Jaime Escalante: 1930—: Educator
Became A National Hero
This controversial event became the subject of a 1988 movie called Stand and Deliver, starring Edward James Olmos as Escalante, and a 1988 book by Jay Mathews called Escalante: The Best Teacher in America. This national attention to Escalante's math program led to external funding. In 1990 the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education provided money for computers, audiovisual equipment, tutors, and scholarships. The National Science Foundation funded the Escalante Math and Science Program at East Los Angeles College, which provided after-school and summer classes for Garfield's students. Additionally, Escalante's programs received corporate sponsorship from companies such as Ford, Coca-Cola, Xerox, and IBM. Escalante even developed a series of educational videos called Futures for PBS.
With these additional resources, Escalante continued to have success with his math students. By 1991 570 Garfield students had taken AP tests in 14 different subjects. However, the national attention that Escalante received caused jealousy and tension among his coworkers. Escalante was not shy about criticizing teachers when he felt they were not doing a good job. He also disliked faculty meetings and administrative responsibilities because he preferred to be in the classroom with his students. As he told the Los Angeles Times in June of 1991, "We are here to help students. That is my philosophy. And that is my weak point. I put too much time into students." In 1990 Escalante was dismissed by his peers as chair of the math department. By 1991 tensions among the faculty were so high that Escalante decided to leave Garfield.
From 1991 to 1998 Escalante taught at Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento, California. Unlike Garfield, this school was ethnically diverse. Escalante began teaching freshman and sophomore algebra, but eventually instituted an AP calculus course similar to the one at Garfield. Escalante had some success with his program at Johnson, but it was more limited than the success he had enjoyed at Garfield. He was unable to connect with all of the students and parents at Johnson, because not all shared common cultural and linguistic bonds. He also did not have the same administrative support at Johnson that he had at Garfield because of the high turnover of principals and vice principals. As Newsday explained in May of 1997, "By the time Escalante reached Johnson, he was 60, with a national reputation, a family worried about his health, and a reluctance to revive the faculty battles that had made his last years at Garfield so uncomfortable."
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