Bolivian Teacher Who Inspired Film “Stand and Deliver” Dies

LOS ANGELES – Jaime Escalante, the Bolivian math teacher whose story was made into the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver” starring Edward James Olmos, has died in Roseville, California of bladder cancer. He was 79.

Escalante, who died on Tuesday, gained fame for his success in teaching advanced math to inner-city students at East Los Angeles’s Garfield High School.

“(He died) surrounded by his children and grandchildren,” Olmos said. On Monday night, the actor took the dying man from the hospital where had been undergoing treatment in Reno, Nevada, to Roseville, where Escalante’s son lives.

The actor, who became a close friend of Escalante’s after the film “Stand and Deliver,” was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the math teacher.

Escalante was born on Dec. 31, 1930, in La Paz, Bolivia. His parents, both of them teachers, separated when he was 9.

He studied to be a teacher in his homeland and married a classmate, Fabiola Tapia, before deciding at the age of 33 to relocate to Los Angeles in search of a better future in the United States, despite having very little knowledge of English.

After combining different jobs with night classes in physics and mathematics, he eventually began working at Garfield at the age of 43.

Initially frustrated by the low level of the math curriculum and his students’ lack of interest, Escalante worked hard to boost their motivation and achieved surprising results.

He launched a program in 1978 to prepare students for the nationwide Advanced Placement calculus exam, with 18 students passing the test in 1982, including seven with the highest possible score.

Educational authorities became suspicious because the Garfield students’ answers were very similar and invalidated the results, a controversial decision that sparked cries of racial and class discrimination.

Eventually, 14 students repeated the test and 12 passed it a second time.

After leaving Garfield due to conflicts with the school’s administration, Escalante eventually returned to his native Bolivia, where he worked at the University of Valle in Cochabamba until 2008.

Escalante, who because of his illness was unable to walk or speak, had returned to the United States for cancer treatment in Reno. EFE

Source: EFE


One Response to “Bolivian Teacher Who Inspired Film “Stand and Deliver” Dies”

  1. Jesse Torres Says:

    I attended the memorial service this morning at Garfield High School. Photos from the event can be found at

    It was a very nice but brief event that attracted major media attention. Perhaps the loss of this tremendous teaching legend will inspire the next generation of Jaime Escalante’s to arrive in East Los Angeles.

    Jesse Torres
    President and CEO
    Pan American Bank
    East Los Angeles, CA 90063
    “California’s Oldest Latino-Owned Bank”

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