Teacher Lives in Students' “Hearts and Memories”

Escalante had been in Nevada for bladder cancer treatment

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."   

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us