03/31/10 — Teacher's gift: Jaime Escalante's message to students: Work hard, no excuses

View Archive

Teacher's gift: Jaime Escalante's message to students: Work hard, no excuses

The lessons to be learned from Jaime Escalante, the famed East Los Angeles high school math teacher who pushed his students to take on calculus and the AP Math exam, is not just that there is talent in all sorts of schools.

The key component to Escalante's teaching style was self-responsibility. He did not allow his students from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to make excuses nor did he accept anything less than hard work and dedication.

And that also included afterschool tutoring and Saturday classes.

He did not coddle. He did not modify. And, most importantly, he did not accept self-pity. That is how he took a group of students each year whom nobody thought would amount to anything and made them believe that they could do anything they set their mind to as long as they were prepared to work for it.

We lost Escalante to cancer this week. And while his story will remain immortalized in the movie "Stand and Deliver," one hopes that in the end we see the lessons beyond the story of a class of teenagers who beat the odds.

It really goes back to the old adage: Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Escalante did not believe in handouts. He knew that the most important lesson he could teach would be responsibility and hard work.

And that is why he leaves a legacy of hundreds of changed lives.

His is an example more of us should follow.

Published in Editorials on March 31, 2010 11:02 AM