An Appreciation for Jaime Escalante, Teacher

Jaime Escalante has just died at age 79. Like most people I know him as the teacher portrayed in ‘Stand and Deliver,’ the 1988 movie where he showed, not just his East L.A. high school students, but also students, teachers, and educators everywhere, that inner city kids could master math at challenging levels and pass a rigorous national calculus exam.

He was also an important mentor for many students through his PBS program, watched in thousands of classrooms every week through the 1990s. Engineers, scientists,  astronauts, and others visited his classes to help his students think about the important, inspiring ways math is used every day in all kinds of careers.

I heard on the radio the day he died that he was controversial among teachers, but I join many others who remember his contributions: he was a passionate, dedicated, and inspiring teacher who emphasized correcting his own mistakes when his students had weak test scores. He had the vision to see potential in students when others did not. And he stressed the importance of an early foundation for success in math. You can hear him in his own words, talking about what it takes to succeed at being a teacher.