Hispanic Heritage Month:
October 12, 2013
Name: Jaime Escalante
Occupation: Mathematics teacher
Birth, death: Dec. 31, 1930-March 30, 2010
Birthplace: La Paz, Bolivia
Mathematics teacher Jaime Escalante was made famous by actor Edward James Olmos, who portrayed him in the movie Stand and Deliver.
Mr. Escalante taught calculus and advanced math at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles for 20 years. The school was riddled with drugs and violence, and many said his students, who were mostly Hispanic, were unteachable. He challenged his students anyhow. Wanting to prove that they were better than being merely street kids, he started an advanced mathematics program with a handful of students.
His students came in before and after class, and in 1982, his largest class of students took and passed the calculus advanced placement test. Some students were accused of cheating by the testing company, which Mr. Escalante protested. A few months later many of the students retook the test and passed, according to Biography.com.
By 1991, 600 Garfield students were taking AP exams, not just in math, but in other subjects, which was unheard of at the time. However, that same year Mr. Escalante resigned, partly because he had enough of his fellow teachers who viewed him as a prima donna, according to NPR.
Mr. Escalante received several awards for his contributions to education, including the Presidential Medal for Excellence. He was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 1999.