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How Did Jaime Escalante Help Students?

Teachers are often referred to as the unsung heroes of our society. Their dedication to the profession truly changes the path of misdirected youths. It goes without saying teachers are a vital part of every economy. There isn’t one without them. But have you heard of Jaime Escalante and how he changed the lives of his students?  

Jaime Escalante, an American educator, helped many students pass the AP exams without cheating. He believed in the students’ educational capabilities despite their violent and uneducated backgrounds.

Who was Jaime Escalante?

Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutiérrez was born on December 31, 1930 in La Paz, Bolivia, to Zenobio and Sara Escalante. Escalante attended a prestigious Jesuit elementary school in San Calixto, where he demonstrated a keen interest in mathematics and engineering at a young age.

He then attended Normal Superior to follow in his parents’ footsteps as a teacher. In the 1960s, the Bolivian teacher migrated to the United States in the hopes of gaining a better life. By 1969, Escalante obtained his Associate of Arts degree from Pasadena City College, and a few years later earned his Bachelor’s degree in Arts from California State University.

After obtaining his teaching credentials, Escalante was appointed as a mathematics teacher at the Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. This particular school was known for students who came from violent neighborhoods and were exposed to drug-related activities.

Always believing in the intellectual capabilities of his students, the mathematics teacher set out to help his students by offering to teach them advanced placement calculus. He started an advanced mathematics program together with a small group of students. (Source: The Famous People)

Jaime Escalante as an American Educator

By 1982, Escalante’s class grew. And he had 18 students. All of them took the advanced placement test in calculus and passed. This achievement attracted the media’s attention. Sadly,  the students were accused of cheating on the test. Escalante was furious at the claim, believing that the results were challenged due to racial discrimination. Since most of his students were Hispanic attending a poor high school.

Some of the students agreed to retake the exam. They proved that they didn’t cheat when they passed it the second time. This helped Escalante’s advanced placement calculus program grow in the following years, even though he received multiple death threats and hate mail. By 1991, Escalante left Garfield High School and moved to Hiram W. Johnson after losing chairmanship of the mathematics department a year earlier. (Source: The Famous People)

Life After Garfield High School

In the new school, Escalante could not achieve the same success as in Garfield, leading him to retire from teaching in 1998. But as an educator by heart, the famous teacher went home to Bolivia to teach at Universidad Privada del Valle in 2001.

Escalante’s work in Garfield High School helped him earn the 1988 Presidential Medal for Excellence in Education, which President Ronald Reagan awarded. In the same year, the film Stand and Deliver was released. The movie focused on his life and his achievement in teaching students. He was also inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 1999. Escalante passed away on March 30, 2010, due to bladder cancer. (Source: The Famous People)

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