Biography: Jaime Escalante

Bolivian-born math teacher Jaime Escalante helped students from an impoverished, failing Los Angeles school to pass an important math exam and change their lives.

Escalante was born in Bolivia in December of 1930. He moved to the United States in 1965, after studying mathematics and science in preparation. Upon moving, Escalante could not speak English. He studied at night at Pasadena City College and eventually earned a degree in mathematics.

The educator began working at Garfield High School in 1974, but soo faced a lack of enthusiasm and preparation from his students. He managed to inspire a handful to pay attention to studies with the promise that an education could have a profound impact on their lives.

Escalante was frequently admonished by school administrators who didn't approve of his early arrivals at school, late dismissals and unorthodox teaching methods. However, over time his efforts began to pay dividends. Eventually, Escalante was teaching students advanced placement calculus, and the students were excelling on the A.P exams as well.

In light of the gradual success, Jaime Escalante's story eventually garnered attention from Hollywood. The concept was made into a successful movie, "Stand and Deliver," which starred Edward James Olmos as the determined teacher. Escalante himself praised the film, saying that it was 90 percent fact and 10 percent drama.

Escalante taught at Garfield High School until 1991. He returned to his native Bolivia and taught at a university. He also helped other students prepare for the A.P. calculus exam. In 2010, Escalante was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He faced financial difficulties from medical expenses, and cast members from "Stand and Deliver," including Olmos, helped raise funds for treatment. However, Escalante lost his fight on March 30, 2010 at age 79. Students at Garfield High School honored his memory with a moment of silence on the steps of the east L.A. campus.