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Escalante memorial service to be held in college stadium

Jaime Escalante gained worldwide attention for his teaching of mathematics at Garfield High School.
(Los Angeles Times)

Dignitaries and former students of Jaime Escalante, the celebrated math teacher whose success teaching calculus brought distinction to Garfield High School, are expected to participate in a large public memorial next week.

The farewell will begin with a wake starting at 2 p.m. April 16 in Escalante’s former classroom at Garfield in East Los Angeles.

“We are reconstituting his old classroom” so it will appear as it was during Escalante’s tenure in the 1980s, actor Edward James Olmos, who portrayed the acclaimed teacher in the 1988 movie “Stand and Deliver” and is organizing the memorial with Escalante’s family, said in an interview Thursday.

At 9 a.m. on April 17, mourners on foot will proceed from Garfield to East Los Angeles College, where Escalante also taught. The memorial service will be held in the college stadium at 11 a.m.

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Olmos said he hopes that the stadium, which holds 22,000, will be filled to capacity. “I pray we have no seats left. I pray the streets will be jampacked with people saying, ‘Thank you very much, Jaime.’ That’s what he deserves. That’s what all teachers deserve for their contributions to people’s lives,” he said.

Escalante, who died of bladder cancer March 30 at his son’s home near Sacramento, became an icon after coaching a group of Garfield students to unprecedented success on the challenging Advanced Place- ment calculus exam in 1982. Their achievement brought accusations of cheating from the Educational Testing Service, which administers AP exams, but the students were vindicated after most of them passed the exam again. Their triumph inspired the movie, which made Escalante famous around the world.

He left Garfield in 1991, in part because of tensions caused by his celebrity and unorthodox views about public education that made him unpopular with some colleagues. He spent his last years teaching in Sacramento and his native Bolivia, but his final resting place will be at a cemetery in Los Angeles County. Burial will be private.

Garfield High School is at 5101 E. 6th St. East Los Angeles College is at 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park.

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elaine.woo@latimes.com


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