Dead, Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutierrez on March 30, 2010 at the age of 79 after a long struggle with cancer, he was a Bolivian educator known for teaching students calculus from 1974 to 1991 at Garfield High School, East Los Angeles, California.
Born to two teachers of Aymara ancestry on December 31, 1930 in La Paz, Bolivia, he was proud of his Aymara heritage and as an adult would proudly proclaim “The Aymara knew math before the Greeks and Egyptians”.
He taught mathematics and physics for 12 years in his mother country before immigrating to the USA.
After immigrating, “he had to work many odd jobs, teach himself English and earn another college degree before he could return to the classroom.”
In 1974, he began teaching at Garfield High School.
Escalante was initially so disheartened by the lack of preparation of his students that he called his former employer and asked for his old job back.
In 1982, Escalante came into the national spotlight when 18 of his students passed the challenging Advanced Placement Calculus exam.
The Educational Testing Service found these scores to be suspicious, because all of the students made exactly the same math error on problem #6, and also used the same unusual variable names.
Fourteen of those who passed were asked to take the exam again. Twelve of the fourteen agreed to retake the test and all twelve did well enough to have their scores reinstated.
In 1983, the number of students enrolling and passing the A.P. calculus test more than doubled. That year 33 students took the exam and 30 passed. That year Escalante also started teaching calculus at East Los Angeles College.
By 1987, 73 students passed the A.P. calculus AB exam and another 12 passed the BC version of the test.
This was the peak for the calculus program.
The same year Gradillas went on sabbatical to finish his doctorate with hopes that he could be reinstated as principal at Garfield or a similar school with similar programs upon his return.
In 1991, he left Garfield High, citing faculty politics and petty jealousies.
He taught in Sacramento for several years, but later retired to his native Bolivia.
He is living in his wife’s hometown and teaching part time at the local university.
He returns to the United States frequently to visit his children. Escalante has received many awards for his contributions to the field of education, including the Presidential Medal for Excellence and was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 1999.