Making the Grades
If you're a teacher, chances are Jaime Escalante is a name you're familiar with. A modern hero of public education, Escalante did what many thought impossible when turned inner-city students at Garfield High in East LA into calculus experts.
Stand and Deliver stars Edward James Olmos playing the part of the famed math teacher who first arrives at Garfield in 1982, expecting to teach computer science. Instead, he finds himself in a classroom where questions like "negative-two plus two equals?" are stumpers. That's why fellow faculty members are astonished when Escalante announces his plans to teach AP Calculus -- an advanced course designed to offer college credit to high school seniors.
The eighteen students in Escalante's class also find their enthusiasm waning as they come to realize the amount of work it will take. But even more than his mathematics prowess, Escalante's greatest trait is his ability to relate to any type of student and motivate them by raising their self-expectations. Incredibly, these teens forego Saturdays, evenings, and even summer holidays so they can build their mathematic abilities and prepare to take the AP Calculus exam.
Unlike so many movies supposedly based upon a true story, research verifies that not only are the events portrayed in this film factual, but many students in subsequent years followed in the footsteps of these first eighteen. For dramatic accuracy, Olmos took a year of his life to study Escalante's behavior and techniques. While this authenticity comes at the cost of a few moderate profanities and mild violence, considering the nature of the students being portrayed the language and rebellion are not over emphasized.
With Olmos' love of education and determination to help under-privileged people, especially Hispanics, it's no wonder he delivered an Academy Award nominated performance in this movie. A deserving tribute to Escalante, a man who could have had a lucrative computer career but instead chose to teach disadvantaged students (and also willingly gave his amazing story to Olmos for a dollar), Stand and Deliver is an education and an inspiration to all who view this film.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Stand And Deliver.
Jaime Escalante (the real teacher on whom this movie is based) once said, “The day someone quits school he is condemning himself to a future of poverty.” If you are interested in reading more about this remarkable teacher who has motivated many students to live up to their potential, then check the following links:
A brief biography of Escalante.
His success at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles is featured on another page from PCC.
A 1999 article about his plans for retirement.
Edward James Olmos (the actor) is another motivated man. Read about his passions in this article from The Tech, the newspaper from MIT.