Teacher Jaime Escalante’s Legacy
Ever since the film “Stand and Deliver” put Jamie Escalante at the fore-front of East L.A. Teachers and in the national spotlight we still never got to know the man. I have just heard about his passing today March 30, 2010 in Sacramento, California. I am realizing after all the hype around the movie including Edward James Olmos running neck and neck with Dustin Hoffman’s “Rain Man” as Oscar® Nominees. Jaime disappeared from the public’s eye. We may find out more where he had been and what he was doing in the weeks to come.
Personally, The movie about Jaime showed he made great strides for a humble Bolivian immigrant who transformed Garfield High School. The story of motivating at-risk students and helping them advance in math and science for college credit was eye opening.
First off, it made me wish I was back in school when the movie hit theaters in 1988. I wished I could have studied more for college instead whizzing by thinking a diploma was going to be a big deal in the real world.
Second, the movie broke the mold on Latino stereotypes and made a hero out of an average teacher that could have been an engineer. While it dealt with families in East L.A. watching it in the theater in a diverse crowd was like having guests drop by your house unexpectedly. It was raw and personal and you know what? It was happening in neighborhoods all over the United States. What makes the film seem so timeless is that so many kids of every background still don’t know what “Calculus” is. While that is sad many kids did learn and moved on into the system. One of my dreams was to make a documentary about all those kids in order for generations of kids to learn that the easy life comes with a price “hard-work and determination.” or as he said “Ganas”
Not exactly lastly (Really, I could go on and on) but for now, I also learned that “The Japanese were tired of making everything” (Movie Quote) and that is was “the Mayans, who first contemplated the zero. The absence of value. True story. You *burros* have math in your blood…”
I learned that a people who I’d only heard sacrificed princesses and were always at war actually had mathematicians, architects and astronomers. I was filled with pride by that. As I visited Mexico and indigenous lands to learn as much as can fit in this head of mine that people have been striving for the best all the time.
As I head out of the office maybe this is Jaime’s legacy “A negative times a negative equals a positive. Why?” (Classroom stares glossy-eyed) “We’re gonna need a lot of Kleenexes – there’s gonna be a lot of bloodshed.” No actually “Kemo” we will be needing the Kleenexes because there is gonna be a lot of tears shed. “Que descanse en paz”
The line that gets me ever time delivered by his on-screen wife actress Rosanna DeSoto “Respect? Jaime, those kids Love you.”
- Albert Ornelas