Celebrated teacher shares ideas
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 10, 2004
Celebrated math teacher Jaime Escalante knows his way around a quip as well as a
"I will apologize for my British accent," he told the audience Saturday at the
Chandler Center for the Arts before a screening of the 1988 film Stand and
"I picked this up from the students with which I used to work." advertisement
The career of the Bolivian-born Escalante, 73, was the inspiration for the
semibiographical film, which stars Edward James Olmos and tells how the teacher
motivated a group of underachieving high schoolers in East Los Angeles to take
and pass an advanced-placement calculus exam.
Escalante's appearance was in conjunction with the fourth-annual Latino Film
Celebration in Chandler.
Stand and Deliver "shows the impact one human being can have in the world,
despite the odds," Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn said. "This is a gentle man who has
things to tell us about never giving up on kids."
Escalante, who migrated to the United States in 1964 without knowing English and
put himself through college, said he taught respect, discipline and hard work as
much as he did math.
"You can't walk into the classroom without any desire to learn," he said. "It
was not easy to motivate these kids, but I did see potential everywhere."
However, even Escalante wasn't always sure of what he saw. He told the story of
two boys named Johnny, one an achiever and the other a disappointment.
Questioned by the struggling student's mother about how her son was doing, he
got the boys mixed up and offered high praise. The student got wind of the
inadvertent compliment and - after an initial shock - became a classroom
"I wonder how many times we mistake the identity of a person and think, 'This
guy's not going to do it,' " Escalante said.
His message for students in attendance was simple: "You have to stand and
deliver. You have to work hard. . . . No one person can tell you what your
destiny will be. You must have success with yourself before you have success
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