WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service today salutes Jaime Escalante, the east Los Angeles teacher known for using unconventional methods to inspire inner-city high school students to master calculus, with the issuance of a new Forever Stamp. The stamp dedication ceremony was held during the League of United Latin American Citizens’ (LULAC) 87th annual convention and exposition in Washington, DC.
A special dedication ceremony also will be held July 16 at Garfield High School in Los Angeles, where Escalante taught.
Digitally illustrated by Jason Seiler, the stamp art depicts Escalante in a style meant to resemble an oil painting. Escalante stands in front of a chalkboard on which calculus symbols are visible. He is wearing his signature flat cap, looking forward toward the viewer. The illustration is based on a photograph taken by Jaime Escalante II, on May 6, 2005, in the classroom at Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento, CA, where his father formerly taught. Art Director Greg Breeding designed the stamp with original art by Seiler.
“We are here today to honor Jaime Escalante because, as a teacher, he proved time and time again with the right inputs into the right formula conventional wisdom could be defied,” said Robert Cintron, vice president, Network Operations, who dedicated the stamp.
“We celebrate Mr. Escalante today for his charmed ability to create calm within a landscape of calamity,” said Cintron.
“As a result of staying committed to his belief that all students can learn, kids who had been written off as undisciplined, uninterested, unmanageable and unruly were given a real opportunity at learning. In return his students showed the world that one opportunity was really all that they needed.”
Other participants in the ceremony included John King Jr., U.S. Secretary of Education; Roger Rocha Jr., national president, LULAC; Brent Wilkes, executive director, LULAC; Edward James Olmos, actor; Jaime Escalante II, son; Camilo Joya Diaz, math teacher, Verizon Minority Male Makers; Sara Rosario Nieves, Census Scientific Advisory Committee coordinator, U.S. Census Bureau; and Crystal Claros, sophomore student, Rock Ridge High School. Bolivian dancers from Centro Cultural Bolivia gave a special performance.
Fame came to Escalante in an unexpected — and unfortunate — way. In 1982, 18 of his students took the advanced placement calculus exam and passed. Controversy followed when the testing service accused 14 students of cheating. Escalante suspected that the accusation of cheating was due to the fact that the students were Mexican-Americans from a low-income area of Los Angeles. The testing service denied the allegation and proposed a solution: that the 14 students retake the test. Twelve of the 14 took a different exam from the first, and all passed.
Escalante and his students became instant heroes in the fall of 1982 when the story broke in the news media and attracted the attention of Hollywood producer Tom Musca and director Ramón Menéndez. The movie “Stand and Deliver,” released in 1988, garnered good reviews and made Escalante one of the most famous teachers in America.
In 1999, Escalante was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame for his efforts to “have children believe in their ability to achieve.”
The Jaime Escalante Forever Stamp will always be equal in value to the current
First-Class Mail one-ounce price.