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Famous Teacher Profile: Jamie Escalante

By VIPKid  |  December 8, 2020

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Each day our VIPKid teachers log in and dedicate themselves to improving the lives of their students while creating a sense of community and joy. Teaching requires a special conviction and strength; connecting and mentoring students and preparing them for the future is no small task. To inspire VIPKid teachers, we wanted to highlight famous teachers that have created a legacy that has been admired and respected for years. We’re excited to announce our new Famous Teacher profile series, which will feature teachers who have made a lasting impact and inspired teachers and empowered students around the globe. 

Meet Jamie Escalante, a Bolivian born educator who inspired the 1988 film Stand and Deliver. Escalante is known for his work at Garfield High School in Los Angeles, California where he promoted the importance of education and math as a means for students to create a better life for themselves. At the struggling high school, Escalante promoted the idea that students take an AP Calculus course, rather than a math course geared towards poorly performing students. He believed that high expectations led to higher standards and results and felt that if you gave struggling students enough support with a challenging class they would be able to succeed. At the time, this decision was considered bold and was highly controversial within the school administration. Escalante actually became the target of criticism and even potential dismissal. 

“Jaime didn’t just teach math. Like all great teachers, he changed lives.” – Edward James Olmos

As a three year high school, Escalante would only have three years to teach five or six-years worth of material. His methods helped pushed students to achieve great success, and helped them pass what was one of the most difficult math tests available to students at the time.. In 1982 Escalante gained national attention when 18 of his students passed the Advanced Placement Calculus exam, a feat few expected to be possible.

The following year, out of the 33 students taking the AP exam, 30 students would pass. By the time Escalante left Garfield High School, the passing rate for his calculus courses was above 90%. While these numbers are impressive, Escalante is best known for his unyielding belief in his students, and for his encouragement to help them think beyond what they imagined possible for their lives.. A number of his students would go on to attend some of the most prestigious universities in the United States, with some of these students even returning to Garfield High School as teachers themselves. After a long career of inspiring and preparing students for the AP Calculus exam, Escalante moved back to his home country of Bolivia while returning to the United States frequently to visit his children. 

Towards the end of his life, Escalante was asked about his legacy and how he would like to be remembered, to which he replied: “I am proudest of my brilliant students.”
Great teachers come in many forms. If you’ve had someone who has been a great teacher, mentor or influence in your life, we’d love to hear about it. Reach out to us on  Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. to share with us

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