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Jaime Escalante, "Stand and Deliver" math teacher, dies

Emma Brown

Jaime Escalante, the Bolivian-born math teacher who believed and proved that poor East Los Angeles students could, contrary to expectations, excel at calculus, died March 30 of cancer at his son's home near Sacramento, Calif. He was 79.

His obituary appears today in the Post. It's written by education columnist Jay Mathews, who covered Mr. Escalante for the Post during the 1980s and wrote the 1988 book "Escalante: The Best Teacher in America."

Mr. Escalante became one of the most famous teachers in America when he turned around one of the lowest-performing schools in Los Angeles with his high expectations and extraordinary dedication. That success story was told in the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver," with Edward James Olmos playing Mr. Escalante.

Tributes to Mr. Escalante are popping up around the Web. "Jaime Escalante cared about kids. Not about teachers' unions or partisan politics or educrat ass-covering or racial grievance-mongering," writes conservative blogger Michelle Malkin.

Mr. Escalante's success with Garfield High School's students, who were thought to be too poor and too distracted by life to focus on academics, inspired countless inner-city teachers to emulate his methods and his optimism. And it inspired a whole 'nother group of idealistic young college graduates to consider teaching a noble profession, rather than a well-I-can't-do-anything-else-so-I-might-as-well-do-this job.

Here Mr. Escalante speaks about his evolution as a teacher.

By Emma Brown  |  March 31, 2010; 9:57 AM ET
Categories:  Emma Brown  
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