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Garfield High pays tribute to Jaime Escalante

April 1, 2010 |  9:34 am

Garfield High School students and staff joined other guests Thursday to pay tribute to legendary former calculus teacher Jaime Escalante.

The memorial service honoring Escalante, who died of bladder cancer Tuesday at age 79, was held at the high school in East Los Angeles where he taught from 1974 to 1991. About 200 attended, said Principal Jose Huerta.

“The event was just amazing,” said Huerta, describing the music and eulogies. “It was a great honor to hold such an event. It was beautiful.”

Escalante was renowned for instilling confidence in his students and believing that each of them had the potential to succeed. His efforts were remembered in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Wednesday that a new auditorium under construction at Garfield High would be named in honor the beloved educator.

“Jaime Escalante was more than a great teacher,” school board member Yolie Flores said in a statement. "He was a great visionary who saw in his students their potential for greatness and used his gift as an educator to help them realize they could soar academically.”

Escalante.2 Escalante had high expectations for students in his Advanced Placement calculus class, most whom came from low-income, inner-city families.

When the high AP calculus exam scores of 14 of his students were challenged in 1982 by authorities, Escalante encouraged the students to retake the test; and 12 of them passed the second time around.

“The students whose lives he changed remain the true testament to his life’s work,” President Obama said in a statement Wednesday. “Throughout his career Jaime opened the doors of success and higher education for his students one by one and proved that where a person came from did not have to determine how far they could go.”

Huerta said the educator will never be forgotten.

“The memory of Mr. Escalante will never fade from Garfield High,” Huerta said. “We continue his belief system of making our students the very best.”

-- Ann M. Simmons

Photos: Top, students at Garfield High School observe a moment of silence on the front steps of the East L.A. campus Thursday to honor former calculus teacher Jaime Escalante, who died Tuesday of bladder cancer; bottom: Garfield Alumni Foundation Secretary Esther Espinosa  (facing camera) hugs fellow alum Sonia Santana after the memorial. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Photo gallery: Garfield High pays tribute to Jaime Escalante

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