Math teacher Jaime Escalante talks with students in his calculus class at Garfield High School in Los Angeles, Cailf, March 16, 1988. Escalante is the teacher on which the movie "Stand and Deliver" is based. (AP Photo)
He was the math teacher who taught students about humanity. Jaime Escalante, the former Garfield High School math teacher who inspired the film "Stand and Deliver," died Tuesday at age 79.
Escalante had been in Reno, Nev., for the past month being treated for bladder cancer. Actor Edward James Olmos, who portrayed Escalante in "Stand and Deliver," told the Los Angeles Times that Escalante died at 2:27 p.m. in Roseville, Calif., at the home of his son, Jaime Jr.
"He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren," Olmos told The Times.
He said he drove Escalante from the Reno hospital to Roseville Monday night.
A posting on the Garfield High School Facebook page read, "Our condolences to his family. He will forever live in our hearts and memories. The entire Garfield community and East L.A. extends our gratitude to God for allowing Mr. Escalante to grace us with his love and kindness."
Escalante used his outsized personality to goad his working-class Mexican-American students to succeed, said Elsa Bolado, 45, one of his former pupils. Bolado, now an elementary school teacher and trainer, remembers Escalante's charisma, the way he built her confidence with long hours of solving problems and how he inspired her career choice with his unorthodox approach to learning.
"Teaching is an art form. There's a lot of practicioners and very few artists. He was a master artist," she said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Escalante "shared in my belief that anything is possible in California."
"He put everything he had into becoming an inspirational teacher whose passion, commitment and belief that all students can achieve excellence set an example for us all," Schwarzenegger said. "His talent, hard work and dedication in the classroom changed the lives of countless students."
Sen. Gloria Romero, D-East Los Angeles, whose district includes Garfield High School, said Escalante "had an incredible vision for what our community could achieve."
"So much of his message can be summed up in one word -- ganas," said Romero, a candidate for state superintendent of public instruction in the June election. "He taught his students, and all of us, so much more than math. He taught us to believe in ourselves, believe in our communities and that it is possible to realize our dreams."
Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Escalante was credited with turning the East Los Angeles high school into a breeding ground for successful math and science students.
News of Escalante's illness broke earlier this month, prompting widespread calls for donations to help with his medical care. A March 6 fundraiser was attended by Olmos, some of Escalante's former students and some cast members of the film.
Escalante taught at Garfield for 17 years, but left in 1991, teaching in Sacramento and eventually in his native Bolivia.
"The entire LAUSD family today mourns the loss of Jaime Escalante, one of the finest educators this district has had the privilege to work with," Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines said.
During his tenure at Garfield High School, many of our students excelled in learning, aspired to a higher education and went on to become very successful in various careers.
"Today, they are living testaments to a teacher who demonstrated how high expectations, coupled with constant support, can overcome obstacles to a quality education. He will be missed."