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Acclaimed Calculus Teacher Helped Students Reach Beyond Circumstances

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Acclaimed Calculus Teacher Helped Students Reach Beyond Circumstances

Acclaimed Calculus Teacher Helped Students Reach Beyond Circumstances

Acclaimed Calculus Teacher Helped Students Reach Beyond Circumstances

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/125392882/125392365" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Students Overcome Challenges Jamie Escalante, a prominent educator in Los Angeles, died yesterday at the age of 79. He gained national acclaim in the 1980s for successfully teaching his working-class students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles to pass the Advanced Placement exam in calculus. The 1988 film, "Stand and Deliver," was based on his experiences of battling to raise academic standards at the struggling school which was comprised of a largely Mexican-American student body. Host Michel Martin has a remembrance.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And finally, today, we end with some sad news. Jaime Escalante, the teacher who inspired the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver," died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was 79 years old. During the 1970s and '80s Escalante introduced the students at James A. Garfield High School in Los Angeles to the world of advanced mathematics, including calculus.

At first he encountered doubts from school officials, the students, and even parents who didnt believe the kids in their gang-ridden Los Angeles neighborhood could achieve academically, but Escalante persisted. He shared the secret to his success several years ago during an interview with NPR's Claudio Sanchez.

Mr. JAIME ESCALANTE (High School Teacher): You have to love the subject you teach and you have to love the kids, and make them see that they have a chance of opportunity in this country to become whatever they want to.

MARTIN: Even after he left the school in 1991, Escalante remained an inspiration to those whom he had taught. In the weeks before his death, a group of his former students, along with the cast of "Stand and Deliver," made an appeal for donations to help Escalante pay for the cost of his medical care.

Despite his illness, Escalante embraced his status as a role model into his last days. Los Angeles Times reporter Esmeralda Bermudez spoke with us earlier this month about her recent visit with Escalante.

Ms. ESMERALDA BERMUDEZ (Journalist, Los Angeles Times): While I was there, this man struggled so hard to just convey that same message that he was conveying at Garfield. He wanted to continue that, and I think it still lives with him very visibly till this day. That was his biggest accomplishment.

MARTIN: Jaime Escalante is survived by his wife, two children and six grandchildren.

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MARTIN: And that's our program for today. Im Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Lets talk more tomorrow.

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