Jaime Escalante, the Bolivian powerhouse who put East LA's Garfield High School on the map with its Calculus program, passed away yesterday at the age of 79. He was the inspiration for the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, which earned Edward James Olmos an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of the teacher.
The film, as per usual, took some liberties. Jaime Escalante put many years of teaching in before he reached the success that led to that AP test kerfuffle in 1982, and his students weren't struggling with multiplication tables at the beginning of the year. Nevertheless, his impact on the kids of Garfield High was impressive, with continuing AP success until school politics led him to leave the school in 1991. After working in Sacramento's school system for some years, Escalante returned to Bolivia in 2001. Plagued with bladder cancer, Escalante came back in the states. This year, students and Stand and Deliver cast raising funds for his medical bills. Unfortunately, the battle was lost.
Edward James Olmos says on his website: "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. Because of him, that destructive idea has been shattered forever. This is a legacy that changed American education, and I will work to ensure that it continues long into the future."
Our thoughts are with Jaime's family, friends, and students.