Student Essay #9: Jaime Escalante

by multilingualmania on October 27, 2010

in Student Writing Contest

Our ninth student essay was written by Jesus Flores Rodriguez, a tenth grade student at Culver City High School in California. As a reminder, all entries will be posted “as is” without any revisions or editing by Multilingual Mania:

He was my hero.  I first learned about him in Middle School. The school year was almost over and I had an amazing math teacher. Her teaching style was energetic, positive and fun. She taught us about Jaime Escalante and the work he was doing at Garfield High School. When the movie about his work with students in L.A. “Stand and Deliver” was put in class, a bunch of us wanted to see it again.  I was mesmerized. His energy. His stamina. His drive. His passion.  He was an amazing teacher. He was the teacher I wanted to be someday.

I’ve never been a strong math student. I struggle to understand and keep up. But in 8th grade with an amazing Algebra I teacher, something clicked. I was catching on. It wasn’t as hard as I’d thought. Unfortunately, good things don’t last a lifetime. As soon as I understood a problem, there came another complicated one. So then I would just say “screw this” and give up.

I knew, first hand, what it was like to sit in a classroom with numbers whizzing by and you have no idea how everyone else seems to know the answer. I knew how to struggle with an Algebra problem that takes pages to complete and three tries to get the right answer while my study partner got it right the first time and in 10 less steps. Math doesn’t come easily to me but boy, is it fun! Every day a new puzzle. A new riddle to solve.

Escalante proved that inner city students can perform at the highest levels. Watching “Stand and Deliver” motivated and helped me understand that it doesn’t take a genius to solve a math problem but that “practice makes perfect”.

Jaime Escalante showed a bunch of kids, a random sampling of American high school students, that they were capable of being great math students. Each year that he taught AP Calculus at Garfield High, more and more students were inspired and passed the exam.  Each and every year.

They weren’t geniuses. It wasn’t luck. It was all because of a man with tenacity, knowledge and a pure love of teaching his students. The students were inspired by his energy and drive. They were pumped up by his confidence in their abilities. They began to believe in themselves. And they just went out and did it!

In the years that followed Jaime Escalante’s departure from Garfield High math program, passing AP Calculus scores by 80 percent. There was no longer a champion for the students, encouraging a love for math. Garfield High School students were again, just like any other math student across the country. Struggling to see the wonder in numbers.

An amazing teacher died on March 30, 2010.

A passionate advocate. A brilliant role model.

Stay tuned for additional student essays!

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