Monday, March 08, 2010

"Stand and Deliver" Teacher, Jaime Escalante, Battling Cancer

Jaime Escalante is very ill and needs our help.  I just sent him $250.  


It would be hard to overstate the impact Escalante has made on the education reform movement in the U.S.  He and Rafe Esquith were the first to prove very publicly and definitively that demography is NOT destiny and that inner-city kids, with great teaching and high expectations, could achieve at high levels.  At his peak, Escalante had 187 students AT ONE TIME sitting for the Calculus AP exam – and his students accounted for ONE-THIRD of all Mexican-Americans passing the exam IN THE COUNTRY!!! 


Escalante was one of the original warriors.  Decades ago, when asked "Do you think American education needs to be restructured or reformed?," he replied, "One hundred percent."  He is a hero to every ed reformer I know.  Mike Feinberg and David Levin say he is one of their heroes, and I remember that he was our role model when we were starting Teach for America in 1989, only a year after Jay Mathews' published his brilliant book, Escalante: The Best Teacher in America.  If you haven't read this book and watched the movie, Stand and Deliver, you are really missing out.  (Both can be ordered used on Amazon for under $2 at and

"Stand and Deliver" Teacher, Jaime Escalante, Battling Cancer


2:17 PM PST, March 1, 2010

LOS ANGELES -- Jaime Escalante, the Los Angeles math teacher whose inspirational career was made famous in the 80s hit movie "Stand and Deliver" is battling cancer. His family has run out of money to pay for his medical bills.

The Bolivian-born Escalante is 80 years old.

Actor Edward James Olmos who portrayed Escalante in the film is putting together a fundraiser to help raise money for his friend. Olmos posted this message on his website:

"Anyone who has seen "Stand and Deliver" knows how much Jaime Escalante (Kimo) has done for this country. The love and dedication he gave to his inner city students, and his unfailing conviction that every one of them was "gifted," brought out talent that had been untapped
and unseen - by other teachers.

The genius that he awakened in the "unteachable" commanded the attention of the entire world. It caused countless educators to reconsider what their students might really be capable of if, like Kimo, they could awaken the "ganas" (desire) in them. Jaime didn't just teach math. Like all great teachers, he changed lives. Gang members became aerospace engineers. Kids who had spent their youth convinced their lives didn't matter discovered they were leaders.

Now, Kimo needs our help. He is seriously ill, and the treatment he needs has depleted all the funds his family can raise. They did not want to ask for help, but we took it upon ourselves to get the word out to all the country and around the world, to make his final days as comfortable as possible - and maybe even give him a chance to beat the cancer that has afflicted him.

I have been moved to tears to hear of the circumstances of this great man and am calling for a last National Understanding of his selfless contributions to "making a difference in this world."

Together, we have a chance to make a real difference in his life. I could not bear to think that we would do any less for one who has given so much for so long. You have my deepest appreciation for any and all prayers and help that you can give."

Escalante taught math to troubled students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles.

While some dismissed the students as "unteachable," Escalante was able to reach them and help them live up to their potential. He started an advanced mathematics program with a handful of students.

In 1982, his largest class of students took and passed an advanced placement test in Calculus.

Some of the students' test scores were invalidated by the testing company because it believed the students had cheated.

Escalante protested, saying the students had been disqualified because they were Hispanic and from a poor school.

A few months later, many of the students retook the test and passed.

If you want to help raise money for Escalante, you can send money to:

"Friends of Jaime"
236 West Mountain Street
Suite 105
Pasadena, CA 91103

Those who wish to make a contribution by credit card can call (626) 793-5300 or download a donation form at:

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