Legendary Teacher Jaime Escalante to Appear on US Stamp

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Jaime Escalante, an immigrant from Bolivia who taught math at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, became nationally-known when he was portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the film Stand and Deliver in 1988. And now, Escalante is being immortalized once again by being honored with a stamp.

Escalante, who passed away in 2010, did what many believed was impossible by helping a record number of his inner-city students make passing grades on the AP Calculus exam. Remexcla’s Yara Simón reports that Roy Betts, a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service, said Escalante was chosen out of tens of thousands of suggestions.

Betts noted that Escalante deserves the honor based on his education legacy, making him “a very deserving” choice.

According to NBC News, Betts said:

“The legendary educator is well-known for academic excellence and working with inner-city youth to help them master calculus.”

This year the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee of 14, appointed by the Postmaster General Megan Brennan, also honored singer Sarah Vaughn, activist Richard Allen, and actress Shirley Temple.

Other stamps honoring special occasions and events that will be sold by the USPS this year include one that honors Eid-al-Fitr, the breaking of the Ramadan fast, another spotlighting the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Monkey, and a stamp that celebrates the 250th anniversary of the repeal of the 1766 Stamp Act. The Stamp Act was the controversial tax law for raising money for the British Army in America, writes Brian Latimer of NBC News.

One of the highest honors an individual can receive has been given to educator Jaime Escalante, who expected the most from his students of mostly working-class families. He gave rigorous homework assignments and had no patience for absences. But because he was so passionate and had such a memorable teaching style, student after student began to take and pass the AP calculus test.

In 1982, when all 18 of his students achieved the highest possible score on the test, 14 of them were accused of cheating. The Educational Testing Service began an investigation and soon was charged with racism against Escalante’s Latino students, which the service denied. Twelve of the students took the test again and passed.

Escalante worked to create a model Advanced Placement math department at his school from 1978 to 1991, and his work was emulated by educators across the country. Escalante left Garfield High School in 1991 to teach in his native Bolivia.

According to Louise Bonquin, reporting for the Latin Post, acting Stamp Services Director Mary-Anne Penner pointed out — in a statement with which Escalante would no doubt have approved — that stamp collecting is an educational activity that children and the whole family can learn from and enjoy. The director explained that:

“Our stamps articulate the American experience through miniature works of art.”

Escalante had a penchant for unconventional teaching approaches and told his students that they could do anything as long as they had “ganas”, or the desire, says Mariah Stewart, reporting for The Huffington Post.

“We are here to help students. That is my philosophy. And that is my weak point. I put too much time into students,” Escalante told the Los Angeles Times in 1991.