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Garfield High teacher Jaime Escalante dies

March 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Legendary Garfield High teacher Jaime Escalante, subject of the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver," has died. He was 79. Vanessa Marquez, an actress and friend of Escalante's who held a fundraiser for Escalante, said he died at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at his home in Sacramento with his family at his side.

Escalante had moved to Sacramento to be closer to Reno, Nevada, where he was undergoing treatment for bladder cancer.

Escalante is credited with transforming Garfield High's math program in the 1980s. He taught advanced mathematics and science at the school, and was famous for getting struggling students to do well in those subjects.

According to the Associated Press, the school had more Advanced Placement calculus students than all but three other public high schools in the country.

Escalante was originally from Bolivia.

Edward James Olmos played Escalante in the film "Stand and Deliver," which was based on Escalante's life.

James A. Garfield Senior High School posted a statement on its Web site and on its Facebook page:

"Jaime Escalante has passed away. Our condolences to his family. He will forever live in our hearts and memories. The entire Garfield community and East L.A. extends our gratitude to God for allowing Mr. Escalante to grace us with his love and kindness."

Ramon Cortines, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which Garfield High is part of, issued a statement Tuesday:

"The entire LAUSD family today mourns the loss of Jaime Escalante, one of the finest educators this District has had the privilege to work with. During his tenure at Garfield High School many of our students excelled in learning, aspired to a higher education and went on to become very successful in various careers. Today, they are living testaments to a teacher who demonstrated how high expectations, coupled with constant support, can overcome obstacles to a quality education. He will be missed."

Senator Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles) has released this statement on the death of Jaime Escalante, a well-loved and well-respected former math teacher at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles:

"Jaime Escalante had an incredible vision for what our community could achieve. So much of his message can be summed up in one word -- ganas. He taught his students, and all of us, so much more than math. He taught us to believe in ourselves, believe in our communities and that it is possible to realize our dreams. He stood and delivered on that belief and we are all the better for it. Jaime Escalante didn't only instill the importance of an education -- he taught us to fight for the American dream with everything we have."