Friends of Jaime Escalante are reporting that he died this afternoon after seeking treatment in Reno for bladder cancer. The Bolivian-born teacher made his mark teaching students at Garfield High School on the Los Angeles Eastside. Escalante was played by Edward James Olmos in the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver." Escalante was also the subject of a book by Jay Mathews, "Escalante: The Best Teacher in America." Mathews wrote earlier this month:
When my book about him, and more importantly the film "Stand and Deliver" came out in 1988, he was the most famous teacher in America, and as my book title said, the best. The year before, 27 percent of all Mexican American students in the country who passed the AP Calculus AB exam were students at Garfield High School in East L.A., where Escalante and his protege, Ben Jimenez, were the calculus teachers.
Robert J. Lopez at the L.A. Times says that Olmos drove Escalante from a Reno hospital to his son's home in Roseville, near Sacramento, last night. "He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren," said Olmos. (An earlier version of this post said that Escalante died in Reno.) Escalante retired in 2001 to Bolivia, where his wife lives.
Olmos' website, which had been used to raise money for Escalante's treatment, posted thanks today, saying "enough funds have been raised to take care of all of Jaime's medical needs." Earlier, actress Vanessa Marquez, who appeared in the film, posted this appeal:
Photo from edwardjamesolmos.com
Mural by Hector Ponce on the wall of the former Westlake Theatre, Wilshire and Alvarado