Jaime Escalante’s students –– where are they now?

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The Futures Channel highlights Jaime EscalanteÂ?s greatest achievements: the success of his students.

In a special feature published on The Futures Channel website, Garfield High School alumni from 1976 to 1995 describe what they are doing today and the influence their legendary teacher, Jaime Escalante, had on their success.

Among the students featured on the website, who have gone on to successful careers in medicine, law, business and engineering, is Thomas Valdez, a Research Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Part of Garfield High School’s class of 1991, Valdez passed the advanced placement Calculus exams after attending Jaime Escalante’s mathematics classes for three years.

Now conducting research at JPL for the development of new fuel cells, Valdez is grateful for the strong work ethic that Escalante instilled. He explains that “one of the things Escalante gave me that I still hold dear to my heart now is he gave me the ability to push myself.”

Like Valdez, Dr. Armando Islas, the first of his family to go to college, credits Escalante with providing a “life altering experience” for him and his classmates. Islas recalls the encouragement that Escalante gave him more than 25 years ago to “do anything you want to do and nobody can put a ceiling on how high you can go." Islas took this advice to heart and has enjoyed careers as a dentist, a police officer and a CEO.

The Futures Channel, a digital media publisher making real-world connections to mathematics, engineering and science, chose to highlight Escalante because of his hands-on approach to teaching mathematics. In 1990, Escalante wrote, “I believe that math teaching should be peppered with lively examples, ingenious demonstrations of math at work and linkages between math principles and their real-world applications.”

Since 1999, The Futures Channel has been producing video programs to give students that real-world connection by going behind the scenes with the scientists, engineers, designers, explorers and visionaries who are shaping the future.

“The Futures Channel team pioneered the creation and delivery of short, broadcast-quality video clips and ‘micro-documentaries’,” said Dr. Eric Robinson, Professor of Mathematics at Ithaca College, “which teachers can use to bring context and life to their lessons and engage their students. This is a new direction for educational media, one that fits the way that teachers actually teach.”

The Futures Channel caught up with Escalante and his students when Steve Heard, the Futures Channel’s CEO, recently co-produced an event for the Center for Youth Citizenship in Sacramento to honor Escalante’s achievements and contributions to education. The Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Joseph Maloney, along with actor and activist Edward James Olmos, presented the Bolivian born educator with its Highest Office Award. Inspired by Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter who asserted that, “In a democracy, the highest office is the office of citizen," this special award was created to acknowledge individuals who, in their capacity as citizens, have made extraordinary contributions to society and who exemplify the finest qualities of citizenship.

For further information contact:

Jenna Bowles

(818) 557-3300


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