High school math teacher Jaime Escalante, a Bolivian immigrant, was a maverick in some ways in his approach to teaching — and very traditional in others. For both, he was criticized.
He taught at high-poverty Garfield High School in Los Angeles from 1974 to 1991, building a first-class math program with high rates of student success on the Advanced Placement calculus exam. In a "second act" in his 60s, Escalante taught from 1992 to 1998 at Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento.
He was absolutely, resolutely opposed to what he considered insidious prejudice: That demanding excellence from low-income students somehow posed a threat to their self-esteem. Too many teachers, he said, "accept the very real disadvantages faced by poor minority students as excuses for their failures." They rush to help students "accept their limitations."
In contrast, Escalante held to a simple view: "When students are expected to work hard, they will usually rise to the occasion, devote themselves to the task and do the work."
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