Jaime Escalante: My Hero

He was my hero. He was my Michael Jordan, my Mother Teresa, my Abraham Lincoln.

If you’re not a high school math teacher, and even if you are, you might not have heard of Jaime Escalante until today. An immigrant from Bolivia who had to study English at night to earn his California teaching license, he transformed an under-achieving high school by expecting students to do well, setting high standards, and pushing them to their limits.

Garfield High School later became the setting of the inspirational Stand and Deliver, starring Edward James Olmos as Escalante.

In 1989 when I first saw the movie (on VHS), I was in my first semester of teaching mathematics at a boarding school (Cushing Academy). His passion for the subject and for his students resonated with me.

I had no idea that 10 years later Mr. Escalante and I would be new readers at the Advanced Placement Calculus Reading. I got to visit with Mr. Escalante and have our picture taken together, a picture which still hangs prominently on my classroom wall.

10 years later and I am still teaching high school math and plan to keep teaching for another 20 more. If I am an inspiration to only a fraction of the students and teachers that Mr. Escalante was, mine, as his, will be a life well-lived.

Via con Dios, Kimo.

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