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H.S. names hall in honor of Jaime Escalante

April 1, 2010 12:37:01 AM PDT
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines announced Wednesday that the auditorium currently under construction at Garfield High School, in East Los Angeles, will be named in honor of renowned teacher Jaime Escalante.The beloved educator, whose efforts to teach underprivileged students advanced math inspired the 1988 Hollywood film "Stand and Deliver," died Tuesday after losing his battle with cancer. He was 79.

"Jaime Escalante was more than a great teacher. He was a great visionary who saw in his students their potential for greatness, and used his gift as an educator to help them realize they could soar academically," said Board of Education Vice President Yolie Flores.

"Inspiring, challenging and unyielding, he did more than teach calculus. He changed lives," said Superintendent Cortines.

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Board of Education approved a plan to finance construction of a new auditorium after a fire badly damaged the school's historic auditorium in 2007. The new building, which will include state-of-the-art theater facilities and a dance studio, is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

During his 17 years at Garfield High School, Escalante brought the best out of students who took his Advanced Placement calculus class. He proved that with some dedication and "ganas," inner city kids could not only do calculus, they could excel.

After the high exam scores of 14 of his students were challenged by authorities in 1982, Mr. Escalante rose to the challenge, and of the 14 students who retook the Advanced Placement test, a dozen passed again.

Today Mr. Escalante is remembered by an entire community, and the many pupils who credit him with their success, not only in math, but in life. Students and staff at Garfield High School honored Mr. Escalante during a flag-raising ceremony Thursday morning.

The brief ceremony held starting 7 a.m. involved the school's junior ROTC contingent, band and drill team. The national anthem was played as the flag was raised before the start of classes.