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From his sickbed, Garfield High legend Jaime Escalante is still delivering

March 7, 2010 |  9:37 am

A pharmaceutical regimen

There was a time in East Los Angeles when el maestro's el maestro's gruff voice bounced off his classroom walls. He roamed the aisles, he juggled oranges, he dressed in costumes, he punched the air; he called you names, he called your mom, he kicked you out, he lured you in; he danced, he boxed, he screamed, he whispered. He would do anything to get your attention. 

"Ganas," he would say. "That's all you need. The desire to learn."

Nearly three decades later, Jaime Escalante finds himself far from Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, the place that made him internationally famous for turning a generation of low-income students into calculus whizzes. Twenty-two years have passed since his classroom exploits were captured in the film "Stand and Deliver."

He is 79 and hunched in a wheelchair at a cancer treatment center in Reno. It is cold outside, and the snow-capped mountains that crown the city where his son brought him three weeks ago on a bed in the back of an old van remind him of his native Bolivia. 

He can't walk. He struggles to eat. Stomach acids have burned his vocal cords, reducing his voice to a whisper. The doctors who diagnosed his bladder cancer told him recently he has weeks -- at best a few months -- to live. 

But don't let the frail man fool you. The teacher is not done teaching. Behind his large square glasses, that intense, mischievous look that once persuaded students to believe in themselves still lives in his eyes. He smiles at nurses, flashes a thumbs up. 

Read the full story here.

--Esmeralda Bermudez

More than a dozen medications are the centerpiece of Jaime Escalante's dinner table in Reno. The charismatic former Garfield High School math teacher, 79, whom a colleague described as a "rocket" and who was the inspiration for the popular feature film "Stand and Deliver," is now frail, almost deaf and unable to speak above a whisper. He takes an array of supplements daily to battle cancer. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)