Jaime Escalante

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La Paz,
Birth Sign
La Paz,

Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutiérrez was a well-known Bolivian educator during the 1980s and 1990s. He began teaching mathematics to troubled students in a Los Angeles high school and quickly gained notoriety for successfully guiding a large number of them through the advanced placement calculus test. Born into a family of educators, he discovered his true passion was teaching and, following in their footsteps, became an educator as well. He later left Bolivia in search of a better life but discovered that his teaching credentials were insufficient to teach in America. As a result, he earned a second bachelor’s degree in addition to an American teaching certificate in order to pursue a career as an educator. As a teacher, he worked with his students to help them understand mathematics. He is best remembered as the mathematics teacher at Garfield High School, where he inspired a group of students to excel in advanced algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. For the first time in the school’s history, a group of his students passed the advanced placement exam in calculus—one of his greatest accomplishments as a teacher. He recognized potential in his students that previous teachers had overlooked and pushed them to incredible heights.

Childhood & Adolescence

He was born in La Paz, Bolivia, on December 31, 1930, to Zenobio Escalante and his wife, Sara Escalante, both of whom were elementary school teachers. He was the youngest of three siblings, with two sisters and one brother.

His early education was at San Calixto, a prestigious Jesuit high school where he developed a strong interest in mathematics and engineering.

Later in life, he enrolled in a college at Normal Superior in order to pursue a career as a teacher. He left Bolivia in the 1960s in search of a better life in the United States, earning an Associate of Arts degree from Pasadena City College in 1969.

He enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles, where he graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

He eventually earned teaching certification from California State University and Florida State University.

Career of Jaime

He was hired as a teacher at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, California, in 1974 after obtaining his teaching credentials. He found himself in a difficult situation, teaching mathematics to troubled students at a rundown school rife with violence and drug use.

Rather than tailoring his classes to low-performing students, he offered to teach them advanced placement calculus and began an advanced mathematics program with just a few students.

In 1982, he gained national attention when his then-largest class of 18 students took and passed an advanced placement calculus test. The students, on the other hand, were accused of cheating on the test, to which he reacted angrily.

He suspected the scores had been contested because they were obtained from Hispanic students at a low-income high school. Later, when some of the students agreed to retake the test, they were vindicated when they passed a second time.

His calculus program continued to grow over the next few years, but he received threats and hate mail from a variety of sources. By 1990, he had lost the mathematics department’s chairmanship. He left Garfield the following year and took a job at Hiram W. Johnson High School in Sacramento, California.

However, he did not appear to achieve the same level of success in his new position as he had in his previous one, and thus retired from teaching in 1998.

After several years of preparing teenagers for the advanced placement calculus exam, he returned to his native Bolivia in 2001 and began teaching at the ‘Universidad Privada del Valle’.

Awards and Accomplishments

In 1988, he was presented with the ‘Presidential Medal for Educational Excellence’ by then-President Ronald Reagan.

In 1998, he received the Freedom Forum’s ‘Free Spirit Award,’ and the Organization of American States’ ‘Andrés Bello Prize.’

He was elected to the ‘National Teachers Hall of Fame’ in 1999. He joined the ‘Presidential Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans’ in 2002.

In 2005, the Center for Youth Citizenship presented him with ‘The Highest Office Award.’ The following year, he was named ‘Best teacher in North America’ by the Freedom Forum.

He has also been awarded several honorary degrees from prestigious universities worldwide, including the University of Massachusetts, California State University, Concordia University, the University of Northern Colorado, and Wittenberg University.

Personal History and Legacies

He met Fabiola Tapia at Normal Superior and the couple married on November 25, 1954. Jaime Jr. was born in 1955, and Fernando was born in 1969.

He died of bladder cancer on March 30, 2010 in Roseville, California, at the age of 79. He was laid to rest in Whittier Lakeside Gardens’ Rose Hills Memorial Park.

‘Stand and Deliver’, a 1988 Hollywood film, is inspired by his life and times as a teacher, as well as how he impacted the lives of his students.

Estimated Net Worth

The net worth of Jaime is $1.9 million.