Jaime Alfonzo Escalante

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Carlos Cuervo

MGF1107 723864 723866

Mathematician Essay Assignment

March14, 2013

“Jaime Alfonzo Escalante”

What does it takes to become good at math? For Jaime Escalante, one of America’s most famous teachers, it only takes “ganas”. As Mr. Escalante often explained, “ganas” (Spanish word for desire) will motivate any student to find and exploit their full potential, regardless of their economic or ethnic background.

Jaime Escalante was born in La Paz, the capital city of Bolivia, South America. With the example of his parents, who were both teachers, he found a passion for teaching in his native country. Escalante taught math for twelve years before migrating to the United States with his wife Fabiola. The first few years in the new country, he applied himself to learn English while working in restaurants washing dishes. He went to college for the second time in his life just to get certified as a teacher in the United States. He received the highest honor as Magna Cum Laide at graduation and right away found a position as a computer teacher at Garfield High School in downtown Los Angeles, California. To his surprise, the school lacked the computers he needed for the class, so he took an alternative position as a math teacher.

In that first year of teaching, Mr. Escalante was confronted with many obstacles. The school was in the verge of loosing its operative certification; many students scored poorly in their academics, had problems with drugs or were involved in gang violence. As a new teacher, he constantly felt frustrated, with a sense of guilt for not inspiring his class to love math the way he did. Subsequently, and against all the odds, Mr. Escalante made a great contribution in the lives of students, and transformed the face of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program® (AP®).

Most of Garfield High School’s math class was regarded as the “unteachables”, the students did not...
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