests. One of
Escalante's students remarked, "If he wants to teach us that bad, we
can learn."[8]
Escalante continued to teach at Garfield and instructed his first
calculus class in 1978. He hoped that it could provide the leverage to
improve lower-level math courses. Escalante recruited fellow teacher
Ben Jiménez and taught calculus to five students, two of whom passed
the AP calculus test. The following year, the class size increased to
nine students, seven of whom passed the AP calculus test. By 1981, the
class had increased to 15 students, 14 of whom passed. Escalante
placed a high priority on pressuring his students to pass their math
classes, particularly calculus. He rejected the common practice of
ranking students from first to last but frequently told his students
to press themselves as hard as possible in their assignments.[7]
National attention[edit]
In 1982, Escalante came into the national spotlight when 18 of his
students passed the challenging Advanced Placement
It took him several years to achieve the kind of success shown in the film. No student who did not know multiplication tables or fractions was ever taught calculus in a single year. Escalante suffered inflammation of the gall bladder, not a heart attack. Over the next few years, Escalante's calculus program continued to
grow but at a price. Tensions that surfaced when his career at
Garfield began, now escalated. In his final years at Garfield,
Escalante received threats and hate mail from various individuals.[12]
By 1990, he had lost the math department chairmanship. Escalante's
math enrichment program had grown to more than 400 students. His class
sizes had increased to over 50 students in some cases. That was far
beyond the 35 student limit set by the teachers' union, which
increased its criticism of Escalante's work. In 1991, the number of
Garfield students taking advanced placement examinations in math and
other subjects jumped to 570. The same year, citing faculty politics
and petty jealousies,[citation needed] Escalante and Jiménez left
Garfield. Escalante found new employment at Hiram W. Johnson High
School in Sacramento, California. At the height of Escalante's
influence, Garfield graduates were entering the University of Southern
California in such great numbers that they outnumbered all the other
high schools in the working-class East Los Angeles region
combined.[13] Even students who failed the AP often went on to become
star students at California State University, Los Angeles.[12]
Angelo Villavicencio took the reins of the program after their
departure and taught the remaining 107 AP students in two classes for
the next year. Sixty-seven of Villavicencio's students went on to take
the AP exam and forty-seven passed. Villavicencio's request for a
third class because of class size was denied, and the following
spring, he followed Escalante and quit Garfield. The math program's
decline at Garfield became apparent following the departure of
Escalante and other teachers associated with its inception and
development. In just a few years, the number of AP calculus students
at Garfield who passed their exams dropped by more than 80%. In 1996,
Villavicencio contacted Garfield's new principal, Tony Garcia, and
offered to come back to help revive the dying calculus program. His
offer was rejected.[12]
Later life[edit]
In the mid-1990s, Escalante became a strong supporter of English-only
education efforts. In 1997, he joined Ron Unz's English for the
Children initiative, which eventually ended most bilingual education
in California schools.[citation needed]
In 2001, after many years of preparing teenagers for the AP calculus
exam, Escalante returned to his native Bolivia. He lived in his wife's
hometown, Cochabamba, and taught at Universidad Privada del Valle.[14]
He returned to the United States frequently to visit his children.
In early 2010[update], Escalante faced financial difficulties from the
cost of his cancer treatment. Cast members from Stand and Deliver,
including Edward James Olmos, and some of Escalante's former pupils,
raised funds to help pay for his medical bills.
He moved to Sacramento, California, to live with his son in the city
of Rancho Cordova. He taught at Hiram Johnson High School, very
similar to Garfield High School.[15]
Death and legacy[edit]
He died in 2010, at 79, at his son's home while undergoing treatment
for bladder cancer.[16][17]
On April 1, 2010, a memorial service honoring Escalante was held at
the Garfield High School, where he had taught from 1974 to 1991.
Students observed a moment of silence on the front steps of the
campus.[18] A wake was held on April 17, 2010 in the classroom at
Garfield High School.[19]
Another tribute to Escalante occurred in Portland, Oregon, where an
unnamed artist replaced real street signs with fake ones as a prank,
including "N
1988 – Presidential Medal for Excellence in Education, awarded by
President
See also[edit] List of teachers portrayed in films John Saxon (educator)
References[edit] ^ Woo, Elaine (March 31, 2010). "
External links[edit] Hall of Fame profile
Authority control WorldCat Identities VIAF: 251203623 LCCN: n87871875 ISNI: 0000 0003 7480 4418 GND: 118924192 SN |