While the rest of the world is a-buzzing because Ricky Martin has come out of the closet, let’s take a moment to reflect on the life of a person who has changed the lives of countless students. Jaime Escalante. Not many people would recognize that name, but for those whose lives he had changed, he is a hero.
Jaime Escalante was a former East Angeles teacher whose passion and charisma showed the United States that inner city students – those whom a lot labeled with negatives – are capable of learning and doing things just like other kids. He was a math teacher, but his lessons extended beyond the classroom.
He became quite well known in the US in 1982, when 14 of his students from Garfield High School passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam. They were eventually accused of cheating, but they were able to triumph over this hurdle. Escalante’s achievements and activities gained him much respect and became such a source of inspiration that his life was made into a movie in 1988. His character was portrayed by James Olmos, who says that Jaime “didn’t just teach math. Like all teachers, he changed lives.”
His life has come to an end at the age of 79, but his memory will live on in the lives of the students (and their families) that he touched while he was still here.
These kinds of stories should be what we focus on. Relatively obscure people they may be, but their impact cannot be measured.