Jaime Escalante: 1930—: Educator Biography
Early Teaching Experience, Immigrated To The United States, Challenged Students To Excel, Became A National Hero
A Bolivian immigrant who worked as a math teacher in East Los Angeles, Jaime Escalante gained national recognition for transforming the math department of a poor Hispanic high school. Escalante's unorthodox teaching style motivated hundreds of students to sacrifice their free time and other activities to study for the Advanced Placement math test. His high success rate led to national acclaim, as well as external funding for his educational programs. His story became the subject of a 1988 Hollywood film titled Stand and Deliver.
Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutiérrez was born on December 31, 1930, in La Paz, Bolivia. He was the second child born to Zenobio and Sara Escalante, who both worked as poorly paid schoolteachers. The Escalantes worked in the remote Aymara and Quechua Indian villages, and Escalante grew up in a town on the high plain called Achacachi. The family of seven lived in three rooms rented from a doctor. As a child Escalante amused himself by playing soccer, basketball, and handball. He also spent a considerable amount of time with his grandfather, who was a retired teacher and an amateur philosopher.
Escalante's father was an abusive alcoholic, so his mother took the children and moved to La Paz. When Escalante was 14 years old his mother sent him to San Calixto, a prestigious Jesuit high school, where his favorite subjects were math and engineering. When Escalante was a teenager his father died, which meant that the family would not be able to afford to send him to engineering school as he had hoped. Instead, Escalante did odd jobs until he was 19 years old, when he briefly joined the army to fight against leftist rebellions. When his service was over, a friend convinced Escalante to go to college at Normal Superior in order to become a school teacher.
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