East Los Angeles high school teacher Jaime Escalante, who was made famous by Edward James Olmos’ portrayal of him in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver,” died Tuesday afternoon in Roseville, California. He had been undergoing treatments for bladder cancer in Reno, Nevada, but was brought to his son’s California home on Monday by Olmos, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Bolivian-born science and math teacher is perhaps best known for helping to turn the math program at East L.A.’s Garfield High School into one of the finest in the country. His efforts at Garfield were documented in “Stand and Deliver,” which Escalante himself described as “90 percent truth and 10 percent drama” to Reason magazine.
He came to the school in 1974, slightly more than a decade after moving from La Paz, Bolivia, to the United States with no knowledge of English. Such was the state of things at Garfield that Escalante nearly walked away in frustration, though he ultimately remained there. As a teacher, he was frequently at odds with a school administration that had little faith in the students. The powers-that-be urged Escalante to stick to the script and make things easy, but he was more concerned with challenging his pupils.
Olmos received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and won an Independent Spirit Award for his 1988 performance in “Stand and Deliver.” He remained close with Escalante through the years, eventually leading the charge on the Jaime Escalante Legacy Project, a charity designed to help cover the ailing teacher’s growing medical costs and to ensure that his life’s work would continue to be used to inspire newcomers in the field of education.
The news of Escalante’s passing is up on Olmos’ Web site. In a statement, the actor writes, “My deepest condolences to Jaime’s family and friends and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, you have my deepest appreciation for any and all prayers and help you have given.”
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